The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is about to begin this week, and I'm here meeting with smaller companies before the bigger product debuts take center stage from the likes of Samsung, LG and others. As usual, I'm impressed by how small teams can innovate quickly and bring products to market that fill in what one founder told me was a "sleeper" market.
I love what Pi Lab is doing with their kids toys, called Edwin the Duck. It landed at the Apple Store and Best Buy just recently and shows what a small company in Indiana can do when they are committed to a vision. The waterproof duck plays lullabies, shines a night light, and can take a child's temperature just by placing the duck on his or her temple. More later on how this company managed to get into the Apple store.
You maybe haven't heard of the Cyberphone yet, but maybe that's a good thing. The encrypted phone from a company called Macate knows when the SIM card is inserted. If you lose the phone and the criminal takes out the card to read the data (which is common after a theft), the SIM won't work. Plus, the data on the phone itself is encrypted. What impressed me most is that Isaac Daniel, the CEO of Macate, has such a strong background in the field. He created technology to track troops during a war and is even working on a secret government project.
I like what Severin Marcombes, the founder of Lima, is doing with pervasive storage. The Lima is a small USB-sized gadget that you use with a drive that plugs into the USb port. ONce configured, your storage is available from any other device, including a laptop and mobile devices. What makes it different from Dropbox is that it's more secure and safe (the device makes a backup copy of any new file you create) and gives you some storage sanity, even for very large files.
If you know my backstory or have seen me at trade-shows, you already know I haven't had a "real" drink since before college. I'm mostly into coffee. Yet, I can appreciate what the startup PicoBrew is doing to help the sleeper market of home brewing. The device works like a MakerBot in brewing craft beer at your own home using publicly-available recipes. I met the co-founder, Dr. Bill Mitchell, and he explained how he was a vice president at Microsoft who helped bring Windows 7 to market. He knows the "dark" side and how to battle the icons of industry. (No offense, Microsoft--you're awesome.) PicoBrew itself is a concoction of disparate skillsets including a chemist, a hardware engineer, and a computer scientist.
I will admit to being personally interested in this product, given that I'm an avid grillmaster. This company, based on Ohio, makes a solar-powered grill. At CES 2016, they announced a larger version that can cook up an entire meal of steaks and burgers. The current product can cook eggs in about 20 minutes under ideal circumstances. The technology comes from the world of solar-powered homes and uses tubes and large mirrors that heat up quickly.
You might think a chip company is a bit ho-hum, but this Dublin-based startup makes some interesting technology that can find a GPS location within a few inches. There are applications in sports (a new basketball with a chip that knows its own location on the court) or a keyfob for a car that knows when your teenage "borrows" the car for a few hours. I was impressed with how the company can scale to verticals like sports, retail, wearables, and entertainment.
Humavox might not be a household word, but they are making products that make home life easier. A new wireless charging station prototype works using their Eterna tech that doesn't require that you set the device onto a pad in a specific way (the bane of Qi wireless). The demo showed how you can just toss an activity tracker or chargeable earbuds into a bowl.