*Steve Makris is a technology expert who does a Tech Talk segment during Edmonton’s Sunday Morning News.
The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showed many interesting technologies for every consumer. But nothing earth-shattering. Just a lot of new ways to use existing technologies, especially for our lifestyles and health.
Sure, there are new 4K 2016 LCD/LED TVs that are thinner, brighter and smarter. The newest home appliances have new home tricks up their sleeves but will cost more. Drones were plentiful and easier to use for novices.
“Wireless” was the buzzword; the ability to be untethered or cordless more often than before.
On that note, Shaw Communications, who also own Global News, launched FreeRange TV in Las Vegas CES. It’s a free mobile app that untethers Shaw TV subscribers from their home TVs to their iOS phones and iPads, as well as Android phones and tablets.
Shaw subscribers can watch most of their subscribed TV content, like live newscasts, sports games and in-demand content on their portable devices anywhere in Canada (due to country specific content licensing restrictions.) They can’t record, but can pause and resume. FreeRange TV technology comes from partner Comcast, one of the largest cable providers in the United States and network technology company Cisco.
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jay Mehr said the “TV has flown the coop” campaign is aimed at reducing churn numbers – keeping existing customers, and increasing the ARPU (average revenue per subscriber), a key measure for traditional TV subscriber companies.
FreeRange TV is based on IP (Internet Protocol) technology. It allows more customer interactive services and a better viewing experience, like finding some TV series of one show spread between different services. The quality of the streaming media on high resolution phones and tablets is excellent.
Currently, FreeRange TV allows downloading children content only, for playback offline, like airplane travel, for up to five devices. Each can download up to 10 titles, which remain on the device for 30 days. Shaw plans to expand its IP technology with more tricks on its FreeRange TV service, like adding more downloadable content for offline viewing.
But even more importantly, Shaw’s current Gateway boxtop TV delivery home service can vastly improve its customer experience by using IP service.
“FreeRange is an extension of your Shaw home service,” said Mehr. “It’s the first in a whole series of experiences based on IP cloud services. We will be using that same technology for a whole series of offerings in the next year or two.”
This may include opting out of the traditional paid home TV subscription model and pay for cloud-based Shaw FreeRange TV service only. I am not a Shaw customer, but my trial evaluation FreeRange TV is exactly that.
Does that mean switching Shaw’s current fast, but feature-limited Gateway topbox to IP technology which competitor TELUS uses? Shaw officials were tight-lipped on that, but industry observers expect a new Shaw IP based topbox in the future.
Wireless for lifestyle
–Airawear Smart Comfort Jacket uses a sophisticated maze of air pressure points in its lining for a surprisingly effective and relaxing point pressure massage, posture reinforcement, body compression and biodata feed back on your phone app, which also controls the various features. It is a tight fit to be most effective. No price or delivery yet.
-The most notable smartwatches at CES, the Fitbit Blaze and the TomTom Spark, incorporate deign and function. The exquisitely designed Fitbit Blaze Enhanced fitness features FitStar by Fitbit on-screen workouts, connected GPS, PurePulse heart rate tracking, and SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition to help motivation. It also has call, text and calendar alerts.
TomTom’s Spark GPS Fitness watch is more sports oriented with Cardio+Music, a large on-the-run watchable screen, 24/7 activity tracker, quick run, bike, gym or treadmill switching modes with steps, calories, distance and active time goal tracking. The TomTom Spark Music comes with 3 GB music storage and headphones.
-The Iamili Wearable Translator, the size of a large USB stick, uses its own OS to instantly translate between English, Chinese and Japanese. Unlike smartphones that use money and time-consuming data, the Translator simply runs on its own with no Internet or WiFi connection.
–CleverPet ia a floor-mounted large upside down bowl-like device that engages your dog all day by teaching him puzzles with controlled food reward, prevents over feeding and tracks his activities while you are away on your mobile phone.
-Withings Thermo using its HotSpotSensor technology, simply gently pressing it on your forehead tracks your temperature with and automatic Wi-Fi sync, meaning even when away from home. The dedicated Thermo app sends reminders and input related symptoms/medications from your smartphone. It takes 4,000 measurements in two seconds with one touch using its 16 sensors.
–Chipolo is a small, round disk that finds your stuff, even pets. It works up to 60 metres away using sound and can even help you find your phone by shaking the chip!
What’s up with TV?
-There were incremental improvements on TV flat panels from all makers. I don’t want to bore you with the numbers game but the biggest improvements were on the smartness of TVs, thanks to their improved operating systems. LG, for example, will feature WebOS on its 2016 models. It’s powerful enough to let you zoom in part of your TV screen and see it full screen. Samsung’s Tizen-powered OS Smart Hub lets you use your Samsung remote control to run a connected Xbox when used as a media (non gaming) mode.
The big news is that 2016 TVs are HDR capapble. A vast choice of 4K models that can play HDR (high dynamic range) embedded movies displaying image quality that every movie director intended. Sadly, up to now, flat panel TVs from any maker and at any price could only display a fraction of the movie quality originally shot.
–Samsung and LG squared off on home appliances. Samsung’s $6,000 Family Hub Fridge with 21.5-inch 1080p touch screen features three interior shelve cams, stock taking, screen photo albums, online grocery ordering and more, while the less smart LG Signature offers useful analog features like knocking on the dimmed main compartment door to make it transparent for viewing inside.
Checkout more on these new appliances and more CES, on my personal techuntangled blog.