Giz Gadgets: The Best And Worst Uses Of Smart Technology

Each new week brings with it an abundance of new gadgets — whether devised by tech giants like Google and Samsung or pushed by hopeful entrepreneurs to Kickstarter, they run the gamut from useful to niche to tech that nobody really needs. This week we're looking at gadgets that are designed to help you live longer, smarter and better.


One Pouch Sold Me On The Internet Of Things

I'd been sitting down for about fifteen minutes listening to a presentation. It was the first morning of Computex proper, and it was about the Internet of Things and the power of The Internet of Things.

I'm a hardcore gamer, and so it’s not a topic that I get naturally excited about. But then the presentation ended and we were given the chance to talk to some of the inventors, entrepreneurs and students trying to create real world solutions. And then I saw a pouch.

It was sitting on a table for Smart X Lab, a company which created their own mesh network as an alternative to Wi-Fi. They’re largely focused on the healthcare sector, having already deployed their technology some aged care hospitals and facilities around Taiwan.

The point of their mesh network is so they can electronically monitor every patient's position and vitals in real time. It’s accessible and controllable via the web, and the company's CEO Max Yeh showed off a live demo. It's largely what you'd expect: a map of the hospice, locations for all the patients, sensors, cameras, and everything else required to keep track of the elderly.

But next to the computer was a small pouch. It looks like a traditional Chinese blessing pouch — which was precisely what it was. The elderly don’t like to wear wristbands or have cords tethered to them, but their carers need to have a handle on where they are. "People with dementia like to wander," Yeh joked.


The BOx Smart Bottle Opener Will Let Your Friends Know When You Crack A Cold One

...For some reason.

The BOx is a wi-fi connected bottle opener that is meant to 'share your experience with your friends over wifi', though I'm not sure who would want to sign up for alerts to find out when their friends were drinking, considering the oversharing that already happens on Facebook and Instagram. It also gives you warnings if you're drinking (or, at least, opening bottles) at too fast a rate, even though I can't think of many people who would want an app that tells them to slow down with their drinking.

While the wood and stainless steel bottle opener has an interesting (physical) design, its connectivity, as with many smart devices, is entirely unnecessary. It seems to be another matter of the BOx's designers being so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.

Still, unlike most smart devices the BOx is pretty cheap, going for around $30 Australian on their Kickstarter campaign.


There's A Smart Pillow And It Scares The Shit Out Of Me

To kick off the first day of Computex, Intel held a “Meet the Makers” event showing off some prototypes and proof of concepts showing some of the ways their chips are being used in devices that could one day improve society.

At this event, there was a pillow. And it scares the shit out of me.

It’s called Dillow, and it’s a smart pillow created by four students. The basic idea is pretty simple: using an Intel Edison tiny board computer, the pillow can track and monitor your sleeping habits. That data can then be uploaded to the cloud, where you can sit down and get berated by your doctor for attempting to overdose on caffeine on a near-daily basis.

So far, so good. It’s just a clever pillow. Not sure it’d be clever enough to survive getting tossed around the room, but then consumers probably don’t purchase manchester for its versatility in domestic warfare.

The concerning is how the students incorporated IBM’s speech to text recognition software, so the pillow can record the nightmarish language your brain farts out at night for posterity.

And the frightening part of that? Dillow saves the crap you mutter aloud and can post it anonymously to Facebook, so the world can get a kick out of it.


The Cashew Smart Walled Has Fingerprint Access And GPS

While it's more than likely that all our payments are going to be done with a smartphone or smart device in the near future, the Cashew is a device for those who feel the need for an extra level of protection for their clumsy physical cash and credit cards.

It looks a little bit like a chunky smartphone folded in half, and is protected from unauthorised opening by a fingerprint sensor. While fingerprints are known to be one of the least secure types of biometric authentication, it's still a step up from what most wallets (and even smart wallets) have. You can also use the connected app to electronically latch the wallet remotely — with a notification sent to your phone if someone tries to tamper with it.

The GPS locator unfortunately relies on crowd source technology — meaning your smart wallet needs to be near other Cashew users in order for it to be found at all. A more useful technology, if you lose your Cashew wallet, is the feature that essentially allows you to 'call' your wallet so that you can track it down.

Cashew is currently funding on Kickstarter, having already passed its goal with less than two days to go.


This Bike Is So Smart They Claim It Can't Be Stolen

Commuting via bicycle can be rough. There’s nails and potholes waiting to destroy your tyres, cars waiting to smoosh you and thieves waiting to steal your bike as soon as your back is turned. The last problem is so pernicious it keeps a lot of people from riding, and those that do opt to ride $100 junkcycles. That way they don’t lose any sleep when they come out after a night of drinking and find a chain dangling from the stand where their bike used to be.

Vanmoof, a popular Dutch bicycle company, thinks it’s figured out how to make a bike that can’t be stolen. Last night, in it’s swanky shop in Brooklyn, VanMoof unveiled the SmartBike. The smarts have nothing to do with the rider and everything to do with the bike, which has built a computer and GPS directly into the frame. The computer so that you can know how far and fast you’ve ridden, and GPS so that you, or Vanmoof, can track your bike if it wanders away.

Starting at $US1098 ($1521) for a three-speed, the SmartBike will be available in two colours (grey and black), two speeds (three-speed or eight-speed) and a whole range of sizes so that everyone from the stubby-legged to the willow-legged will have a whip to roam around town in.

It will also include a keyless lock that you can engage with a remote dongle or your phone. And there’s no need to worry about charging your bicycle (which also includes lights built into the front and rear). The hub on the front wheel of the bicycle is a dynamo hub, which stores energy from your cycling to charge any and all the products wedged into the frame.


Ultra Simple Licence Plate Sensor Adds Collision Protection To Any Car

If your car’s scratched and dented bumpers reveal a long history of you accidentally backing into things, you don’t necessarily need to buy a new vehicle just to get a fancy collision warning system. If you have a smartphone, and can use a screwdriver, you can easily install this licence plate cover that serves as an extra pair of eyes for you when reversing.

The FenSens Fender Defender isn’t the first aftermarket collision warning system, but what sets it apart from the competition is how easy it can be installed on almost any vehicle with a licence plate. Just remove the four screws already holding your vehicle’s licence plate in place, put the Fender Defender atop the plate, and then re-attach it to your car.

Ultra Simple Licence Plate Sensor Adds Collision Protection to Any Car Instead of then having to mount an LCD display to your dashboard, the Fender Defender communicates with an iOS or Android app over Bluetooth to provide warnings about impending collisions. Four ultrasonic sensors with a range of about 3.05m keep an eye on what’s directly behind your car, and if you’re getting close to something, visible and audible warnings will automatically let you know.