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CES 2012. Day 3: Mobile Health vs Accessories

Do you know what were the key trends at CES? Products for healthy lifestyle competed heavily against accessories for iPhone/iPad/iPod. So far accessories are leading as they are represented in a hundred of pavillions. I have never seen such a multitude of pouches and cases before. I will mention the most interesting solutions later on, but we will start with companies we have not commented on yet

Nokia and the Largest Pavillion at CES2012

Nokia is not doing well, which is hardly a secret for anyone. For the first time it participates in a serious show this way. Its pavillion is located in the section free of other phone manufacturers to avoid the head to head comparison with rivals. It was so naive and touching, but the tiny size of the pavillion was unacceptable for the company highlighting the importance of the North American market. A pavillion of Kodak, which is struggling as well is twice larger nonetheless.

Theoretically, the market player planning to return to the US must invest more efforts in such attempts. For example, it is useful to allow everyone to touch and try new products, but Nokia 900 is covered by glass and only three managers have samples to show and describe. These people cannot say anything new and know nothing about competing solutions. It feels like a bubble with vacuum inside.

On the other hand there are tons of headsets produced under the brand name of Nokia (the lion's share is manufactured by Monster). It resembled the actions of Siemens two years before the folding of their phone branch: abundance of headsets compensating for the lack of phones. When troubles started at Motorola and Sony Ericsson they also preferred to show off accessories instead of key products. Their managers seem to have read the same textbook and then followed down the road with such faulty recommendations.

Unfortunately, I could not get the main answer in the Nokia pavillion as to when and at what price will Nokia 900 reach the stores. Employees had no clue and suggested to wait for the further announcement. How can you work with the company unaware of its own plans in terms of products introduction timeline and pricing, especially for key models. When Nokia reigned supreme every press release contained the release date and the price excluding taxes. The company was sure of its powers and understood how the market worked. Today we are dealing with a completely different Nokia.

I would like you to understand that I am writing these bitter words not to rub salt into the wounds of the company, which deserves pity now. It is being destroyed from within at unprecedented rate and this experience is valuable for the history of technological companies.

I have two pieces of news about Nokia 900. The good one is that the price of Nokia 900 in the US will equal that of Nokia 800 in Europe today, which is an aggressive pricing capable of boosting the sales a little bit.

The bad news is that Nokia 900 will come to stores in the second quarter of 2012. Even if it happens in April the model will be one year behind the current market tendencies and after the Barcelona congress not many will be interested in this handset at all. No matter how good it is modern phones will surpass it and set trends for the future.

As I understand that Nokia is going to use data fixing again. They will say that sales start on March 18 and show photos of trucks leaving production facilities, which are idle, and keep promising to commence shipments for several more weeks. Apparently, trucks had no GPS and could not find warehouses of partners. This way Nokia can start shipments in February or even tomorrow. It's funny and sad at the same time.

All in all Nokia promised a lot, but fail to support hopes with products or actions. There is no point discussing its success at CES.

Blackberry Now Has Mail and Calendar

Blackberry pavillion impresses with a number of pouches on offer. Visitors are not numerous, but every hour employees of RIM run a presentation about new features in the updated OS for their tablet. I had a case in the pavillion, which exemplifies why the problems of the troubled smartphone manufacturer will not be solved any time soon.

After the representative of RIM was done with his explanation of updates to a visitor I asked for the same. The answer was they had to find a press manager as media representatives cannot be shown the same. I wonder if RIM has a different OS for the press too.

It was only the beginning. The press manager happened to be busy and I was advised to wait for the presentation starting in 5 minutes. Even after 10 minutes the presentation did not start as the speaker was busy chatting nearby.

Wasting 15 minutes at the show pays off only if there is something interesting awaiting you. I did not have the luxury of extra time and left. Whether I have a chance to attend the pavillion of RIM again is not clear, but I can share my overall impressions. The tablet now has organizer and mail absent from the outset. I do not think it will make the dead product more alluring.

Against the background of press criticism RIM decided to play it safe and offer good presentations instead of good products.

AR.Drone2 from Parrot

I think the flying drone from Parrot is their best achievement, so it was demonstrated in the area behind the net. It flies pretty well and I have one myself. It is a good solution for those looking for a toy both for kids and adults. Watch the video to have an idea of how it works. There are photos too.

A year ago I forecast Chinese manufacturers to copy the drone, but it did not happen. There are some copies, but the price is not dramatically lower. If it is too cheap then it looks unreliable and there is no urge to buy it. This is what I found in one pavillion.

The owner of the pavillion passionately described the advantages of its drone over AR.Drone2, demonstrated its flight and camera. I was not impressed though, but such drones will become popular and available for all pretty soon. You can think of many uses from window peeping to patrolling the area searching for your dog. Everything depends on software, which is fast developing. This toy has numerous capabilities outside of the world of entertainment.

Vuforia by Qualcomm

In my report on the second day of CES I talked a lot about Intels and Microsofts showcases and their augmented reality technologies. You should check out the virtual fitting room, the Fusion project and the Lego vending machine. Quallcomm is also paying a lot of attention to this new technology their response is the Vuforia prototype (from view and euphoria).

The prototype consisted in a special pad with the Sesame street characters on it if you look at them through your phone or tablet they come to life and then starts the games begin: the light might go out so and you will need to find who is missing. When you put the camera of your device closer to an object on the pad you learn more about it. There are different pads available with different own game stories. The video below explains the game a lot better than words.

However, Vuforia can have very serious applications as it can be used for computer modeling of real life situations. The second prototype was a system that can teach you how to use your new phone a sort of a interactive textbook. One can come up with all sorts of entertaining and learning systems with these technologies. I think this prototype reflects the Microsoft Fusion project which uses Kinect to view any real objects while Quallcomms version implies the use of a ready set of objects. I have no doubts that these technologies are the future.

Plantronics Calisto 835

This device was named as one of the best in the Innovation category so I elbowed my way into the showcase to have a look at it and I liked it all your calls from PC, cell phone and landline in one place. Upon dialling you can select the way of calling. It also supports import of contacts from mobile phones. It features a wireless headset so you can make calls from it by means of your phone without the trouble of getting another SIM. All in all, the device makes a very positive impression although the body is quite fingerprints prone. It is very convenient to use and is really a looker.

Tagg Pet Tracker

There are lots of all kind of pet trackers but Tagg does not require sending any requests you simply see where your pet is on the map. Tagg got one of the awards of CES and I think it deserved it.

BodyMedia How Active Are You?

You dog can have a GPS tracking device so why cant you?! For those who really care about their well-being there is now BodyMedia you can wear on your arm all day long. I find the concept of never parting with a device except for taking showers appalling. They may say it is comfortable enough but I would still say no thank you and this gadget does not look small on your arm at all. May be if I am motivated enough I can forget about it but I still prefer the idea of a wrist bracelet and not something you have to wear on your arm.

Anyways, BodyMedia is still operating on the market and they have even released a light version of the tracker without a Bluetooth link that costs $149 in the US, the Bluetooth version is $179. Together with $7 monthly fee for the online service it makes for a noticeable payment for a health monitor. The smartphone app looks very nice and there is a funny feature it can tell you what kind of an animal your todays level of activity corresponds to. It tells you how many calories you have taken today and how many you have burned so you know whether you can eat and so on.

The idea is great but the monitor itself is just too big. Size is the main problem of modern health as it creates discomfort. They have to be really discreet to allow people to use all day long.

EPaper Mirasol by Qualcomm

This is a fascinating project that tries to combine all the upsides of E-paper with color. It is not the best colors I have seen but its better than gray scale. The development has been having difficulties and Quallcomm even considered ditching it but they revived it at least for the expo. If this technology ever makes it to the market it will certainly be popular but not in E-reader screens as you may expect but in smaller screens in devices where power consumption rate is crucial.

Macaw A Wellbeing App

It is another app for smartphones and tablets that can collect data from various sensors from scales to glucometers. This app is free and presents data in an easy and comprehensible manner and there is a number of tips with information on the healthy lifestyle. There is another app available that can help you organize your exercising. All in all, it is just another health monitor app.

Bottom Line

Frankly, I tried to put all the small gadgets of CES into one article only to realize I need to write another one. Accessories are interesting and fun so I will certainly write another article. I will try to overview the development of mHealth in my conclusive article on CES 2012.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
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Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net)

Published — 15 January 2012

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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