Whether you found them under the tree or buy them in the new year, there is no shortage of products being dubbed as “what to watch” in 2017. And most of them have some sort of techno-twist to them, be it intended for the home, for the kids, or to make everyday life easier and more productive.
Here’s a few that are expected to make a splash, and perhaps even become a normal part of life in the new year.
Got a ton of photos? Love your digital music? Want to unclutter? Check out Seagate Innov8, a compact desktop storage device that can handle just about any amount of data you can throw at it. With simple plug-and-play operation and eight terabytes of capacity, Innov8 can store two million songs, four million photos AND 800 high definition movies in remarkably compact device.
Smart speakers are suddenly a big deal, now that generations of iPhone users have grown used to asking Siri for everything from ordering pizza to playing a love song. Google Home and Amazon are two of the more visible specimens, each operating via voice command and delivering just about any information, mood music or valet-type service one can think of.
If you’re the type who spends a good portion of your day looking for stuff, consider the Tile line of tracker devices. Attach one slim chip to something important (let’s say a phone) and, when you can’t find it, double-click a key fob and it will make your phone ring until you find it, even if the phone is on silent. Lose your key fob? Check the app for the item’s last location.
Speaking of smart plugs–parents with small children will want to look into the Brio Safe Outlet, which acts as a gatekeeper between the electrical current in your home and the outside world. Brio’s product only delivers the juice if it detects a plug, and blocks the current if anything else is inserted into the socket (such as a toddler’s finger). It also doubles as a smoke and Co2 detector.
The march toward the automatic home that has been the stuff of science fiction for years is already upon us, with a number of automations that enable you to run your home without flipping a switch. Consider the line of iDevices smart plugs, which work from an ordinary outlet and take their marching orders from your smartphone. Download the app, and whatever appliance, lamp or other device is plugged into iDevice can be controlled remotely.
For peace of mind at home or when you’re away, check out the Kuna home security system. The integrated Wi-Fi camera is built into a hardwired external light fixture, eliminating the need for batteries. When someone approaches the front door, the homeowner receives a notice on their phone for interaction via a live video stream and built-in intercom system. Or, you can trigger a siren to chase off unwanted intruders. Log on anytime just to see what’s going on with your pets or vacation property, too.
Hot-car deaths have received close scrutiny in 2016 due to high-profile court cases, but it’s not a new problem. On average, nearly 40 children per year die from being left inside a hot car, strapped into their car seat. The 2017 GMC Acadia comes standard with a feature that will sound a tone and put a message on the dashboard to “Look in the Rear Seat.” Using the same sensors that detect an open door while driving, the vehicle knows if the back door was opened and closed before the driver entered the car.
All right, admittedly toilet locks don’t carry the same wow factor as some of the other things on our list, but these easy-to-install and very inexpensive attachments might just outrank the importance of any other thing mentioned. The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house for children, and curiosity about the toilet is both natural and potentially disastrous. A small investment in locks, such as those made by Safety 1st or Mommy’s Helper, available everywhere, can head off a tragedy.
As pervasive as digital toys are — all major video game system manufacturers turned out radically redesigned units for the holidays or have announced they will do so in 2017 — it’s nice to find toys that provide simple (and quiet) discovery and development. One winner is the Infantino Grow-with-Me Activity Gym and Ball Pit that offers a play mat with hang-down toys for infants that graduates into a ball pit for toddlers. Or, for children a little older, opt for the classic Fisher Price See n’ Say, that teaches fun sounds and songs with a spin of the middle dial. There’s a reason this one’s still around.
Joe Schaffner, outreach coordinator with the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock has one important reminder for parents when it comes to high tech (and often high dollar) devices to keep their kids safe: It’s not about the gadget.
“Technology should never take the place of human interaction and intervention,” he said. “Any type of technology is meant to assist a parent and should be viewed as, ‘Hey, this is supposed to help me.’ It should never be viewed as ‘this will be the 100 percent way to go.’”
Schaffner pointed out that even with the most sophisticated baby monitors or nursery cameras, parents still need to check on a sleeping infant at regular intervals, particularly as it relates to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
“There’s lots of factors that happen with SIDS,” he said. “For instance, we now know keeping a pacifier in a kid’s mouth essentially helps them remember to breathe. Babies’ lungs are brand new, so they’re learning how to use those things, and if you have a pacifier in their mouth. it helps them remember to breathe.”
Another fairly low-tech but equally critical safety measure comes at bathtime. A parent should always monitor the water temperature carefully, to no more than 100.1 degrees Fahrenheit, using a simple bath thermometer. For additional safety against scalds, adjust the water heater to 120 degrees or below.
“Babies have thinner skin than us adults, so they burn easier,” he said. “Just testing the water on our skin isn’t a good test.”
Additionally, no safety mechanism or equipment will provide adequate protection without three important considerations. First, make sure it is certified by the appropriate body. Some examples include Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) for strollers and cribs; Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for bike helmets; US Coast Guard for life jackets; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for car seats, and so on.
Finally, make sure the child meets the recommended height and weight as specified on the product, and make sure protective equipment is worn and used as specified and replaced after being involved in an incident.
“You can’t take out stitches and cuts and scrapes from childhood, but you can provide your child with the safest products and atmosphere that they can learn in, because it is a learning environment,” Schaffner said. “They’re testing their boundaries, they’re honing their motor skills, their emotions, and their brain.
“What we can do is promote safety, promote the correct products and the correct use of those products as much as possible to prevent lifelong injuries.”