Bluetooth for all
LAS VEGAS— Forget mice and headsets: The latest Bluetooth gadgets can help monitor your health, keep track of personal belongings, and empower a wristwatch to show text messages and the identity of smartphone callers.
Most of the devices here at CES and on display at an event held for Bluetooth device makers use the low-voltage wireless technology to communicate with mobile apps to either record or deliver information and create peer-to-peer wireless connections.
At the Bluetooth SIG’s CES event, vendors showed a slew of electronic nagging gadgets, including a toothbrush for monitoring dental hygiene and wristwatches that can deliver text messages and caller ID info from a paired cellphone.
Here is a look.
Lark Life wristband
Several seek to promote health and physical fitness by using sensors to record all types of activity, then processing that information in various ways. The Lark Technologies Lark Life, for example, uses accelerometers housed in a small core unit to tracks your physical activity. You snap the core into either a daytime or nighttime wristband, both of which come in the $149 box.
Lark Life sends the information about your exercise and dining habits (you must provide the details on the latter) to a smartphone app, which in turn dispenses tips and suggestions on healthier living.
The Basis for healthy living
The $199 Basis (from Basis Science) is a wristwatch with four types of sensors. One measures optical blood flow, the second is an accelerometer for tracking movement, the third checks on perspiration and the fourth, skin temperature. Basis sends its information to a cloud service that analyses it and makes recommendations for lifestyle changes. The unit can then be set to remind you to take action.
Polar app for iPhone keeps tabs on your heart
Polar USA, longtime experts in fit tech, recently introduced a free iPhone training app that works with the company’s $80 Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor. This product focuses more on gathering workout info, including where you went (if you run or jog), and how long you worked out.
Sneaker-friendly heart rate sensor
Adidas MiCoach (pronounced my-coach) also has a Bluetooth-enabled heart-rate monitor. Recently introduced, it goes for $80 at Apple stores.
Police your posture with LumoBack
Lumo Body Tech, meanwhile, was showing its LumoBack smart posture sensor, built into a thin belt for wearing under your regular clothes. The sensor can tell when you’re slouching or otherwise using bad posture, and either vibrate to alert you or send info about your movements to a smartphone app that uses a cartoon figure to show posture shortcomings that could contribute to back pain. It goes for $149.
Track your chompers
Perhaps the most unusual fit tech at the show addressed dental hygiene. Beam Technologies’ $50 Beam Brush is a toothbrush with an oversize handle that houses its Bluetooth electronics for sending information on your toothbrushing routine to an iPhone or Android app. Available in blue or pink, with adult or child brush heads, it basically tracks how long you (and other family members with their own Beam Brushes) spend brushing teeth. You can also set the app as a music-playing timer to ensure that you brush as long as you’re supposed to (about two minutes). Unfortunately, it isn’t an electronic brush (which gives more bang for the brush).
A watch that keeps watch
Another group of Bluetooth products arise from the premise that it’s easy to miss a smartphone alert when the phone is in a pocket or purse. Wristwatches, on the other hand, are usually close at hand and hard to ignore, so several vendors are offering watches that relay actionable info from a paired smartphone.
The only trouble from this wristwatch wearer’s point of view is that these watches are pretty bulky. But if you don’t mind the look, they could help ensure you get important messages.
The MetaWatch, for example, once paired with an iPhone, will display any SMS text messages that happen to come in, or show caller ID info to help you decide if you wish to take a call. It can also show stock quotes and weather reports, and its creators expect to add info on incoming e-mail messages and calendar alerts later this year.
The MetaWatch is currently available in two versions, the sporty $180 Strata and the $200 leather-and-steel Frame.
Cookoo watch syncs with iPhone
Other Bluebooth watches on display included the Cookoo from ConnectedDevice. It relays call info, Facebook posts and messages, calendar reminders, and low-battery alerts. It pairs with the iPhone 5 and 4s only, and costs $130 for most models (a green version lists at $250 on the web site). The vendor says this analog timepiece’s battery will run for three to five years.
This watch helps you find your phone
Casio, meanwhile, is preparing to launch a second-gen Bluetooth enabled version of its G-Shock watch, which among other things will send alerts when you have new email, when your phone is running low on power, and can even help you locate your misplaced smartphone. It runs $180.
Keychain security for keeping kids, valuables safe
Not all was wristwatches and wellness at the Bluetooth event. A couple of more unusual products popped up. Hippih’s HipKey, which looks a little like a slightly oversize, slick black-and-silver Pac-Man, pairs with your smartphone to track kids, objects, or even the smartphone itself (press the hipkey and the smartphone will beep). Already popular overseas, it will be sold at Apple Stores for $90 starting later this month, Hippih officials say.
Bluetooth battery lets you cut the power with an app
Perhaps the most unusual use of Bluetooth at the event was startup Tetherboard’s demo of a Bluetooth-enabled battery pack. Designed for use with anything that takes a conventional AA battery, the Tethercell is actually a case for a AAA battery. The case has Bluetooth electronics you can control via a smartphone app (iPhone in the demo)—and basically, the app has the ability to disconnect the battery, as if you’d physically yanked it out of the device.
Tethercell’s creators envision a range of remote-control-type uses in everything from kiddie toys (for turning the darn things off) to starting and stopping home automation devices within Bluetooth range. The gadget is in beta form, but the creators hope to begin shipping commercially this summer. Right now they say the case would cost $30, but a big manufacturing order could bring that down to $10, they say.
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