Thursday was the first official day of the International Consumer Electronics Show, the first official day for more than two million square feet of exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues.
And Michigan companies shined again.
I began my Thursday at a Visteon press conference featuring two concept cars and a bunch of advanced technology for automotive interiors and exteriors.
Van Buren Township-based Visteon and 3M showed off the Growth Market Project, a new technology demonstration vehicle targeted at consumers in global growth markets such as Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.
Technologies demonstrated on this vehicle include Visteon innovations in electronics, lighting, interiors and climate, as well as an array of 3M products.
Tim Yerdon, Visteon global director of innovation and design, said Visteon staffers have practically lived in places like India for the past year getting to know the wants and needs of new members of the middle class who are buying their first car.
Developed on an Indian-built Suzuki four-seater a bit smaller than a Chevy Aveo, the vehicle features an advanced yet modestly sized instrument panel, an array of controls for auxiliary audio sources and Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, and advanced interior and exterior LED lighting.
All told the vehicle holds 50 Visteon and 3M innovations.
Another concept vehicle, the C Beyond, was built on a Citroen, a roomy five-seat family sedan about the size of a Ford Taurus. This project has more than 40 innovative technologies in climate control, infotainment, connectivity and lighting. Included was a heating system built into the floor and ceiling, with overhead heating and cooling outlets. This allows the center console of the car to be completely empty beneath the instrument panel, maximizing interior space.
More about the growth market vehicle at www.visteon.com/innovate/growthmarket.
I then just happened to check in at the General Motors tent outside the LVCC. I hadn’t really heard about what GM was planning this CES, but the technology on display was nothing short of amazing.
Think two-seat zero-emission electric cars with automatically balancing two-wheel powertrains developed by Segway that drive themselves. And which have intelligent crash avoidance features in completely autonomous driving, so you can get in your car, tell it where to go, and let the car drive while you do something else. Oh, is that all?
Yep. These vehicles were just incredible.
GM officials say the cars are a radical change in mobility based on the reality that by 2030, 60 percent of the world’s then-eight billion people will live in highly urbanized areas where space is at a premium, putting tremendous pressure on a public infrastructure already struggling to meet the growing demand for transportation and basic services.
Enter the GM EN-V, a new urban mobility concept car. EN-V, short for Electric Networked-Vehicle, maintains the core principle of personal mobility — freedom — while helping remove the automobile from the environmental debate and redefining design leadership. EN-V is a two-seat electric vehicle designed to address environmental issues and alleviate concerns about traffic congestion, parking availability, energy consumption and affordability for tomorrow’s cities.
GM unveiled three EN-V models in March at the Shanghai World Expo. They represent three different characteristics that emphasize the enjoyable nature of future transportation: Jiao (Pride), Miao (Magic) and Xiao (Laugh).
The EN-V’s skateboard evolved from the one in the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (P.U.M.A.) prototype developed by Segway and introduced in April 2009. Segway has collaborated with GM to develop and supply the drivetrain platform that seamlessly connects with and powers each of the various EN-Vs.
EN-V is propelled by electric motors in each of its two driving-mode wheels. Dynamic stabilization technology empowers the EN-V with a unique ability to carry two passengers and light cargo in a footprint about a third of the size of a traditional vehicle. It can literally “turn on a dime” within its own length. In addition, everything in the EN-V is drive-by-wire, supporting the ability to operate autonomously or under manual control. The motors not only provide power for acceleration, but also bring the vehicle to a stop.
Power for the motors is provided by lithium-ion batteries that produce zero emissions. Recharging can occur from a conventional wall outlet using standard household power, allowing EN-V to travel at least 40 km (25 miles) on a single charge. EN-V can also improve the efficiency of the public electric infrastructure because the vehicle can communicate with the electric grid to determine the best time to recharge based on overall usage.
By combining the Global Positioning System with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies, the EN-V concept can also be driven autonomously. The ability to communicate with other vehicles and with the infrastructure could dramatically reduce the number of vehicle crashes.
Using vehicle-based sensor and camera systems, EN-V can “sense” what’s around it, allowing the vehicle to react quickly to obstacles or changes in driving conditions. For example, if a pedestrian steps in front of the vehicle, EN-V will decelerate to a slower speed and stop more quickly compared to today’s vehicles. EN-V takes the lessons learned from “The Boss” and may also offer mobility to people who could not otherwise operate a vehicle.
The EN-V concept also offers the promise of reducing traffic congestion by allowing it to automatically select the fastest route based on real-time traffic information. The concept also leverages wireless communications to enable drivers and occupants to communicate hands free with friends or business associates while on the go.
This combination of sensing technology, wireless communication and GPS-based navigation establishes a technology foundation, and elements of this are likely to migrate from the EN-V concept and potentially lead the way to future advanced vehicle safety systems.
EN-V has been designed for the speed and range of today’s urban drivers. It weighs less than 1,100 pounds and is a mere five feet in length. Today’s typical auto weighs 3,300 pounds and is three times as long. In addition, today’s automobiles require more than 108 square feet of parking space and are parked more than 90 percent of the time. EN-V’s smaller size and greater maneuverability mean the same parking lot can accommodate five times as many EN-Vs as typical automobiles.
While EN-V leads the way in terms of efficiency and technology, it also sets a new benchmark for vehicle design. For its debut, GM had design teams around the world provide their vision of what future mobility will look like. Xiao (Laugh) was designed by GM Holden’s design team in Australia, the look of Jiao (Pride) was created by designers at GM Europe and Miao (Magic) was designed at the General Motors Advanced Design Studio in California.
Each EN-V has a unique design theme to showcase the flexibility of the propulsion platform. The design gives each EN-V its own personality with a unique opening, elegant interior and innovative color, lighting and seat technology.
Xiao offers a more lighthearted appeal, with its “gumball blue” paint and nautical-inspired design. Miao takes most of its design cues from the consumer electronics industry, as evidenced by its sleek, masculine looks. Designers also used Miao to display innovative lighting solutions, including extensive use of LED accent lighting. With its clean lines and bright paintwork, Jiao takes its design influence from bullet trains and Chinese opera masks.
The body and canopy of the EN-V are constructed from carbon fiber, custom-tinted Lexan and acrylic, materials more commonly used in race cars, military aircraft and spacecraft, because of their strength and lightweight characteristics. Working with such innovative materials provided GM’s design teams an opportunity to learn and study the feasibility of future traditional automotive applications.
Dazzled by GM’s electric cars, I ventured into the Central Hall, where the biggest names in tech — Microsoft, Intel, Panasonic and more — play. I had this big goofy grin on my face that actually prompted a passerby to laugh out loud and say, “I know, isn’t it great?” Sensory overload from too many cool tech toys — kid in a candy store — but I had Michigan companies to visit.
First was Powermat, the Commerce Township company founded in 2007 and a pioneer in wireless charging and other wireless power applications.
I got a tour of the company’s newest products with spokeswoman Megan Zaroda. She showed me the company’s latest, greatest — and smallest and lightest — wireless charging stations for a variety of wireless devices, incuding the BlackBerry Torch and the iPhone 4.
Powermat is also out with a new line of portable charging technology.
And Powermat also is working on a new line of wireless charging airport furniture was Arocnas, a global leader in providing public seating for airport hold rooms and waiting areas. Arconas seating is installed at more than 130 airports around the globe.
And it’s announced a a non-binding Letter of Intent to explore the possibilities of developing wireless power systems with cell phone technology provider Qualcomm Inc.
But it seems like everything at CES ties back into cars, and Powermat was no exception. Thursday it announced an agreement with General Motors Corp. to develop wireless charging stations inside GM cars — starting with the Chevrolet Volt, one of which was inside the Powermat exhibit looking just drop-dead gorgeous.
GM Ventures, the company’s venture capital subsidiary, will invest $5 million in Powermat to accelerate the technology’s development and support efforts to grow Powermat’s business globally. And Powermat technology is expected in many GM vehicles by 2012.
But Powermat wasn’t through. It announced an agreement with the appliance maker Haier to embed wireless technology into white goods and digital products. Refrigerators, coffee makers and blenders will all become wirelessly enabled.
Finally, Powermat announced a deal with the office furniture maker Teknion to create a line of wirelessly-enabled office furniture and accessories. The Powermat/Teknion line features an array of products for “smart” surfaces designed to operate as wireless energy hubs where users can drop and charge their favorite electronic devices.
Powermat says it’s reduced the bulk of its receiver package that’s attached to wireless devices to make it Powermat-capable by 50 percent since 2007, with a target of 70 percent planned this year. And it’s also developing greener chargers that draw zero current on standby.
From Powermat I moved next door to two displays from HoMedics, the Commerce Township company that develops electronics under a variety of brand names, including Sharper Image, Taylor, Salter, Black & Decker, Powermat, and HDMX Audio.
The Sharper Image store may be gone, but the company still sells products online. And there was a display of very cool products at CES under the venerable name.
SI introduced a line of docking stations supporting Apple’s newest innovation, the iPad. The products include:
* Ambience, a home audio system is made for use with iPad, iPhone and iPod. The unit offers built-in DSP sound processing capability and powerful 20-watt-by-two speaker system with integrated subwoofer.
it also features a video-out and HD capabilities, a motorized Apple dock, a line/aux In for connecting non-Apple devices and a remote
control, for a suggested price of $149.99.
* Stealth, an iPad-certified shelf system featuring dual Apple docks for charging two devices simultaneously. Offering touch panel controls
with motion sensor backlighting and two-way 20-watt-per-channel speakers, the shelf-system also includes DSP sound processing for optimal musical depth and sound reproduction. Digital FM
radio and video out for HD capability round out this $129.99 offering.
* Escape, a unit that supports iPad, iPhone, and iPod in a portable system that includes built-in rechargeable batteries, auto-sync clock
with alarm, composite video for watching videos on a TV and an aux-in port for connecting non-Apple devices. At $79.99, it also offers its own carrying case and fold-away Apple dock for easy carrying.
* Relaxx, a bedside audio system for the iPad, iPod and iPhone
features dual motorized Apple docks for charging two products simultaneously, 10 watts of speaker power, FM radio and USB charging port for charging cell phones, mp3 players and other devices, aux-in capability for non-Apple devices and a clock with dual alarm and gradual, calming wake up. The price, $99.99.
* Thrill, an LED projector with a powerful 20,000-plus hour LED lamp
featuring crisp 320-by-240 resolution and adjustable picture size from 10 to 45 inches — perfect for gaming or movie night. The small footprint and lightweight design make it great for taking on the go and the convenient inputs support AV, USB, and SD cards. The price, $99.99.
* Freedom, a wireless home audio system that connects with any Bluetooth-enabled device including the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android and Blackberry models. Two 10-watt speakers with an
integrated subwoofer deliver true to life sound reproduction. Two interchangeable faceplates are included, in both medium grain wood and high gloss black piano finish to match any décor. Also, Freedom boasts a line/aux-in for connecting non-Bluetooth music devices, a USB charging port, FM radio, integrated PerfectSet clock and remote control, for $79.99.
* Morph –A portable speaker dock that plays and charges your iPad, iPhone, and iPod with enhanced sound quality. With a built-in rechargeable battery, the dock is great for portable use with iPhone or iPod, but the product’s true versatility shows when it “morphs” for use with iPad. The speakers slide outward and the dock flips 90 degrees, turning this system into a miniature theater-like experience. The slim
design is ideal for any décor and both the remote feature and integrated stand for hands-free viewing will simplify your life for $99.99.
* Harmony – The iPad-Certified Harmony features a soft-touch rubberized construction that acts as a case for your iPad while the built-in speakers deliver an enhanced sound experience. The charging base wirelessly charges your iPad as well as the internal rechargeable
battery inside the case. The Harmony’s slim design make it perfect for travel, and the integrated composite video-out capability makes watching movies from your iPad on a TV possible, no matter
where you are, for $99.99.
* Beam – Merging functionality with superior sound and styling, the iPad certified Transmit offers 2.4 GHz digital wireless technology tht allows you to place the speakers anywhere in the home, up to 300 feet away from the base, which charges and plays the iPad, iPhone, and iPod. The system is expandable, allowing you to pair a total of 20 speakers to a single charging base, making it a complete audio system for the entire home. Remote control is included and each speaker has individual volume controls and stereo-mono switch. For home theater integration, the base of the Transmit is equipped with video-out capabilities for sending movies or videos from your iPhone or iPad to your HD TV, with a price of $99.99.
But it was next door where the buzz really was — as HoMedics unveiled its first collection of audio electronics products under the House of Marley name, in cooperation with the family of the late, legendary reggae star, Bob Marley.
The House of Marley audio line, which will ship to retailers in the second quarter of 2011, delivers premium quality, eco-conscious products intended to embody Bob Marley’s and the Marley family’s values of equality, unity, authenticity, sustainability and charity.
Marley is comprised of three collections — Jammin’, Freedom, and Destiny — and features earbuds, headphones, docking stations, speakers and boom boxes.
Suggested retail prices range from $29.99 to $499.99, offering superior audio products for everyone from “young gongs” to “conscious connoisseurs.”
“Our father shared his vision with our family and his fans through the gift of the messages in his music and it is our mission and responsibility to push the movement forward,” said Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter. “The House of Marley and the Marley audio products that bear our family name were created to spread our father’s music and vision to a new generation.”
Said Alon Kaufman, CEO of the House of Marley: “We’ve spent the past year working with the Marley family to create The House of Marley and to meticulously design a collection of Marley audio products that are true to the vision of hope, unity and peace Bob Marley shared through his music and that is carried on by his family. The House of Marley will deliver products and encourage participation in meaningful activities that satisfy your soul.”
Four guiding principles are central to turning Bob’s ideals into actions and his principles into products at The House of Marley: Superior quality, sustainably sourced, cause minded and waste conscious.
Superior quality: Bob was a master at his craft and The House of Marley aims for the same excellence in everything it creates. Using reggae music as the test by which all Marley products are made, bass is the driving force in every product. That doesn’t mean we’ve neglected the highs either. Marley products aim for authenticity and you can hear it in every instrument and vocal. Marley products are made to withstand even the most active lifestyle and to emulate Bob – timeless.
Sustainably sourced: The House of Marley’s goal is to create high-quality products in the most ethical and environmentally positive way. Marley audio products are made with Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, the highest standard for wood and forest products, and use recycled and recyclable aluminums and plastics. The House of Marley is continuously searching for the highest-quality, lowest environmentally impactful materials the world has to offer.
Cause minded: A portion of proceeds will benefit 1Love.org, a not-for-profit business created with the Marley family to create awareness and a sustainable flow of contributions to benefit 1Love.org-supported charities that empower youth, protect our planet and encourage global peace. Learn more at 1Love.org
Waste conscious: The House of Marley creates eco-conscious products that aim to be sustainable, renewable and recyclable. But one thing it’s not about creating is waste. Each Marley product is packaged using pulp or recycled and recyclable material, so it can avoid the waste stream and manifest into something useful again. In addition, MARLEY earbuds and headphones come with storage bags made from natural fibers, such as cotton and hemp.
The House of Marley consists of a tiered “good, better, best” product strategy that allows for a wide bandwidth in product, price point and retail destinations, while engaging three distinct consumer segments. Marley earbuds are small, compact and prepared to take on the heaviest bass. Marley headphones look good, sound good and make you feel good. Marley docks and speakers help you share the music, delivering powerful audio for home and on the go.
Marley Jammin’ is a line that brings the joyful Jamaican vibe to life through colorful, vibrant style and solid performance designed for ‘young gongs’. It includes earbuds and headpones as well as a “Roots Rock Speakerbag” that connects to an iPod or any audio device.
Marley Freedom is a line that delivers a high-end audio experience. It includes earbuds, headphones, and a “Standd Up, Get Up Speaker Dock” that delivers strong sound, compatibility with external audio devices, and use of eco-friendly materials in a sleekly designed, gorgeous wood iPod speaker dock.
Finally, Marley Desiny is a pro-level audio components line that offers earbuds, noise-cancellation “Trenchtown Rock Headphones” with an integrated microphone.
My afternoon ended with a visit to the big press conference at The Venetian from Verizon Wireless.
Big news for outstate Michigan: Verizon plans to blanket the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Flint, and Tri-Cities (Bay City, Saginaw, Midland) areas with its blistering-fast 4G Long Term Evolution wireless data service this year — at least, if the dots on a map in the presentation mean anything.
(I’ve been trailing a 4G wireless Internet access dongle at CES, and it’s as quick as advertised — I’ve been getting 10-12 mbps downloads in the real world, with a whole bunch of other technogeeks around hogging bandwidth on the same network.)
That network will spread to two-thirds of the United States population by 2012 and the entire country by 2013.
Verizon also announced a suite of 10 forthcoming 4G LTE devices – including smartphones from HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; tablets from Motorola and Samsung; a MiFi from Novatel Wireless and a mobile hotspot from Samsung; and two notebooks from HP.
Verizon expects these consumer-oriented devices to be available by midyear, with some available as early as March.
Marni Walden, vice president and chief marketing officer of Verizon Wireless, said, “For consumers, our 4G LTE network isn’t about simply doing things faster. It’s about doing things we couldn’t do before. In the consumer electronics arena, it’s not just about devices. It’s about those powerful devices with deeply integrated applications and how our 4G LTE network truly transforms the wireless experience with rich multimedia and real-time response intervals.”
Probably the most fun technology I saw was a Verizon Wireless version of Rock Band you can play with your friends on your smartphones — no matter how far away your friends are — in real time. Truly cool.
I’m wrapping up my Thursday with a blockbuster evening display of technology called Showstoppers that will, of course, have a Detroit element. And I’ve got half a dozen more Michigan companies to visit Friday, my final full day at CES. Can’t wait!
And don’t forget my big CES wrap-up in Monday’s GLITR, complete with photo galleries and links to video.