CES 2016: Smart gadgets for all the family - and dog

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, Las Vegas

  • Published
Collection of smart devices: fridge, watch and shoeImage source, Samsung/Reuters/AFP
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Smart fridges, watches and shoes have all been on show at CES

Everything these days is prefixed with the word "smart" and nowhere is that more in evidence than at CES .

One manufacturer is even offering a smart water bottle. Lifefuels won an award at the tech show for the bottle with "five interchangeable "fuelpods" filled with vitamins, nutritional products and flavours, allowing users to tailor their water to suit their specific lifestyles".

Why anyone would need such a product is open to debate but it does raise the question about what "smart" really means.

Image source, Lifefuels
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Lifefuels says it has developed the world's first "smart nutrition bottle"

For many firms, a so-called smart device is just something connected to the internet but Adam Simon, an analyst with research firm Context, thinks it should be about more.

"The real question is - what can you do with it? What is it actually doing to help you in your life?"

Image source, Getty Images
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Samsung has developed a "smart belt" that can monitor your waistline

A Context study found most European home-owners are still reluctant to invest in smart tech - 19% of Britons said that they would buy one smart gadget in the next year and, even then, it would have to cost no more than £150.

The BBC has been looking at some of the smart tech on offer for the family home at CES.

Games for dogs

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Fiona earned her lunch - but she's just a beginner

This may just be the craziest thing to come out of CES but it was taken seriously enough by a panel of expert judges to win the CES Launchit ShowStoppers award.

Described by founder Leo Trottier as a games console for dogs, the Cleverpet gadget consists of three flashing lights and a treat dispenser. The dog has to press the lights in the right combination in order to win the treat.

It also has a microphone and speaker so that pet owners can task their dogs with more complex games - such as touching a particular colour or combination of lights.

"A dog with a job is a happy dog," said Mr Trottier as part of his pitch to the judges. "And my user-base quite literally has nothing else to do."

Image source, cleverpet
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Cleverpet is designed to keep dogs entertained

He knows a thing or two about training animals - he told the BBC that he taught his cat to use the toilet.

More seriously, there are hundreds of pets left home alone each day and Mr Trottier is keen to find a solution to the suggestion that many of these animals are bored. He believes that some dogs will learn to advance to complex levels.

There is some serious science behind the design - one member of the team is a neuroscientist who has spent years teaching grammar to birds - and Mr Trottier himself is a cognitive scientist.

A little black and white dog named Fiona demoed the system for me, but she could only handle the one button level as she has only been training for a week.

The home cocktail maker

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Bartesian makes colourful drinks for grown-ups

Ok, this falls very much into the same category as the smart water bottle as something that is only tenuously smart, and it costs more than £150 - retailing in the US for $400 - but, come on, it's a cocktail maker for your home.

Bartesian looks a lot like a capsule-based coffee maker and it is basically the alcoholic equivalent.

There are reservoirs for the spirits - vodka, rum, tequila and gin - and these must be supplied by the owner. The rest - including the liqueurs which are recreated using non-alcoholic flavours - comes in a capsule.

There are six on offer - including margarita, cosmopolitan and zest martini - and each comes with a barcode that is read by the machine making it.

Smarter kitchen

The smart home survey from Context revealed that people regard their kitchen as the smartest room in the house, which is a strange choice given that most living rooms now boast a smart TV - but there are plenty of gadgets on show that aim to add to its smartness.

Image source, Getty Images
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Marathon Laundry's washing machine can "learn" how to best clean your clothes

Whirlpool has a dishwasher that can be linked to a Nest thermostat, meaning it will run when energy costs are lowest.

And there has been quite a lot of buzz around an internet-connected washing machine which is also packed with sensors, designed by a firm called Marathon Laundry.

British firm Smarter, makers of the iKettle, has a range of products on show at CES that are considerably cheaper - all under £100.

Image source, Smarter
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The Smarter fridge camera can take photos of your food

They include a smart camera for the fridge which takes real-time photos of your food, and a smart mat for cupboards that reveals what ingredients are in there via an app on a smartphone.

Smarter water use

We all probably use more water than we need so the idea of a shower that will flash when you have used too much is rather compelling.

Image source, AP
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Hydrao is designed to help you use less water

French firm Start & Blue has developed Hydrao, a system that can be fitted to any shower and which flashes red once a 50 litre limit has passed.

The company has already sold around 1,000 units and claims that water use was reduced by an average of 25% when it was used.

The teen bracelet

This one's for the kids and could help parents with that perennial problem of getting them away from their screens.

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Light-up bracelets are being pitched at teens

Gemio, a venture-funded, Seattle-based firm, has set out to create a wearable for teenagers that it hopes will appeal to both their desire to express themselves and be sociable.

"The challenge with wearables is getting people to wear it beyond a few months," Gemio founder Michael Bettua told the BBC.

To counter that, the smart bracelets comes with 35 different designs which clip on and off. Wearers can also design their own.

They are also fitted with 22 LED lights which can be used to engage with friends who also own bracelets. The bracelet can flash up different light combinations that correlate to customised messages.

"It is a new form of social networking - kids can send secret messages to each other," said Mr Bettua.

The bracelet goes on sale in June at a price of $85.

Read and watch more from CES and follow the BBC team covering the event on Twitter.

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