Manufacturers are aware of that need for speed. Induction ranges and cooktops are growing ever more popular, single-serve coffeemakers are crowding store shelves, and faster settings are being built into washers and dishwashers. Buyers of electronics have a different definition of fast; they want devices that stream, process, and download swiftly. Whatever the product category, all of that clock-watching can pay real dividends: 15 minutes here, an hour there. If you owned one of each type of product on these pages, you could save more than two hours per day. Just think of what you could do with that!
But, wait, as the old infomercials said, there's more to Solar Roadways than just free daytime electrons. Silicon in a roadway brings intelligence and opportunity. You don't really want to paint over photovoltaic cells with lane markers, so LED lighting will serve that purpose, making the lines easier to see at night, and able to change as traffic conditions dictate (or turn off when nobody's around). They can even provide real-time warning signs for upcoming traffic hazards.
Since snow also kills the power collection, heating elements will melt and dry the road, greatly improving safety, slashing plowing budgets, and building the case for this technology in the northern latitudes where less solar energy can be collected. Built-in pressure sensors could detect animal or pedestrian traffic, triggering illumination and warning messages. Finally, the smart panels will know when a neighbor gets damaged and summon a crew to quickly swap out the 110-pound panel. The latest design envisions 2-foot-wide hexagonal panels supported by a roadway underlayment similar to normal roads, the whole works sloped to drain water into a trough with an adjacent cable run that carries power and smart-roadway wiring. These troughs could also be sized to accommodate telecommunications and power cabling, eliminating fragile and unsightly overhead lines.
Another in a series of places and things we don’t necessarily consider “cool” but where innovation and technology keep evolving
Have you been to a Best Buy lately?
I had not in a while, and expected a wide range of Apple and Microsoft and Samsung products, but was surprised they only took up a quarter of the floor space. The store has become a wider showcase of technology in our next-gen lifestyles
The new Pacific appliance section has refrigerators with enhanced humidity control technology, convection microwaves, infrared grills, robot vacuums and dishwashers with apps.
The Magnolia home theater section has the latest in 4K Ultra HD TVs, Dolby and other audio gear.
Other sections are focused on the connected home with products like DropCam surveillance, Nest thermostats, and Hue smart LED lighting. Still and connected cars with Zubie tracking/diagnostics, and after market Bluetooth speaker, rear cameras and smart mirrors. Other sections carry FitBits and other trackers and iHealth monitors.
The Geek Squad now does home theater design and connected home installations.
I have a feeling our local, humble Best Buy is going to be a part of our changing lifestyles for a while.
If you’re big fan of both wireless charging and IKEA’s affordable line of furniture, then you’re in luck. The world’s largest furniture retailer just announced a new collection called IKEA Home Smart, a series of home furniture with built-in induction charging capabilities.
Created in conjunction with the Wireless Power Consortium, each piece in the line comes fitted with Qi wireless chargers, so you can use it to replenish the battery on any of the compatible devices currently in the market (e.g. LG G3, Moto 360, the new Galaxy S6). That’s right, instead of buying a piece of furniture and a wireless charging pad, you get both in a single purchase.
As I continue my “Humble Things” series, I popped in to see a Norman Rockwell exhibit at a local museum. In his remarkable career, Rockwell brought so many day to day, humble things to life especially in his long series of Saturday Evening Post covers.
As I was admiring his work I kept wondering how it would be different today.
Here's my musing:
I think Rockwell would observe the fading art of the family meal hijacked by all our electronics
He would likely bring out the mood at today's airports, especially the excitement when flights are on time
He would paint himself taking a selfie and instead of the pipe he would likely have a Apple Watch and his glasses would be from Google
He would update the mailman with the UPS man with Amazon deliveries
and the cop would likely be a lady and Rockwell would bring out her body camera, walkie talkie and all.
Continuing a series on things we take for granted when we should stop and think how far we have come.
In 1851, Verdi’s classic opera, Rigoletto opened. It was an instant hit and soon gondoliers in Venice were belting out La Donna e Mobile. Then it gradually spread around the world if you could afford to go to the opera. Gradually, as in years.
Another in a series on places you are pleasantly surprised to see things evolve with technology and innovation. In recent trips to Staples and Office Depot I have seen a range of newer products. They have always carried printers and laptops and navigation units, but the newer products reflect the changing home and small office technology landscape
Point of Sale
Time and attendance
Staples, of course, has a significant foray into home automation with their Connect hub and mobile app
This continues a series of how things we don’t notice much have evolved. Well, it’s tough to ignore the vibrant colors in a paint store but few of us stop and admire how tech savvy the color selection, matching and mixing process has become.
The range of color palettes – physical and virtual – keeps growing
If you have the formula from an earlier can of paint, it’s easy to order more. Mobile apps can help get you “close enough” to a manufacturer's shade. Or take a small sample from a previous can and most stores have a spectrophotometer which can approximate the recipe.
Then the software takes over and precisely mixes the contents and agitates the mix for consistency.
Approximate is the key word, because devices need to be regularly calibrated. And there are so many varieties of sheen – semi-gloss, satin, eggshell etc. Still, it is impressive to watch the whole process.
Another in a series on ordinary things we often overlook even though they are much smarter than ever before. The Automated Postal Center, the kiosk available at over 2,500 branches, is said to be capable of doing 80% of tasks the employees there perform. In reality, most people who go into a branch appear to ignore them (in 2013, they generated an average of only about $ 500 a day)
I have tried the kiosks for a range of transactions (buying sheets of first class stamps, renewing PO Box, estimating international postage, printing an Express Mail label) and found them much quicker than waiting in line for personal service.
To me, the most impressive service is around processing of packages. So many components at play - the weighing scale and rulers, zip code look up feature (using touch screen keypad or the pin pad), shipping label printer, credit/debit card reader, the receipt printer ( with tracking information), the security camera and the nearby chute - all combine to make self- shipments of most packages under 70 lbs a breeze. Ok, not so intuitive the first time you do it, but gets easier with each use.
Have you filed your taxes yet? If you don’t eFile, try out the kiosk this week. Yes, it allows you to add a Certified Mail option most use in communicating with the IRS.
Part of a series of how things we barely notice are becoming incredibly feature-rich
Let’s start with auto mirrors – I am using examples from my SUV but after-market offerings work with most models and in many cases are even “smarter” with embedded technology.
The Side Mirrors
The Blind spot detection icon flashes on left mirror when a car is approaching in the left lane (right one for right lane). The mirror tilts downwards when the gear is in reverse to allow you to better see the curb when you are parking
The memory settings for seats also adjust the mirrors so other drivers don’t have to fiddle when them, or you when you get the car back. The mirrors can be adjusted remotely, and are also heated – handy in cold winters
The mirror housings have turn indicator lights to supplement those that blink in the front and rear of car. The right mirror has a convex spotter and both housings can be folded for parking in tight spots
Rear View Mirror
Mine is a electrochromic auto-dimming, night vision safety mirror with a Z-Nav compass display. The controls are for HomeLink (radio frequency transmitters for garage and other controls) and Hyundai BlueLink support (for roadside assistance, navigation and other services)
To give you an idea how rich each feature is, the compass can be adjusted for “True North” in each of the 15 Magnetic Zones in N. America.
We have come a long way from the 60s when the side mirrors were an option on cars!