The best travel gadgets from CES 2015
Know Roaming

New Consumer Electronics That Could Shape The Way You Travel

The shifting field of consumer technology isn't always fertile ground for travelers. There are plenty of toys that might be fun to own, or break-the-bank gadgets that look good in your hand, but few that stand a chance of truly making traveling easier, cheaper, or better.

Frommer's searched through millions of square feet of displays at the annual mega-convention known as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to find the new crop of creations that is most likely to help you travel better. Some are on sale already, some are about to hit the market, but all of them are reasonably priced and solve problems that travelers need to solve.
Child Angel
Child Angel
Child Angel
Kids get lost, especially in unfamiliar places where they (and their grown-ups) might get distracted. Traveling to new, crowded places can be especially bewildering, so a few English parents got together to invent a new type of bracelet that tracks your child's whereabouts. An app shows you a map where your child can be found. It combines several tracking technologies (GPS, Wi-Fi and GSM), meaning your can pinpoint a location down to a few feet no matter where you go.
 
The second trick was making something that kids would want to wear. Snap-on designs allow them to wear the design they choose.
 
The last trick was to allow it to work even if it's removed. If the strap is undone, Child Angel beams an alert to the parent's smartphone along with a map showing precisely where to find them.  That means your kid can signal you simply by unbuckling the bracelet. 
 
The units, which will be on sale in the spring of 2014, cost $190 and come with a charging cradle, and then the service costs $8 a month. That includes the ability to create an area on a map where they're permitted to roam, and if they stray outside the area, you instantly receive an alert.

www.child-angel.com
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Glide video messaging
Glide video messaging Glidewatch
Glide video messaging
The communications app Glide is gaining favor among young people (and investors) by working like Voxer for video clips. (And Voxer, for the uninitiated, works like a walkie-talkie on your smartphone—you talk and send the message, then they respond and send that back.)
 
It's pretty simple: You record a video message and send it to your friends the same way you would send a text message. That's ideal for sending video postcards during a trip, especially from places where the signal is spotty and FaceTime or Skype video would be too jumpy. The videos are stored on the Cloud, not your phone, leaving room for vacation photos of your own.
 
You'll be seeing a lot more of Glide, partly because investors are putting muscle behind it to head off competition. Although its estimated base of 1 million active users mostly uses Glide on smartphones, the Israeli company is also writing apps for the incoming batch of smartwatches (above). Pretty soon, we could all be reporting back to our families during our trips like Maxwell Smart did on his missions.

www.glide.me
goTenna
goTenna
goTenna
If you're traveling with friends or family where you don't have mobile phone service (say, to another country, on a cruise, or on a backwoods trails) or where phone service is hopelessly jammed (say, a theme park or a festival), if each of you carries this device, you can use your smartphones to text each other anyway. Naturally, they're sold in pairs ($149 for two).

www.gotenna.com
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Tracking beacon XY
XY Find It
Tracking Beacons
All of a sudden, the market is brimming with $25 chips the size of a Kennedy half-dollar that you can slip into whatever you like to track its whereabouts using a map on a smartphone. Push a button on your app, and it makes noises so you can find it.
 
There's a catch to most of these, besides batteries that need constant replacing after six months or so: Most of them can only communicate with your phone up to about 100 to 165 feet, and after that, tracking them gets complicated: You can only locate them if someone else who purchased the same product wanders past with their own smartphone, giving your item a chance to register and alert you (TrackR's website has a heat map of where its customers are). Naturally, the more people who buy them, the more chance you have of rediscovery.
 
The most obvious application is with your luggage, although it's sure to wander more than 150 feet away after an airport check-in and even if it did go missing, you'd be helpless to do much about it. But you can also tape one into your passport, pop it into your purse, or stick it into anything that you fear will get lost, except your wits.
 
Three of the most promising beacons are from XY Find It (above), TrackR, and Tile. Maybe to maximize the chance of finding your lost stuff, you should buy all three. (Or maybe customers can convince the three competitors to link their systems.)
Parrot H20
Parrot H20
Plant watering systems
The marketplace is also beginning to crowd with sensors that can monitor your plants and water them based on what is detected, but two entrants are standing out: Edyn and Parrot. Both of these systems use apps to collect information on the kind of plants you have and then use in-the-soil sensors to collection information on moisture, light, and other factors. Those are cross-referenced with a database of plants and their specific needs so you can leave them unattended for long periods.
 
When your plants need watering in your absence, they do it for you (in Edyn's case, you must buy the separate Valve unit), promising to use their sensors to avoid over-watering them, and the app helps you monitor what's going on back home in your garden.
 
Edyn is designed to get inserted into in the soil, but the Parrot Pot, a French invention, puts a two-liter water tank built inside it for indoor use. If your water is running low, it will feed your plants the absolute minimum just to keep them alive until you can get back home to refill it. And the elegant Parrot H20 (above) is even cleaner: You screw a bottle of water right into it and let it do its thing while you monitor from afar with an app.

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Know Roaming
Know Roaming
Know Roaming
The Canadian company came up with a teeny sticker that you apply to your smartphone's SIM card, and whenever you travel to another country on roaming, its service automatically kicks in and puts you onto a local service provider's network, granting you preferential, lower rates on phone calls and texts that dramatically beat your own phone provider's prices—KnowRoaming pledges "up to 85% off in 200 countries" and unlimited data for $8 a day in 40 countries. Just like Skype or Google Voice, you purchase credits beforehand and usage is deducted from that, so it's impossible for you to exceed your budget. 
 
Unlike using local SIM cards, you'll be able to use your normal phone number when you travel abroad, but there's a catch: Your phone has to be unlocked, meaning it's out of its original service contract and you have input a special code provided by your home service provider before you go on vacation. But that doesn't cost a penny to do.

www.knowroaming.com
SunFriend
SunFriend
SunFriend
The strength of the sun varies widely depending on where you are. An hour in the sun in England may leave you whiter than you were before while and hour in the sun in Australia can turn you into a charcoal briquette. This $50 waterproof UVA monitor keeps track of how much exposure you've endured so you don't have to guess. The 11 LED lights illuminate their way around the dial until you reach your personal maximum, and then it flashes to tell you to seek cover or to apply something opaque, such as tin foil.

 
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eGeeTouch luggage lock
Jason Cochran
eGeeTouch luggage lock
Digipas has created a lock that doesn't require a combination. If your smartphone is equipped with Near Field Communication (many newer ones are), you just hold it against the lock and it pops open. Alternatively, the locks can come with small tags (to keep in your purse or on a key chain) that you can simply hold against the lock. No one expects the TSA to be that advanced, though, so there's a standard key lock for itto use for inspections. The battery lasts for three years, but you can recharge it by USB. 
 
The smartphone twist also allows you track your luggage's location and to grant access to other people remotely—and to know if they opened your bag.
 
Being a new invention, eGeeTouch is currently being marketed to luggage makers to integrate into their own designs, but it's possible to buy a standalone padlock version that will fit your existing luggage for $35. 

www.egeetouch.com
Sling TV vs. Slingbox
Slingbox M1
Sling TV vs. Slingbox
The newest service branded by Sling is called Sling TV. For $20 a month, you can watch a slew of live channels on your devices: EPSN, ESPN2, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim. You don't need to subscribe to cable or sign any contract at all. You can even do it for a month to coincide with a trip and cancel it when it's over. The price grants you full watching access plus some on-demand content, but no DVR capability and no local channels. Sports fans will get the most out of this one, since it will enable them to stay on top of games as they travel. 
 
But there's a huge caveat to this new service: You can't use it outside of the United States. That's okay for domestic travelers, but if you want to watch your home team while you're abroad, you still have to spring for the long-running Slingbox M1 (above), which enables you to watch and control your home cable subscription on your devices ($15 per app) or laptop (no charge) wherever in the world you go.

Sling TV (selection of channels to watch anywhere domestic): www.sling.com
Slingbox (your home TV visible and controllable anywhere in the world): www.slingbox.com
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SmartFeeder
SmartFeeder
SmartFeeder
Going away for only a few days? You can use this $250 robot feeder to dispense dry pet food remotely using your smartphone, or you can use it to program an automated schedule (a separate water feeder is in the works). No pet will be able to unscrew the reservoir unless it has evolved opposable thumbs, and the unit has a low center of gravity to avert tipping. You'll receive confirmation that the meal was dispensed, if the unit jams, or if you're running low—you even are told how many calories your pet has received and how many it ought to be consuming for its weight, age, and activity level. So when you're back home from your weekend away, you can use it to put your furry creature on a diet—or maybe yourself, if you fill it with granola.

 
PetCube
PetCube
PetCube
For the pet owner who has everything (except the time to show personal affection), this little box surveys a room while you're away. Using a smartphone or a device, you watch your animal live via 138 degrees of streaming video and see for yourself how little they care when you're not home. You can also find out for sure which one of your dogs is the garbage-eating culprit. Using a speaker, you can call to your animal using your smartphone (both iOS and Android) and confuse the heck out of them, but if you really want to mess with them, there's a built-in laser pointer that will shine a red light anyplace in the room by touching the livestream on the video. It drives cats insane. Think of this $200 invention as being for the weekend traveler who loves their pet enough to buy the very best—or at least the very best frivolous electronics for themselves.

www.petcube.com
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