8 Innovative Linux-Based Products Demoed at CES
Once again the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week turned into the Mecca of electronic and mobile technology drawing over 150,000 pilgrims looking to experience the latest and greatest what the industry has to offer. If you look behind the scenes of the many gadgets shown you can spot Linux and open-source software almost everywhere. It is the “silent giant” of CES, as Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin recently wrote. Here are some of the marvels that I discovered while roaming the show. Click through the slideshow at the link, below, and read on for more details.
FLIR ONE: Thermal imaging
The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2013 was “selfie.” Now you can add a new dimension to your continued efforts, proving to your devoted followers and the rest of the world how hot you are, literally. FLIR, provider of professional thermal imaging solutions, has developed a thermal imaging sensor smaller than a penny and stuck it together with a regular CCD camera on a smartphone case.
The FLIR ONE phone device takes thermal images as well as regular images and processes them on the built-in CPU running Linux. Images can be viewed and stored on your smartphone. For a mere $350 retail the FLIR ONE will open up the world of thermal imaging to everyone: use it to find studs in the walls, poor insulation or the source of water leaks in your home, locate kitty stuck on a tree at night, analyze heat dissipation of electronics, spot potential threats in dark locations for personal safety and whatever else inspires you. The device will first be available in Q1 2014 for the iPhone. Android will follow later this year. An SDK will allow you to develop your own applications.
Television sets have always been a major attraction at CES. While consumer excitement over 3D and ultra-high definition has faded because of the lack of programming, manufacturers are now touting the SmartTV as the universal content portal, at least when you're not on the run but in the convenience of your home.
One of them is LG. Their latest SmartTVs are running webOS and feature a timeline of cards allowing you to access various content. The cards transparently integrate regular TV programs with web content such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu as well as your own devices.
The company acquired parts of the webOS assets from HP in early 2013 and turned it into an OS platform for SmartTVs, set-top boxes and more. WebOS is a Linux OS stack that is built with OpenEmbedded. Its meta-data layer is compatible with the Yocto Project, a build system for embedded Linux systems. Developers are welcome to join the Open webOS Project to contribute to the evolution of the system.
Makerbot 3D Printers
Innovation is written all over CES. Consequently every year the show boasts more products that let end users slip out of the role of being mere consumers and become creative themselves. The 3D printing showcase is one of these examples where a vast array of exhibitors demonstrated their products. Entry-level 3D printers go for as little as $500. Among the exhibitors was of course MakerBot, one of the veterans of the industry, giving curious visitors a glimpse of their 5th generation Replicator that will be available for purchase soon. Did I mention that the operating system on which the MakerBot's control software is built is Linux?
Belkin Slow Cooker
The Internet of Things (IoT) took center stage at the show. Everywhere one could spot devices that directly connect to the ubiquitous network to make our daily lives easier. Just imagine that you can monitor the status of your dinner cooking at home remotely from your computer at work or your smartphone. Belkin has a solution for that with their WeMo Smart Slow Cooker which, like the other WeMo devices of the company, runs Linux.
Fibaro Z-Wave Lighting
Both alliances of the two competing low-power wireless communication protocols ZigBee and Z-Wave boasted large product showcases of their respective members. The Linux-based Z-Wave solution of Fibaro stood out of the crowd for their small sensor and actuator designs. Instead of replacing the entire light switch you simply put their relays or dimmers into the installation box behind the existing light switch and wire it to the switch and the load. I wish I had know about this solution when I installed the Z-Wave system in my home but Z-Wave devices are compatible to each other which means I can add Fibaro devices to my existing Z-Wave network.
Qualcomm’s Smart Home
Mobile semiconductor giant Qualcomm built a smart home on its booth consisting of a family room, kitchen, kids' room and living room. Interested show-goers got a live demonstration of how light bulbs, door locks, home gateways, refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions, and home stereo from different vendors seamlessly integrated using the AllJoyn software framework for service discovery and interoperability.
One of the devices integrated with the home was a teddy bear in the kids' room. It played wake-up and good-night greetings at the appropriate time of the day. Not shown however was how the furry companion interacts with an AllJoyn-enabled washing machine. Maybe it sends an SOS message to his owner's tablet and turns off the washer before the rising water levels adversely affects it electronic guts. While I had to wait for 30 minutes to experience the smart home demonstration you can watch the video online (below).
AllJoyn is open source and runs on different operating systems including of course Linux. AllJoyn is actively developed by the AllSeen Alliance under the auspices of the Linux Foundation's Collaborative Projects.
Amaryllo iCam: Wireless Camera
A short monorail ride away from the Las Vegas Convention Center with the glitz of the large booths of industry behemoths, the Sands Expo Center at the Venetian provided the show platform for many smaller and innovative companies. Many of the exhibits featured there are built using Linux and other open source software. Two products caught my interest for their new and innovative approaches: the iCam HD wireless camera and the keecker mobile projector.
While wireless cameras connecting to WiFi networks were abundant at CES, the Amaryllo iCam separated itself from the crowd. It is a pan and tilt, controllable, visible light and infrared camera with motion and audio sensors that you can monitor via Skype. Create a Skype account for the camera, add your own Skype account to the camera's contacts and use Skype on any device to watch pictures from the camera and listen to the audio. You can control the camera by entering simple commands into the Skype chat window. The solution is brilliant as setup is simple and you do not have to bother with router configuration since Skype automatically tunnels through NAT and more.
Keecker Mobile Projector
Another remarkable product is the Keecker mobile projector. It is actually hard to describe this device with just a few words. It's a robotic mobile and wireless projector that also includes a computer. Its lens can tilt 90 degrees up and down to project images onto any surface of your home: videos on the wall in your family room, soothing starry night skies in the bedroom.
Keecker has two wheels driven by electric motors so you can easily move it from room to room. It runs on batteries and connects wirelessly to your smartphone, tablet, media players and more. Keecker also has a built-in camera that you can use to monitor your kids while sleeping or video-chatting with friends. Keecker will also follow you around while walking through your house conversing with your best buddy. Keecker runs on Android as the founder and CEO Pierre Lebeau explained to me. He also poured his heart out about how they had to overcome big hurdles because of the old Linux kernels used by Android and the lack of upstreaming by the Android team.
Every year the automotive industry is taking a bigger part at CES almost turning it into the Las Vegas Auto Show. There are lots of interesting trends to be observed about the convergence of consumer electronics and automotive. I will tackle this in another blog. Stay tuned.