CES 2016: wearables war hots up, and wake up to the smell of coffee ... from your alarm clock

Fitbit takes on Apple Watch with ‘smart fitness watch’, Samsung’s smartwatch gets more connected, Under Armour’s sports shoe tracks exercise, and if you don’t like that ringing sound in the morning, olfactory alarm clock wakes you by smell ... of hot croissants, lush jungle, chocolate and more

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 12:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 11:57am

More technology companies have been unveiling new products ahead of the opening today of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Here are some that caught our eye.

Fitbit unveiled its “smart fitness watch”, aiming to get into the growing smartwatch segment with upgraded fitness tracking features, heart-rate monitoring, audio playback control and message notifications. But the company’s share price plunged amid disappointment over its prospects for keeping pace with rivals like Apple Watch.

The new Blaze won’t have a GPS built in, but it will be able to use the GPS from a companion smartphone to display pace and distance more accurately. It’s a similar approach to the Apple Watch. The Blaze will sit alongside Fitbit’s existing Charge HR, which monitors heart rate but has no ability to latch on to the phone’s GPS.

The Blaze is the first Fitbit model to have a colour display, and will sell for US$200 when it comes out in March. Fitbit chief executive and co-founder James Park said the new device “strikes a balance between fitness and style”.

The Blaze contains a module that can be linked with smartphones running Apple, Android or Windows systems and removed to snap into different bands for workouts, the office or nights on the town, Park said.

SEE ALSO: Six consumer tech trends coming in 2016: drones that follow you, robots, virtual reality (again) and self-driving cars

A start-up that harnesses the power of radio waves to charge your mobile devices has come up with an ultra-small transmitter to keep a fitness band topped up with power.

Energous unveiled a mini WattUp transmitter at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. The company says the transmitter, about the size of a USB thumb drive, will deliver less than half a watt of power to a special receiver chip that can be embedded in a wearable device. While that’s not enough to charge up a smartphone quickly, Energous says it’s great to zap a fitness band full of energy in 10 to 40 minutes.

One key benefit: by using wireless charging, Energous says a band can be completely sealed and waterproof because it doesn’t need an external charging port. That means not worrying about taking it off in the shower or swimming pool.

Sports clothing maker Under Armour is getting into the gadgets business with a set of wearable devices, headphones and a wireless scale.

Though Under Armour isn’t first with any of these, it’s trying to make it easy on consumers by designing products that connect wirelessly to each other or to its smartphone apps. A new version of its UA Record app seeks to integrate all aspects of your health and fitness – including nutrition, sleep and exercise – though a few features will require a companion app, MapMyRun. The apps are free and will also work with competing devices, such as Fitbit and Garmin watches.

Under Armour is offering a starter package, the UA HealthBox, for US$400. It includes the scale, a chest strap to monitor heart rate and a fitness band to track steps and sleep. Each item is also sold separately. Beyond that, Under Armour is offering a shoe embedded with a chip to track exercise – even without a smartphone or any other GPS-enabled device for recording distance. The company is also making two headphones, including one that can measure heart rate at the ear.

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Samsung has unveiled several new products that get along with those from other technology firms.

Samsung says its Gear S2 smartwatch will be compatible with Apple’s iPhones later this year. Watches using Google’s Android Wear already are, though with limited functionality.

Samsung also unveiled a 12-inch tablet that attaches to a keyboard. The Galaxy Tab Pro S is aimed at business users and runs Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. Samsung says it will be the thinnest and lightest tablet-PC combination on the market.

In addition, Samsung’s top-end 2016 SUHD TVs will come with a free USB dongle to serve as a smart-home hub and let users to control up to 200 devices produced by manufacturers from Nest to Philips via their TV.

If you find buzzing or beeping is an alarming way to wake up, you might enjoy Sensorwake’s olfactory alarm clock. The device by the French company emits scents that should get you up gently in about two minutes.

The clock, which is selling for a promotional US$89 during CES, diffuses particles contained in packets with dry air to give you a whiff of things like espresso, hot croissants, a lush jungle, chocolate or peppermint. Two packs last for a total of 60 days and cost about US$11. There’s a backup alarm if you have a stuffy nose.

It’s never been easier to find your lost keys. Several companies are showing off tags with wireless technology. You can put one on your keys and call to it with your smartphone.

Some companies are taking it a step further. TrackR, a company in Santa Barbara, California, unveiled an add-on called Atlas. It plugs into a wall socket and scans a room for any TrackR tags using Bluetooth. It then tells you what room your missing item is in. The company's Jeremy Fish says: “Most people can find it if you get into the right room.”

Chipolo, a company from Ljubljana, Slovenia, added a feature that calls your phone. If your missing item is beyond the 60-metre Bluetooth range, if some other Chipolo user walks by it out in the wild, you’ll get notified where it is – without compromising the other user’s privacy – so you can go get it.

Want a craft brewery on your countertop and don’t mind waiting a week for the hoppy elixir?

PicoBrew showed off a US$699 appliance that uses pre-mixed recipes. It’s not for the home brewers interested in making their own creations, though the company says customers can turn the dial to make the brew more or less bitter or hoppy.

The company is shipping its first devices in April to its Kickstarter supporters who have contributed a combined US$1.4 million to the project.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse