Killing time in the “dull” months before the Mother’s day, graduation and Father’s Day gift suggestions start to roll in…
I stopped by “Great Day Houston” (KHOU – CBS) with a few goodies I had hanging around my office. Host Deborah Duncan and I had a quick rag session on Samsung’s latest mobile OS update and its removal of our fave photo editing app (BRING IT BACK!!). Then it was gear time:
The Lumicharge Smart Desk Lamp has a LED screen that displays time, date, and temp, and it features 2 USB ports for charging, as well as a built-in dock for any phone.
Benjilock by Hampton is a great padlock that can unlock/lock using your fingerprint. It can store up to 10 fingerprints and the battery lasts from 6 months to a year.
The HP Tango Printer has a small footprint made for today’s wireless world. You can print from anywhere from any device wirelessly, and you can also scan and copy via a mobile app and send straight to the printer.
The Gekkostick is a flexible and functional selfie-stick so you can take pictures and videos from any angle. It also comes with a Bluetooth-remote, so you can take pictures away from the camera.
Tune into “Great Day Houston” on Wednesday, April 24, at 9am CT for my next appearance. If you have a gadget that you think is interesting, let me know.
My 15th year of covering CES brought a slew of things I never thought I would see. Let’s start with 5G…because I didn’t see it! Rumors swirled for weeks that many companies would be touting new 5G services and products that could utilize the highspeed bandwidth. Bust. I saw a few products that wanted to latch on to the 5G hype but nothing solid because there is no actual 5G yet. I’ll save that story for CES 2020.
What I did see was plenty of companies touting partnerships with Google and Amazon, the leaders in voice assistants. Alexa was the only player here a few years ago but this week was tough to get away from a product that didn’t turn on after hearing “Hey Google.” The search company which is much more than search built a monstrosity of a booth in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center that was part mansion, part “It’s A Small World” ride.
A Google rep told me they had to pour a slab of concrete – on top of the current parking lot concrete – to construct the temporary shrine to the five colors. Visitors walked through “rooms” made to mimic a kitchen, living room and even a garage complete with Google-made and 3rd party-made products. The other part of the building housed a roller coaster-like ride that moved through scenarios of a typical day in a home. Voice activated curtains opened in the morning continuing to mom asking the Google Assistant how to make a birthday cake. The queue had a waiting line of sometimes up to 45 minutes; not really worth it save for the Google Home Hub that was given out to all riders at the end (so yeah, I guess it was worth it).
TVs continue to be a big thing and 8K was the winning number-letter combination at CES (sorry again 5K). LG showed a 65″ TV that rolls up-and-down at the push of a button. Samsung, TCL, and other manufacturers had so many monitors I was afraid of getting sunburned as I walked by. 8K screens (twice the resolution of 4K) looked great even side-by-side of 4K monitors. But wake me up when networks and providers start delivering even 4K content on a prevalent basis. My guess is my grandkids may one day enjoy 8K TVs with content to fill the screen. Note: my kids are relatively young.
CES has seemingly become the de facto national car show as most every major OEM – from Audi to Mercedes to Hyundai – had massive booths and displays to tout their new vehicles and concepts. Audi always brings it A-game booth design and tricked out an A8 with front and rear seat video screens along with seats similar to a D-BOX rumble seat found in movie theaters. A quick screening of “The Avengers” while sitting in the back seat reminded me of a 4D ride at Universal Studios. All they needed were motion sickness bags.
No new smartphones were announced at the trade show; most companies are waiting to release them next month at GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Bad news: my travel budget does not reach that far so I’ll have to report from afar. While smartphones were not found amongst the 4,000+ exhibitors it seemed like half of the vendors were handing out smartphone cases. I got one for my Samsung Galaxy S9 that apparently can withstand a drop from 5 floors up and continue to work in 10 meters of water.
My main takeaways from CES 2019 were that this massive gathering of tech giants, buyers and media does not seem to be slowing down despite the dearth of new products that are already on the market or planned to be released soon. But it is OK to dream and ooh and ahh. Because I certainly did. Especially when I went to sleep each night after walking an average of 18,000 steps each day (according to my high-tech watch).
For all the highlights, join me in a 12 minute video recap:
NASCAR Champ Joey Logano Takes A Victory Lap in Houston
2018 NASCAR Champion Joey Logano stopped in Houston recently during his tour to thank sponsors and share stories of his success. Logano’s local pitstop was at Shell’s headquarters on the west side of town. He spent a few hours taking photos, signing autographs and attempting to shake hands with Shell employees despite wearing a heavy, diamond-laden championship ring.
Logano’s #22 racecar is sponsored by Shell Pennzoil. He spoke to employees and the media with his success stories of winning the Monster Energy NASCAR series using the company’s lubricant product.
Here is a clip of a few fun moments chatting with the champion:
So I missed the Hanukkah deadline but that’s OK. I got a rock. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you as there are some pretty cool gadgets, tool and gear to be had this holiday season. Here is a list of goodies I recently showed on my “Houston Life” TV appearance. Watch the clip below and then start clicking and ordering:
Our annual holiday gift guide continues as we roll through Houston. A recent appearance on “Houston Life” (NBC) found us discussing some of the benefits of having a smart thermostat and other smart home products.
TriEagle Energy (a partner of “The High-Tech Texan Show”) offers a free Honeywell T5 thermostat when new customers sign up for a special energy savings plan. Watch here:
6,000 ft above the Gulf of Mexico – Flying aboard a 16-person helicopter back to New Orleans I was still questioning why I spent an entire day sitting in a classroom and being dunked in a pool. Upside down. Harnessed to a helicopter simulator chair. Shell explained it was all in the name of safety just in case there was an issue during the flights to and from its deep water oil and gas production facility in the Gulf we were headed to. As we are about to land safely at the New Orleans airport there was nary an issue during the 100-minute flight but it was reassuring to have passed the Tropical Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) the day before.
I was a part of the crew invited to tour the Turritella, Shell’s Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facility stationed 200 miles south of Louisiana. The purpose of this trip was to demonstrate to media and members of Team Penske how safety and preparation are critical in the offshore environment and on the track. Team Penske, of course, is a the professional stock car, open wheel and sports car racing team that currently competes in the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series, among other racing leagues. Penske Corp. president Bud Denker led his team members on the trip – he was first in the training pool – which included 3-time Indy Car champ Helio Castroneves.
Day 1 of this 2-day event was spent at Shell’s training facility in Robert, Louisiana, about an hour north of New Orleans. The 9-hour (yes, 9 hours!) training class taught us safety techniques and procedures of how to escape and survive a helicopter should it ditch in the water. Teamwork was the theme as all participants learned how to work together to exit the aircraft should it land upright or upside down. This is where fun came in.
The afternoon found us all in an Olympic-size pool that featured a full-scale replica of a helicopter attached to moving cables above. After watching several demonstrations of how to enter and exit the chopper we were strapped to the 5-point harnessed seats several times in both upright and upside positions. Notwithstanding unwanted water rushing up our noses we all passed with flying colors and were presented with HUET certificates we would need for the trip the next day.
A 6:00am hotel lobby rendezvous began our busy Day 2 with a bus ride to the airport. After another safety briefing we were escorted to a helicopter that Shell contracts with PHI. Liftoff was right on schedule and we were quickly soaring above the Gulf. Several members of the Shell team briefed us on their Gulf of Mexico drilling and production facilities while we gazed at nothing but water as far as the eye could see.
Carlos Maurer, president of Shell Lubricants America, was quick to point out one of the final products that is produced in the water below us includes engine oil so many of us use everyday. Helio made sure we all knew that his likeness appears on many of those oil cannisters sold at retail outlets and was the sole reason Shell continue to have record sales numbers. Knowing that we needed to remain strapped to the seats during the flight no one was going to ague with the gregarious race car driver.
We approached the Turritella vessel which hovers over Shell’s Stones field in the Lower Tertiary geologic frontier in the Gulf. Discovered in 2005, it is Shell’s second producing field in this region along with Perdido.
As we circled to get a good view we could see an oil tanker floating a few hundred yards behind the FPSO. They were in the midst of off-loading millions of gallons of oil from the Turritella onto the tanker. This process occurs several times each week.
We landed slowly onto the helipad located a the stern of the vessel. After unstrapping ourselves we carefully walked down into a holding area where we were given more safety instructions and handed personal protective equipment. Our tour began as we were clad in coveralls, protective eye wear, gloves and hard hats. Over the next several hours we were led through the Turritella’s command center, bridge, engineering room, crew bunks and the cafeteria.
120 crew members were on board during our visit, most working the typical off-shore schedule of 14 days on, 14 days off. The crew certainly eats well as we dined with them during a lunchtime shift. Homemade hummus, salads, baked cod, pasta, potatoes and dessert was served by the trained cooks and kitchen crew. The menus change daily which makes for a happy, well-fed crew.
At some point we needed to see the equipment and learn the process of how oil and gas – almost 10,000 feet below us – was being extracted from 27,000 feet below the earth’s surface onto the vessel on which we were standing. The Turritella is a modified ship with one key feature – an extremely large turret is situated near the bow. This structure rises several hundred feet above the main deck and extends through the vessel nearly 30 feet under sea level. This feature allows the Turritella to circle around the stationary turret ensuring the vessel is constantly pointed into the Gulf’s waves to minimize rocking and swaying.
Deep inside the vessel at the bottom of the turret is an incredibly engineered system where a large buoy connects to the ship. Underneath the buoy are a network of steel pipes that creep almost 2 miles down to the bottom of the Gulf. Oil is pumped up through these pipes into the massive storage tanks aboard the Turritella where it is held until it is off-loaded onto tankers.
We were told this FPSO concept was created, in lieu of a stationary oil rig, for several reasons including safety, of course. An FPSO can disconnect the buoy and float away from danger should a hurricane enter the Gulf. The process of disconnecting the buoy – which floats about 200 ft below the water surface – and reconnecting it to the Turritella takes about 7 days. To ensure a smooth operation should the vessel be in the path of a hurricane Shell goes through the drill once a year. An estimated 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day is produced from Stones field.
Our visit ended with most of the Turritella’s crew listening to Helio and Team Penske members talk about teamwork and the importance of their work. Helio made sure to let them know their efforts propel his team to race throughout the year and his checkered flag finishes could not happen without Team Shell.
Upon landing back at the airport we realized the HUET certification we received the previous day was but a small percentage of the measures Shell goes through to ensure its employees and equipment remain safe.
LISTEN TO THE TRIP RECAP AS HEARD ON IHEARTRADIO’S “THE HIGH-TECH TEXAN SHOW WITH MICHAEL GARFIELD”
Alexa is everywhere and most everyone assumes that to utilize that voice-enabled assistant one would need an Amazon Echo or Dot. Not so fast. There are other devices on the market that utilize the Alexa operating system while also giving you other interesting features.
One example is Fabriq, a Bluetooth/wireless smart speaker that is an alternative to the Amazon devices. The speakers are customizable with different patterns on the outside that make them personable. The bright colors and decorations are unique so no matter if your kid wants to spice up her college dorm room or you want a little color in your office, there is a Fabriq for everyone.
You can connect 10 Chorus units throughout your home so you can create a whole-house music system. Set up is easy as you simply connect the device to a WiFi network.
The Chorus is priced at $99.99 and the smaller Riff is $49.99. Each can be bought online at Amazon.com and Target.com.
Listen to my thoughts below as heard on “The High-Tech Texan Show” on iHeartRadio:
Aquio is releasing a water bottle with a twist. Literally.
The 16oz double-walled stainless-steel bottle houses a modular 5-watt Bluetooth speaker that can either twist off or be used right on the bottle. Aquio partnered with audio company iHome to create the unique product which will be on sale August 1. The company claims it can keep hot liquids hot for up to 14 hours and cold beverages cold for up to 24 hours.
The iP67 rated speaker (waterproof and sandproof) actually sounds quite good with a 360 degree throw. It has digital echo cancellation for speakerphone use and provides audio caller ID. Yes you can talk to your water bottle. Battery life is up to 6 hours.
Aquio is available in black, seafoam, blush and merlot and lists for $69.99, though the company is offering a 30% launch discount plus free shipping.
Summer is halfway over but you may still be packing up to hit the road. Here are some smart and sharp products to help you with packing, monitoring your home, sharing your memories, and helping you sleep in those noisy hotel rooms. I will elaborate on these and more products, as usual, on my High-Tech Texan radio show (Saturdays 11a – 1p CT) on iHeartRadio around the world.
Click screenshot below to watch clip from HOUSTON LIFE (NBC-Houston)
One of my post-CES rituals is whittling down all the products and services I saw to figure out who “won” the trade show. I remember falling in love with thin HDTVs in the early 2000’s, fawning over Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players and yearning for every smartphone I saw on the convention center floor. This year I was impressed with camera-filled refrigerators that can recommend recipes and TVs that can be rolled up as flat as yoga mats.
But the darling of this year’s CES was not a gadget but the growing amount of artificial intelligence software helping these products run. The proliferation of companies showing off their products was mind boggling. Robots ran – and climbed stairs – amok, car simulators showed how they can be driven without a driver, even coffee makers that let you know when a fresh pot was ready. Google and Amazon were everywhere. Literally everywhere including hotel and tram signage along with booth workers wearing ubiquitous “Hey Google” outfits. Almost every product seemingly sported the message that it could be controlled with some faction of AI.
To make some sense of why 2018 may be the year that our voice and touch will be the key factors to hit the market, I spoke with Jeremie Capron, Managing Director of Research at ROBO Global. His company created the first benchmark index to track the global robotics and automation market bringing solutions to investors.