Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 really expended the “internet of things.” In essence, that’s just a fun way to say that all sorts of every-day things (from light-bulbs to thermostats) are getting connected to your home network. I think it’s pretty sweet, because, in a lot of ways, connecting new “things” to the internet can really improve your day-to-day life in lots of simple ways that you’ve probably never thought about.
It may seem out of hand, but it’s not
Here’s an example of something that sounds totally ridiculous when you first hear it, but makes tons of sense when you stop to think about it: smart sprinkler systems. Seriously, think about it, you could manage your sprinkler needs more efficiently than with any timer-based system. Say you live in arid state, where watering your lawn is a necessity. You’re traveling, and an unexpected dry period hits. No problem, just open the app on your phone, change your sprinkler schedule, and continue enjoying your trip. Easy-peasy.
See what I mean? If I called you up and said, hey, do you want to check out this awesome new smart sprinkler system that connects to the internet, I doubt you’d be excited. It sounds silly, but, in practice, it’s pretty awesome, and extremely useful to those that need it.
OK, so what’s a smart sprinkler system have to do with digital media (which is what we usually talk about here at OverDrive)? Mostly nothing! I only bring it up to get your mental gears churning. I shall attempt to explain …
A new way to go “mobile”
I’m both a car nut, and a technology geek. The two are coming together in new, and wonderful ways. I’m especially excited about Android Auto and Car Play. I can take my Nexus 6 (Android phone), plug it into an Android Auto infotainment center (a fancy name for a fancy car stereo), and suddenly, my car becomes “smart.” I get the full range of Android voice commands, on-screen navigation, and (here’s the clincher for us) multimedia control right on my car stereo. I don’t need to pick up, or even touch my phone once it’s plugged in.
For an avid audiobook listener like myself, this is awesome news. Right now, while driving, I typically use my Pebble (smartwatch) to control my OverDrive app while I listen to audiobooks so that I don’t have to look away from the road to play or pause my book. This works pretty well, but if I had Android Auto, everything would work with the stereo built into my dashboard. I could even open the app with voice commands! I’m pretty excited about the idea of turning my 2010 Malibu into a “smart” car (complete with climate control).
Phones and tablets for the masses
There were also some pretty cool announcements in the phone and tablet arena. Personally, I like to do my reading on a tablet rather than an eReader because I can get all of the content onto the tablet without having to bother with a computer. For that reason, the Dell Venu 8 7840 looks pretty interesting. It’s ultra thin (it makes pencils look fat), very light, and has a great screen. These are all good features for a device that you plan on using to read full-length books. It has some fascinating new features too, like three rear-facing cameras so that you can change the focus of a picture after you take it!
In the phone space, I’m currently geeking out about the Yota Phone 2, which is finally coming to the U.S. (apparently). Basically, it’s a smartphone with decent specs–a little better than mid-range. The exciting part, however, is that he back of the phone is an E Ink display! I use the jumbo screen on my Nexus 6 to read regularly (generally when I’m stuck waiting somewhere), but an E Ink screen would be much better for my eyes. It’s a pretty cool idea, and has lots applications beyond eBooks (like sending and receiving text messages while using a tiny trickle of battery power).
There are also a bunch of manufacturers like ASUS and Blu that are making very affordable, but high quality phones that you can buy off-contract. That means that you’ll be able to buy a budget smartphone that is actually good, rather than sacrificing any sense of performance or build quality to save cash.
Bringing it home to the living room
TVs and TV accessories are getting better and better at the whole “being connected” thing. Sony, Sharp, and Phillips are all launching high-end TVs that’ll run Android TV without the need for a separate box. The computer bits are built right into the set.
But, heck, if you want a separate box, you can always buy a Nexus Player, or wait for one of the more powerful Android TV units coming out in the next few months. I’m particularly interested in the Razer Forge. For $99, and a tiny amount of shelf-space, you can “upgrade” your TV to get all the smart functionality without having to buy a whole new set.
Android TV will cover you for your streaming video needs, of course, but there are few more fun ways you could use it. For example, what about a fixed layout kids book (an eBook with big, colorful pages that are laid out a certain way by the publisher). Think about how cool story time could be with the kids gathered ‘round the 60-inch TV in the living room!
I guess what I’m trying to say here is this …
The internet is taking over the world one “thing” at a time, but that’s great for tech nerds like me, because soon I’ll be able to read or listen to my books on everything. So, when you hear a new idea for connecting your refrigerator to your phone, stop to think about it first. What if the app on your phone could send you an alert when you’re low on Milk and it detects that you’re at the grocery store? See? Not useless.
The internet isn’t just a series of tubes anymore–now it’s got things!