New Gadgets for a New Year

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New Gadgets for a New Year

Have you noticed that it’s been cold outside? I’m not sure where these polar vortex things originate, but when they hit, the only thing we can do is stay inside. Fortunately, the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show kicked off this week. I guess since we’re stuck inside, we might as well jump over to CNET and take a look at all the new gadgets!

My first impression of CES 2014 is the amount of wearable and bendable technology hitting the street. Samsung and LG all released curved, smart TV sets, and everyone seemed to have some version of smartwatch/fitness band. A company called 3L Labs even introduced a Bluetooth-enabled product to be worn in a shoe. The wearable technology is such a new market — who knows what killer products will emerge, although health monitoring is a good bet. As for the curved TVs, they are supposed to provide an IMAX-like quality. Personally, I have the perfect spot for one of the new 80-inch, 4K bendables.

Of course, you can’t have CES without smartphones. However, as far as smartphones go, the CES vendors seem to be giving us more of the same — just with a faster CPU and more pixels. The one phone that jumped out is something that is completely different. Looking for a phone that will hold up on the job site? Then this ruggedized phone from Caterpillar is made for you. The Cat B100 has a six-foot drop rating and will survive 30 minutes while completely submerged. The phone has a rubberized casing and large, rubberized buttons designed to operate while wearing gloves. The phone is available in Europe starting this month for 150 Euros. U.S. pricing and availability dates will be provided later this quarter.

Fuel cells are an emerging technology that have been floating under the radar for a while, but it appears to finally hit the mainstream at CES 2014. (FYI — fuel cells utilize a chemical reaction to combine hydrogen and oxygen and produce electricity. Fuel cells produce no pollution as water is the only by-product of the reaction.)

On the small scale, Brookstone introduced the Upp fuel-cell phone charger. The Upp device, developed by Intelligent Energy, allows consumers to recharge mobile devices when away from infrastructure power. Similar to solar-powered recharging devices, the Upp uses hydrogen-powered fuel cells to provide a recharge source. The Upp stores its energy in a detachable cartridge that contains enough power for five full charges.

On a large scale, Toyota will introduce in 2015 an electric car utilizing fuel cells to generate its power. In contrast to the Tesla and other electric cars that use battery power, the refueling time is much quicker. A battery powered electric car takes hours to recharge, while the hydrogen tank can be refilled in just a few minutes. Also, the fuel-cell vehicle is more suited for long-distance travel. The car will carry enough fuel to travel over 300 miles.

The new Toyota will initially launch in California. The biggest obstacle is the construction of refueling stations, and the state has approved funding to build 40 stations between San Diego and San Francisco between 2014 and 2016.

Of course, this is just a sample of what’s going on at CES. While you sit inside enjoying your hot chocolate this week, Google up CES 2014 and enjoy!

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.