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Browsing Posts in CES

CES 2016 kicks off for press on Monday, Jan 4 and we’ll be there for the latest developments.  We’ll be looking for signs of maturity in 3D printing, signs of life in LiFi and robotics, how the Faraday Future electric car is shaping up and much more.

(This is an update on optical wireless technology for communications and builds on this post from CES earlier this year.)

1. Fraunhofer Institute has a VLC (visible light communication) section on their website with a nice overview video and links to more detailed information and contact info for Principal Investigator Dr.-Ing. A. Paraskevopoulos. There are also product details for 500 Mbit/s and 3 Gbit/s transmission units.

Fraunhofer 500 Mbits per second

Fraunhofer 500 Mbits per second

2. The latest issue of IEEE Journal of Optical Communications and Networking (Vol.6 #8) is out. You can view the latest front cover, table of contents and article abstracts here. (Full article views only by membership or pay per view.)

The 2015 issue of IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications (JSAC) is in progress with publication in Q2 2015.

3. and have announced 10 Gbit/s VLC transfer rates under what appear to be short range, prototype/lab conditions.  ITAM is Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, a PhD-granting EDU in Mexico City.  (  appears to be Spanish only so Google Translate could be your amigo. Also, is a separate US-based signal processing company.)

4. has some new whitepapers and media mentions on their website.  This is the commercial venture of Univ. Edinburgh Prof. Harold Haas who is credited with coining “LiFi” and presented at TED in 2011.

5. of France has a banner scroll for potential investors.  Can’t say if this is a good or bad sign.  Their online catalog of interesting and attractive fixtures still has no list prices – basically prices on request.

And last but definitely not least:

6. The next COWA (Center on Optical Wireless Apps) meeting will be on 19-21 Nov. 2015 at Georgia Tech.  COWA is an NSF center run in collaboration with Penn State and Georgia Tech along with members from industry.  Info on COWA and the next meeting at

Nope, not SETI as in Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence but  Sensor Electronic Technology, Inc.  This SETI specializes in designing, manufacturing and selling LEDs that emit Deep UV light for sterilization applications.  Fittingly, SETI LEDs have been used for sterilization on the International Space Station.

Closer to Earth, amongst the legions of *BORING* cell phone cases and accessories, a unique one emerges.  SETI is developing a rechargeable battery powered UV-C flip top case called the UVCLEAN for sterilizing cellphones.  Consider all the oil from your skin and face collecting on your phone, add on all the stuff that sticks to that oil and you better not imagine what’s growing there.

The idea is that with the UVCLEAN you can easily sterilize your phone multiple times a day and on the go with a ~3 minute exposure cycle that should kill 99.9% of the germs on every exposed surface – not just the screen.  Also, with no cleaning fluids involved, you don’t have to worry about flooding and damaging your phone via the buttons or switches.  (You should still wipe your phone to remove skin oil smudges.)  The UVClean case could be a must have device for health care and food service workers.

If your phone is shaped like an iPhone 5 (or smaller than one) then you’re good to go.  They are aiming for a late April retail sale date and a ~$80 price tag.  Cases for other phones and tablets are in the works.

Okay, we all know what WiFi is – a short range wireless network connection for our smart phones, tablets and computers.  Most of us even know that radio waves are used to transmit the data.  Well if we use light waves instead of radio waves, we have LiFi.  The fields of Visible Light Communication (VLC), Optical Wireless, and Photonics all contributed to the development of LiFi.  Expectations are that optical wireless data transfer rates can significantly exceed radio wave rates.   Currently, “point to point” optical wireless seems to be further along in commercial product development than the “one point to many” LiFi topology.  LiFi also isn’t (currently) spectrum controlled/restricted by government agencies and it doesn’t add to the bath of radio frequency emissions that surrounds us.

I visited all the LiFi-related booths that I could find at CES.  First was (from France) which makes interior lighting LED panels that are used by both commercial startup (yup France) and French Government research agency Leti/CEA.  Tricolor!

Then, like Columbus,  I “discovered” the booth for the Center on Optical Wireless Applications ( which is a collaborative effort between Penn State and Georgia Tech with support from the National Science Foundation.   The Beijing Institute of Technology, School of OptoElectronics ( is participating in COWA and there are also currently 10 industrial partners including Airbus, Boeing, Corning, Lockheed Martin and NEC.   The booth displayed research hardware for a VLC data transmission system and an indoor position locating system.  I really appreciated their patience with all of my basic questions.

The last LiFi exhibitor I visited was which is also from France and appears to have actual products to sell and an online catalog and store.  Both Luciom and OLEDComm touted indoor locating systems – possibly the first “killer app” for LiFi.

For the great outdoors, GPS is pretty much king for determining your position.  But since signals from orbiting satellites can’t penetrate most roofs and walls, it (including differential GPS) isn’ t practical for generic indoor applications.   This is where LiFi comes in.  Most indoor settings have interior lighting – even in daytime and close to windows.  With 2014 being the year mass market incandescent light bulb production/importation stopped in the US and thus boosting the popularity of LED lighting, this brings us to the connection between LiFi and LED lighting.  It turns out that LEDs can be easily pulsed to generate LiFi data streams and the optical sensors to read these streams are fairly inexpensive.

So, just like how your GPS in your smartphone can determine where you are, display this info on a road map, and give you directions, a LiFi-enabled device  can display your location and give you directions in a building that has been mapped and has LiFi-capable lights installed.  Each Lifi light would broadcast a unique light sequence (that happens so fast, the human won’t notice) which lets your LiFi smartphone know where you are in the building.

First generation implementations would probably be hybrid and use both WiFi and LiFi.  Position information would come from LiFi but all the other data transfer (map graphics and building data) would go over WiFi.  As LiFi data transfer rates increase, it would replace WiFi.  Who knows what the next round of LiFi apps will be?   The future looks bright.   This is definitely a technology GearDb will be following.

CES – Day 3

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I’m opening this day’s summary with a BIG THANK YOU to the National Science Foundation which was one of the sponsors of the Eureka Park startup area.  The 1st floor had the early stage startups and Eureka Park: Next on the 2nd had companies a bit further along.  Our tax dollars well-spent I’d say. displayed several wearable, augmented reality glasses which they feel represent the next stage of development beyond Google Glass. stopped by for a very friendly visit in the Innovega booth and showed their Epiphany Eyewear product.  Good karma comes to those who share and play nicely. show’d their nicely-constructed, compact USB <=> Lighting connector cable.  It’s keychain sized and should sell for about $25. makes an AC-powered compact UV-lamp sterilizer.  It’s available for sale now for $50 and can handle large smart phones. just launched a line of USB cables that have a built-in alarm module.  If you forget your cable, it starts buzzing in ~3 seconds.  If someone unplugs your phone and runs off with it, the buzzing starts in ~3 seconds.  Prices range from $23-$30 depending on tip type.

If you’re tired about always hearing about KickStarter, then take a look at launched their crowdsourcing opinion judgement website.  Basically you post your position or statement, then someone posts a counterpoint and then everyone who gives a crap can vote on which side they agree with.  Bragging rights are earned and drinks are won? launched their combination dry box and waterproof speaker.  It’s about lunch box-sized  and has about 400 cubic inches of storage space.  It’s price is also just under $400.  You can connect your playback device via BlueTooth or an interior cable.  DryTunes will be at the ShotShow next week, so I’ll stop by for more info and hands on.

Stay tuned for detailed posts with images for these CES products as well as more news from the ShotShow – guns, guns, guns as well as all kinds of other outdoor lifestyle items.

CES – Day 2

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Another great day at CES.  The morning started with the FLIR press conference. makes and sells a wide variety of thermal and light amplification products – primarily for military and industrial markets because their products cost $1000 and up…until this week.  They announced both a $250 visible light device , the FLIR FX and the FLIR One, a $350 thermal imaging accessory for the iPhone 5.  I have been a long time fan and follower of FLIR products and I have never seen the FLIR booth so crowded.  It is great to finally have a top notch supplier in the thermal/night vision consumer market at the ~$300 price point.

Like yesterday, I’ll just be posting brief write ups and images and details will follow soon.

I visited another French LiFi company –  They have an online catalog, webstore and a product development SDK.  They also had an in-booth demonstration of an internet – LiFi telephony connection.

The people at have an interesting lower cost but still high quality spectral measurement package.  Basically they can supply a robust, affordable core module for any industry that needs to accurately determine color of static objects. showed a very compact (~2 C- cells plus cord) 65 watt power adapter for laptops.  It has an aluminum housing for heat dissipation and a projected retail price of $90. demo’d a consumer level 360 degree lens.  They had one mounted to a GoPro camera and displayed the post processed video (to correct the curvature from the lens.)   Don’t think “fish eye”, think “lighthouse.”

Case Western Reserve University had some student-started products on display. has a fuel cell powered bicycle and has a BlueTooth 4 enabled login bracelet. demo’d their microenergy harvesting control switch.  Just the motion of turning a knob on the handheld controller generates enough energy that is captured and used to send a signal to a remote switch.  In this instance, an electrical lamp.  Microenergy harvesting is going to be BIG! demo’d their modular high intensity flashlight.  They will soon have a storage compartment accessory so you can keep some items safe and dry. launched their PCKeeper product/support service.  It is subscription-based and they can protect, clean, optimize the operation of your PC remotely.  This includes  Registry evaluation and repair.  They are a Microsoft Gold Partner.

More to come!

CES – Day 1

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Much marching to and fro at both the LVCC and the Venetian/Sands today.  The startup section at Eureka! Park was particularly interesting.  Small is Beautiful.  And let there be light.  More info and images on all the companies and organizations mentioned in this post to follow.

There were several optical wireless booths: newly-formed demonstrated a low-cost 1/8″ audio plug “LiFi” receiver and other work in progress and also hosted a megabit LiFi demo from / – a tech development agency of the French Government.  Both use elegant LED light panels from

The Center on Optical Wireless Applications from Penn State (  presented work (in collaboration with Beijing Institute of Technology on both optical positioning and content delivery.   LiFi could be the coolest thing at CES this year. announced their UV-C LED smart phone sterilizer.  You place the device into the pocket-sized polymer flip-top case and then activate a 3 minute cycle of UV-C exposure.  “Cooties” on all exposed surfaces are neutralized. demonstrated their mobile keyboard for those who are on the move and can’t be bothered to set a traditional keyboard down on their lap or other stationary support.  The QWERTY keyboard is split into 2 sections, one for each hand and you can type and “air mouse” to get your work done fast and on the go. demo’d their free educational software with a twist.   Your elementary school child can earn time on an Android device by correctly answering math questions. demo’d their handwriting detecting math  and geometrical form manipulation classroom apps in the booth. demo’d their 1000 watt, ultra thin, lightweight speaker which received a 2014 CES Innovation award. demo’d their portable hydrogen powered electrical power device.  Very cleanly conceived and designed, it will be available from Brookstone later this year.  It comes with one 25 watt/hr (5 amp/hr@ 5 volts) hydrogen canister (~5 smart phone charges )  that you can exchange for a full one so you will not be contributing to the solid waste stream.

Rayovac announced and demo’d a family of recharge devices ranging from a trio of integral Li-ion polymer packs – 6, 2 and 0.8  amp/hr plus a CR123 and a quad AA replaceable battery-powered recharger. demo’d their new wellness/home monitoring apps along with their other apps and backend services for security and monitoring.

Last but not least, my favorite billion-dollar startup company, 3M, had some new display films, brighter display screens and more multi-touch screens.  Developing apps for multi-touch screens is becoming much more streamlined and accessible.  Hopefully this will lead to more compelling educational applications..

Wait wait…don’t tell me! Who knew National Public Radio had an R&D department.  Besides developing a variety of radio signal analysis tools for station operators, NPR Labs collaborated with Catena Radio Design to develop an FM radio receiver for deaf people that would enable text display of emergency radio broadcasts.   It is called the “Nipper One” and it is currently being pilot tested in the Gulf Coast region.  The emergency warning text is sent to the display PC or Android device through a USB cable.   More details to come on this product from the “Bell Labs of NPR.”

On a less serious note, how much geek cred would you give to an NPR Labs  t-shirt?  Check out this artist’s depiction of said garment.  What a fine conversation starter this shirt would be.

To be clear – this shirt is currently just a figment of my imagination.  We  need to politely pester the good folks at NPR to add this item to the NPR Shop.  You can email the NPR Shopkeeper via the link at the bottom of this page. Maybe ask for “Ask Me Another” Rubik’s Cubes too?

CES 2014!

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CES opens to the Media today.  We’ll be covering the new announcements and pronouncements at press events this Sunday and Monday and also the main show for CES and PMA the rest of the week.

CES 2011

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The Consumer Electronics Show opens in Las Vegas later this week and the GearDb staff will be there searching out compelling new products and services for both initial mentions and also for actual usage testing.  We’ll then post in-depth reports of our findings here on   Happy New Year!