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Technology Today - February 2012
by Robert Sanborn

CES 2012 - More of CES

According to CE Magazine, the top five global TV brands of 2011 are 1. Samsung; 2. LG; 3. Sony; 4. Panasonic; and 5. Hisense.  Also, the top 5 Consumer Electronics brands are: 1. GE; 2. Samsung; 3. HP; 4. Hitachi; and 5. Siemens.  Apple is 11th on that list and Intel is 17th.

Urban Green Energy, www.urbangreenenergy.com has been around a couple of years and what struck me last time was the cool home based wind generation systems that they have. This time around, they have the technology to help you track the energy that you are producing and saving, and make sense of whether you are really saving money or not.  Even if getting off the grid is not for you, they do have a very cool 1st Step Weather station for about $119 from Amazon.

Another Energy power company that had some really cool products was SolarFocus Technology, www.solarmio.com. They have a number of new technologies coming out of this company that should impress those of you who spend a lot of time in the outdoors.  SolarMio is a charging, flexible, lightweight, and durable solar folding case that with the built in battery, charges, and powers your electronics while on the go. Use it as your backup battery, or charge as you go. Better yet, it also comes in a waistpack or backpack solution as well. They have a lot of other pretty cool travel charging options on their website. Look for these soon.

For Kindle users, Solar Focus won a CES Innovations award for their solar lighted cover for the Kindle.  A solar powered charging cover for the Kindle that not only charges the Kindle while you read, but extends the battery of the Kindle from the stored battery charge.  And did I mention the add on LED reading light for those really dark locations? Pretty cool stuff.

How about a waterproof case for your iPhone while at the beach ? Catalyst, http://www.catalystlifestyle.com/ is a unique and stylish waterproof and useable case for your iPhone. Their Escape Capsule will be available next month for around $69 and will protect your iPhone from water, sand, snow, dust, and more while you are enjoying your lifestyle on the go. A clear shell made from a high impact crystal clear polycarbonate. What is unique here is the ability to quickly inspect the seal on the case to make sure it is secure.  To see a working iPhone sitting in a fish bowl makes you nervous but the good news is that this looks like a great solution to keeping it dry. It was fun talking to the two co-founders of Catalyst and even more fun watching their video of it in action.  Must see it.

Lenmar, www.lenmar.com has for years been my source for alternative batteries for all sorts of devices from my Personal Digital Assistants to all of my cell phones.  So I always like to go by their booth and see what is new and they have a bunch of cool products you might look at. How about a PowerPort Solar external battery and charger with solar charging capability.  The built in battery when charged, gives you tons of juice for everything. Charge it via AC, Auto, USB, or even solar. About $50.  They also have a cool battery booster for the iPhone that just plugs into the bottom of the phone and doesn’t take up much space. About $40. Finally, for those that love the outdoors, how about a portable battery, lantern, and solar charger; it is called the Solvive Lantern, and it is about $50.

I always enjoy stopping by Kenwood’s, www.kenwoodusa.com press conference because as someone who doesn’t follow the automotive aftermarket, probably because I drive such older cars, it’s fun for me to see where the technology in that area is going and from what I see and hear, it follows the home entertainment right into the car. Connecting to your music, videos, games, and of course, communicating while traveling makes those long journeys much more exciting for your passengers. Kenwood introduced 52 new products at CES this year and it produces results as they are the only component maker that is in the top five of the five major auto categories.  Their stuff is good and it sells well.  You are looking at a wide range of music players, in dash navigation systems, and an emergency radio technology second to none. Of course, looking at that half million dollar Lamborghini was easy as well.

Garmin, the big GPS company, www.garmin.com, has come out with several units for the golfers among you.  The Approach G5 has over 18,000 golf course maps built in. It is a hand held rugged and waterproof GPS with a touchscreen helps you measure your shots as well as give you the approach yardage to greens, traps, and fairways. You will always know where you are and where you need to go and you can track your stats as well.  If you need to know how far to carry a hazard, just touch the target spot and it will tell you how far you need to make your shot. Pretty cool stuff.  Around $269.  There is even a wrist version for $249.

I mentioned the Sonic Emotion 3D sound system in another CES report and this time I was wandering through the Haier booth, www.haieramerica.com, and saw their version of a 3D sound bar for your flat screen television. The SVEV40-3D is a 40 inch 3D sound bar that features a dock for your iPod, iPhone and iPad to connect them to the TV to show videos, play music, or listen to a free FM app. With the Sonic Emotion 3D technology, there is no calibration and it becomes a true plug and play setup. In the Haier sound room, you could really tell the difference and it is a pleasure to hear.  The SVEV40-3D retails for around $399.

When building a computer, I have long ago given up on the cheap computer cases because of power, cooling, and the fact that they just seem to fall apart easily. A new Swedish company, Fractal Design, www.fractal-design.com has a perfect fit of Scandinavian design, quality construction, and easy to build layouts. You can now find them at Newegg, www.newegg.com. They are definitely a bit more expensive but really worth the price you pay for them.

BoostCase, www.boostcase.com is yet another add on battery pack for your iPhone.  They are slim, stylish, slip on easily, and will double the battery life of your iPhone 4S.  As much as I am using mine, I need something like this to keep it going. Need more power, just add on the extended battery case. Around $60 at Amazon. The hybrid model comes as a very slim and colorful case, and you then add the battery when needed giving you the battery backup and something neat to look at.

There are a half million apps for the iPhone and finding the gems can be quite difficult. Take the reviews with a grain of salt but I did see a couple at CES that looked pretty cool.  Gpstuner.com, at www.gpstuner.com has an app for you if you like to get off the beaten path. Besides the ability to download terrain maps and directions to your iPhone (so you can have them when you don’t have signal), you also get things like a compass, trip manager, bubble level, and a number of trip tools to help you navigate through the outdoors.  It looks great but be sure to take one of the extra batteries or yet, a solar powered backup with you.

What is interesting is that from them, they have a turn by turn navigation app for your Windows Phone 7 but not for the iPhone.  It has the usual GPS features of turn by turn application with voice navigation, route calculation, itinerary, and you can download the full Navteq maps for offline use as well. Portrait and landscape modes and you can download Bing Road or Hybrid Maps as well. Since they are not a US Based company, you can download the Turn by Turn for USA/Canada; Europe, UK+Ireland, and a number of individual European countries (as well as Australia/New Zealand, and Taiwan). Get it at the Windows Market place, www.windowsphone.com,  for $34.

Audio Technica, www.audio-technica.com has long been one of my favorite companies for such a wide array of audio gear and for offering equipment that brings you stunningly clear sound. This year, they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Check out their 50th anniversary video on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PPMwrxEFmBA#!

As I test a couple of iPhone battery draining apps, I quickly found myself needing to constantly charge the iPhone and one of the solutions I found was the ZipKord, www.zipkord.com . What is unique about it is that besides being a combo auto/wall connector, if you use just one of the two USB ports, you get 2 amps of power out of it. Use both, each port will get 1 amp. It also has the retractable cable to connect to my iPhone and so as I drain that battery, I have both car and wall chargers handy. A little bulky but it is well put together with the AC side accepting 100-240 volts and the AC plug swivels out of the way making it easy to pack. The unit I have, the 237USB (sells for around $25), has the charge connector, a retractable cable with micro-USB to iPhone/iPad adapter and so it covers not only my iPhone but also my PDA which I charge via USB. Quick charging, easy to pack, and versatile makes this a must have unit for the travel bag.

I mentioned before the CES Innovations award winners, you can see them all at: http://www.cesweb.org/awards/innovations/2012-innovations-honorees.htm

Your other place for award winners at CES is the CNET Best of CES Awards 2012. See them at:  http://ces.cnet.com/best-of-ces/

Robert Sanborn



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