The annual tech tradeshow known as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one part product circus and one part Shark Tank (literally — Shark Tank producers were there scouting talent), and while the focus has traditionally been on adult toys for single dudes, in recent years there’s been a windfall of family-specific gadgetry. The 2015 show just wrapped up and these are the gizmos you might find in your home by the end of the year. Because a washing machine that does two loads at once might pale in comparison to a self-driving Mercedes for most guys, but for a guy who’s doing laundry this weekend? It’s a damn revelation.
The EcoBee3 Smart Wifi Thermostat
Smart thermostats are proliferating faster than smartwatches, but most of them suffer from the same drawback as their analog counterparts: they measure a home’s temperature based solely on the air around a single thermostat. The EcoBee3 solves this issue via remote sensors communicating with a base that will know that Junior’s sweating through his swaddle while you and the lady huddle for warmth in a freezing bed. Then it will do something about it so you don’t have to bother un-huddling.
Availability: On sale
LG Twin Washer
From the “So Obvious, Everyone Else Should Be Fired” files, LG’s new washer includes a secondary basin built into the main one’s pedestal. Like every other appliance at CES, this one talks to your phone, but that’s not nearly as impressive as being able to do two loads at once with different settings for each — never again will your dad-slacks come out looking like your kid’s Underoos.
iDevices Switch Smart Plug
Ever find yourself with a kid passing out in your arms, wishing you could turn the lights out (or the stereo off) without waking them and ruining everything? With Switch, you can do it with your phone, through an iOS or Android app that talks to the plug over your home’s WiFi. This isn’t the first “smart plug” on the market, but it is the one Apple chose for its upcoming HomeKit home automation platform. If nothing else, Switch deserves credit for making Siri possibly useful for the first time ever.
Availability: Early 2015
Sony 4K Handycam
Up until now, the knock on 4K-resolution TV sets has been, “These are amazing, but who’s going to deliver me 4K-resolution video to watch on the thing?” With its latest Handycam, Sony has the answer: You are. At $1,100, it’s the first camcorder with 4K capture that’s priced within reach of enthusiast consumers. If that still seems steep for home video, just ask yourself: Who entrusts his kid’s precious life milestones to measly 1080p? Monsters, that’s who.
This web-enabled Bluetooth speaker makes the perfect kitchen companion. It pairs with phones for hands-free calling when cooking or doing dishes; it streams music and radio to keep things as festive as they can be; and you can send messages to its e-ink display from anywhere via an app that even lets you scribble with your finger instead of type. Invoxia claims a month’s battery life, too, but it’s coolest technology is its simplest — the magnet lets you turn any refrigerator into a “smart” refrigerator for a tenth of the cost.
Availability: This Summer
Sleep Number SleepIQ Kids Bed
The kid’s version of the bed that won innovation awards at last year’s CES provides the same heart rate, body temperature, breathing and movement data to parents in the form of a daily “Sleep IQ” that can be used to determine when changes to diet and exercise might help or hurt a wee one’s sleeping patterns. The bed also provides floor illumination when kids get out of it in the middle of the night and can even sync with a smart phone or tablet to let them scan under the bed for monsters first. Seriously (on the synching and scanning thing; not the monsters).
Availability: Later this year
Blue Maestro Pacif-i
The Pacif-i provides constant temperature monitoring and transmits the info to your phone in a graph that lets you track a fever’s coming, and going (considering how little you can do for a sick infant, that heads up might at least provide some peace of mind). Bonus points for the fact that your phone can find it using GPS when it gets lost. Double bonus points for the fact that you’ll never have to stick a thermometer in your kid’s butt again.
Availability: Early 2015
hereO GPS Tracking Watch
HereO claims to be the first GPS and cellular urchin tracker designed to be worn comfortably by kids as young as 3. It can be programed with geo-fenced safe zones that alert you if your kid leaves them, as well as a customized gesture that your kid can use to automatically notify you if, say, Bobby stole their ice cream again. It’s another example of tech that isn’t necessarily new, but may have been perfected this year — no small thing, since a GPS watch that your kid refuses to wear is about as useful as the socks it will wind up next to in the drawer.
Availability: April 2015