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Blog // Connect Michigan

New Gadgets Light up the Holidays

By Eric Frederick

Wearable technology is quickly growing in popularity and diversity, and more devices are using mobile and wireless technology to offer more reactive functionality. With more connected technology, this year's gift-giving puts more emphasis on reliable broadband connections, making the difference between a smart device that is tuned in to your needs or an expensive paperweight that collects dust.

Wearables

In 2013, Pebble kicked off what has become the most popular wearable technology: the smartwatch. Apple and FitBit now lead the smartwatch market, which has grown 223% over the last year. The Apple Watch connects to the iPhone through Bluetooth technology, putting many favorite iOS apps right on the user's wrist. Smartwatches now comprise 40% of the wearable market, which includes other items like the simple FitBit One, an activity tracking device you can clip to your pocket, or the much more complex Google Glass, which places a host of applications right before your eyes. Most wearables connect to your smartphone's Wi-Fi and provide some independent functionality of their own, though a reliable connection gives the devices the dynamic capabilities that make them popular.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs are one of the many devices changing the way we perceive computers. Connected to the Internet, using applications similar to a phone or computer, yet also working with other devices like gaming consoles and DVD players, smart TVs are essentially a different breed of computer. With more consumers relying on video-on-demand applications like Netflix and Hulu, smart TVs are a natural step in the evolution of entertainment. Like a computer, the smart TV does not require Internet to function, but its capabilities are reduced to that of a regular TV without it.

Gaming Consoles

Like the smart TV, consoles like Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 are beginning to change the traditional definition of computers. Both consoles connect to the Internet and interface with weather apps, calendars, online entertainment, web browsing, news, and more. Online gaming allows users to interact with other players in the game, and downloadable content provides new challenges and features not accessible to non-connected players. While games are still loaded on a CD and reliable Internet is not required to play, game and console updates are required, which can only be accessed via the Internet.

Smart Home

Your thermostat, locks, lights, entertainment system, and other devices that you use everyday can now be linked and controlled through your smartphone, saving energy, enhancing security, and providing simple convenience. Home automation management devices like Amazon Echo now allow you to interact directly with your home. Voice recognition software allows you to give commands and even ask questions which Alexa—the cloud-based voice service—will answer.

These devices are just breaking the surface of the potential of the Internet of Things and more capabilities are already on the horizon. As more technology is adopted into everyday life, the presence of reliable broadband will become an unseen commodity—or its absence will become a serious problem.



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