All at the show: hearing aids to gadgets for pets

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A ‘dog activity monitor’ that combines wireless technology and a mobile phone app, allowing animal lovers to keep tabs on their pet’s movements, was one of the more unusual devices on display

More than 80,000 people gathered inside Birmingham’s NEC arena last week for the UK’s largest consumer technology event, the Gadget Show Live.

The event, now in its sixth consecutive year, provides some of the UK’s newest, and in many cases, most bizarre companies a stage on which to showcase their products to some of the UK’s leading retailers.

With mobile technology – most notably wearables tipped to take up a sizeable percentage of the 610-acre site (200,000 sqm), Mobile News joined the crowds to identify some of the more interesting inventions.

FitBark

First up and making its debut at the show is FitBark – which has created a “dog activity monitor”. It combines wireless technology and a mobile phone app designed to teach owners more about their pet’s habits and health.

FitBark works in a similar manner to that of human wearable devices, such as FitBit and Jawbone’s Up, by using motion sensors to record and feed back information on the animal’s movements, 24/7.

Instead of a wristband however, FitBark’s sensors are crammed inside a small, eight gram, bone-shaped product, which attaches to a dog’s collar.

Once in place, it will track all activity – which can be fed back via bluetooth to a smartphone. Information is categorised, to provide owners with a detailed analysis of their pet’s behaviour – which it claims effectively provides a voice for the animal.

As with FitBit and Up, the device will provide data on the dog’s sleep patterns. For example, graphs displayed on the app will inform owners how much sleep their dog is getting on a daily basis. An increase could mean the animal is unwell, or too little may suggest not enough exercise.

A full profile of the dog, such as breed and weight, is created on the app, providing tips on recommended daily activity – such as walks.

The FitBark product includes a connected, kennel-shaped “home base station” which collates the dog’s movements and stores that information in the cloud by connecting to WiFi. This allows owners to check their dog’s movements when outside of the bluetooth radius using the app.

The product, which is waterproof and charged using Mini USB, costs $99 (£59) and is expected to be available soon.

The firm said: “It keeps you connected to your dog even when you’re not with them. Checking up on them has never been easier.”

NFC Ring

Another interesting product on display at the show was the NFC Ring, made by a company of the same name.

The product allows users to transfer information and make wireless payments using it rather than their smartphone. The ring, which does not use a battery, has two NFC (near field communication) sensors, one which contains basic information, including phone number, email and social network addresses, whilst the other holds more sensitive details such as credit card numbers.

All information is managed using an Android app, which is passed from a smartphone to the ring using NFC. Information can then be passed to other NFC-enabled devices simply by touch. Payments can be also be made by tapping an NFC wireless payment reader.

The ring, which is available in four designs and is 100 per cent waterproof, is also compatible with NFC door locks, and can be used to bypass passwords on a mobile or tablet device.

It can also be customised to launch certain apps, or turn off WiFi and Bluetooth.

Prices in the UK will range between £30 and £33 and the product will begin shipping from May.

ReSound LiNX

Another interesting device was the Bluetooth ReSound LiNX, dubbed the world’s smartest hearing aid.

The product, which looks similar to that of a conventional hearing aid, connects to a smartphone via bluetooth – with functionality controlled using an iOS-only app.

When connected, phone calls and music transmitted through the handset are streamed to the hearing aid.

Wearers have the ability to control the volume using their device, as well as being able to adjust the quality, depending on the environment, using different sound modes on the app.

Examples that can be selected include “restaurants”, “traffic” and “outdoor”. The LiNX can also be linked to compatible Apple products such as Apple TV and bluetooth-compatible computers.

The product went on sale in March via its website. Prices range from approximately £3,500 to £5,000 per pair.

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