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Get smart: new technology and devices make life easier and convenient

Check out the latest wireless phone chargers and earbuds, medical alert watch, voice assistant, energy saver, mulitfunctional car key, smart footwear and pet tracker

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 9:44am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 10:23am

There’s an argument that some smart devices, which are supposed to make life easier, can actually work against us.

Anyone who’s paced around their living room at night, trying to rack up 10,000 steps before their tracker ticks over at midnight, will understand.

So how can we make technology our friend, instead of our master? Here are 10 solutions to consider:

1. Wireless charging. Plugging your device into a wall socket to power up is so yesterday: wireless chargers can free you from that drudgery. In the United States, Starbucks and McDonald’s are showing the way by introducing wireless charging hot spots in certain outlets. In Hong Kong, Ikea has already rolled out its collection of products, from charging pads to furniture with built-in charging spots, which makes it possible to power up your smartphone without messy cables.

2. Unplugged headphones. Bluetooth headphones have had their limitations – perhaps with the exception of the very high end, there’s been the frustration of muffled sound or dropped connections. German company Bragi is one of the first to perfect smart, wireless earbuds – simply called the Headphone – which can be connected to any Bluetooth device, including the headphone-jack free iPhone. Users can switch between music tracks, take phone calls in challenging environments with Versant advanced voice technology, activate Audio Transparency and deliver voice commands, all without having to look at a screen.  Shipping is expected to begin in November.

3. Medical alert watch. You can’t help but worry about frail elderly relatives when you’re not there to care for them. Apple is helping to ease those concerns by building medical alert functionality into its new watchOS 3. By pressing and holding down the SOS button, the wearer can call an emergency operator “wherever they are in the world”, according to Apple. After the call is made, the watch will automatically send a map and a message to a user's emergency contacts so they know where their loved one is. There will also be the ability to add the person’s medical ID to the watch, such as age and allergy information.

4. Virtual assistant. Voice assist technologies were probably released before their time (Hello, Siri?). Developers have gotten better at it, and the consensus is that the Amazon Echo is one that actually works. It can hear your voice from across the room, even with music playing, and connects with the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather and more.

5. Energy saver. Turn your home appliances on and off from anywhere by syncing your smartphone to the WeMo Insight Switch from Belkin. A new feature of this latest model is the ability to track the electricity usage of devices that are plugged into it.

6. Auto accessory. Viper SmartStart is no ordinary car key: it can lock and unlock the door, blast the horn and open the boot, all from your smartphone. This app can also locate your car in a crowded car park, and start the engine to have it cool and running smoothly before you get there.

7. Key finder. No more hunting for missing keys, wallet or phone with handy GPS tracking devices. Attach the coin-sized TrackR bravo to any item, then use the companion app to locate it in seconds. The device can also be set to notify you if you’ve left something behind.

8. Smart footwear. Pare back your fitness gear with running shoes which double as fitness trackers. Sportswear company Under Armour has embedded a lightweight chip into the midsole of its SpeedForm Gemini 2 RE shoes, which senses a run as you move beyond walking speed and begins to track your stride. The data is uploaded to your smartphone via Bluetooth, where the companion app, MapMyRun, displays the distance run, time, and pace.

9. Smarter socks. Sensoria Fitness has upped the ante with a connected socks and anklet combo that tracks everything you might want to know about your running capabilities: cadence, pace, calories, distance, steps, landing and contact information for both feet etc. Synching with your smart phone, it also acts a music playlist and a voice coach to improve your form.

10. Pet tracker. OK, so you can’t get through the day without checking up on your four-legged friend. The various internet-enabled pet trackers on the market can do everything from locating a lost puppy, to monitoring a lazy moggy’s lack of movement. If you think that’s for you, check out the range.