I am a technology lover and early adopter. Throughout the year I track new product releases and keep my eyes open to home tech that is not yet mainstream. Each year I get asked by friends and colleagues about technology gift recommendations. Below is this year's list. Items range in price from under $20 to over $1,000 there is something on this list for every technology lover. I hope this list provides some fun gift ideas for the techie in your life.
The titles for each item are hyperlinks to purchase the items online. As you will see most are linked to Amazon.com because they offer the best pricing and availability.
SmartThings is a subscription free home automation hub that can control lights, door locks, thermostats, sprinkler systems and other smart devices. The SmartThings hub hooks up to your home network via ethernet cable. The hub supports bluetooth, zigbee, and zwave which are the most popular home automation formats. Enables devices to be controlled via a smartphone app for Android or iOS. If you are interested in automating your home SmartThings should be your first purchase. This is their 2nd generation hub which is more stable and more powerful. Enables monitoring of your home while away for leaks, smoke alarms, motion sensors, carbon monoAvailable on Amazon.com
Want to make your car smart? Ever wonder why the check engine light is on? Want to track how fast your kid has driven? Want to find where you left your car? Find the lowest local gas prices. Want to track your mileage and auto related expenses? That is all possible via the simple DASH app available for free in the iOS and Android app stores. You will need an OBDII reader which is bluetooth or wifi enabled to communicate with your phone. The OBDII plugs into a port below the Dash of any car sold in the USA after 1996. This app has been great for tracking my work related expenses and tracking all trips with detailed data. The app can even make you a better driver by warning you when you accelerate too fast or break too hard. The app can be found from Dash.by or in the app store. The OBDII can be purchased here through Amazon.com
Amazon Echo Dot $49
Echo Dot is like Siri or Google Now for your home without the need for your phone. Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device with a small built-in speaker—it can also connect to your speakers or headphones over Bluetooth or through a 3.5 mm audio cable to deliver stereo sound to the speakers you choose. Dot connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly.
Echo Dot can hear you from across the room, even while music is playing. When you want to use Echo Dot, just say the wake word "Alexa" and Dot responds instantly. If you have home automation like thermostats or lights the Echo Dot allows you to control them with your voice. You can set alarms, ask to have a Kindle book read aloud or play Pandora and other music sources. The Echo Dot is constantly learning new tricks and being updated by Amazon. The Echo Dot is available through Amazon.com
GoPro is no longer the king of action cameras.
The Best Action Camera Ever. Period
YI 4K Action Camera presents an immersive footage of you and your world. The only action camera to combine 4K 30 frame per second video recording, integrated touchscreen and up to two hours of battery life. The YI Action camera has better specs than any GoPro. The waterproof housing (Sold separately) is compatible with all GoPro accessories so this camera can be used for all extreme sports. We have used this camera on the boat on an extended pole for great wakesurfing video, in the ocean for surfing videos and on land for mountain biking an other extreme sports. The camera footage is amazing and the number of custom modes is great. I would recommend this camera over a GoPro without hesitation. Available on Amazon.com
Akorn Kamado Grill $288
The Big Green Egg is all the rage in grilling these days, but have you priced one of those? They run over $1,000 when fully outfitted. While the Akorn Kamado is not a digital technology there is technology involved here. For $288 you get an amazing grill that is well built, durable and easier to clean than the Big Green Egg. Grill your meals just right with the Char-GRiler Akron Kamado Kooker. It features a locking lid, two folding metal shelves, casters and an easy to dump ash pan. The grill features innovative technology that makes it more durable and lighter in weight than traditional ceramic Kamados that can crack. The grill has a 314 sq, inch cooking area and a warming rack. The cooking surface is made of cast iron and the body is constructed of 22-gauge steelI have had an Akorn Kamado grill now for about a year and it is as good as new. I have used our gas grill maybe once in the year because the food is just so much better when cooked on the kamado. Available at Walmart.com, Lowes or Amazon.com
iDevices iGrill Mini $25
For the grill master in your life, the iGrill is a cool app based grill thermometer. This Bluetooth Smart grilling thermometer is an essential gadget for any level griller or smoker. Select what you're cooking from a list of presets in the iDevices Connected app (for iOS and Android) and know when your food is ready from your mobile device. A fun gadget for grilling perfrection. iGrill also sells a more advanced model with up to six probes for measuring the temperature of separate foods on the same grill. The more advanced version iGrill2 sells for $99. Available at Amazon.com
Garmin Fenix 3 HR $449
If you love fitness and are also a gadget person then the Garmin Fenix 3 HR is the ultimate smartwatch for you. The watch includes bluetooth, wifi, GPS, Glonas, Heart Rate monitor, accelerometer, ANT+, barometer and other high tech sensors. The rugged watch is waterproof to 100 meters and it is shock proof. The battery in this watch lasts a full week on a single charge. When paired with a smartphone it can receive email, text, Facebook and phone alerts. The watch tracks your heart rate throughout the day, tracks sleep, tracks steps, tracks calories and tracks activities. The watch has downloadable watch faces. Downloadable apps for specific sports including surfing, swimming, skiing, cross country skiing, diving, sky diving, SUP, kayaking and more. This is the ultimate adventure watch. I have one and I never take it off other than once a week to charge it. I will say the watch face is quite large and it is a bit heavy. If you are interested in most of the functionality in a lighter smaller package consider the Garmin 735XT instead. Both are the same price. Available at Amazon.com
This item has been on my gift guide list for the past three years. It is such a simple solution that provides excellent utility. SnapPower is an outlet cover that contains three LED lights and a light sensor. We have installed these covers in hallways and on counters throughout our house. They provide great night lighting and ambiance in dark conditions. They consume very little power and take under one minute to install per location. Such a clever device that makes navigating your house at night safer and easier. The SnapPower Guidelights and SnapPower USB chargers are available at SnapPower.com or Amazon.com
Home security systems can be complex and expensive. They require dedicated wiring and are difficult to configure. That is not the case with the Xiaomi Yi camera. It provides app based access to your home for both iOS and Android. The camera records 720p High Definition video and audio. The camera records via night vision and the quality is amazing with a wide angle lens. The camera has an SD card slot to record video using the motion detector to a card. You can live stream video and check on your home via the internet. You can monitor audio and even push to talk to someone in the room. The camera's motion detector can turn on the recording mode and send alerts to your phone. The Nest camera has the same capabilities but costs more than twice as much. If you buy more than one Xiaomi Yi cameras they can be linked together and accessed via the same app. Requires a wifi connection at home and the camera must be plugged into a 110v power outlet using the included long power cable. I have been extremely impressed with this camera. Available at Amazon.com
LeEco is not a household brand in the USA today, but it will be in the future. LeEco is a huge consumer brand in China and they are also seen as the Netflix of China being a large distributor of movies, sports and other digital content. Recently they purchased Vizio the US based TV manufacturer. Additionally, they have just started selling their high end TVs in the USA via their direct sales website LeMall.com. They are selling 4K televisions and two really nice android phones as well. The LeEco Super4 X55 is a 55" Ultra-High Definition TV which offers for 4X the resolution of a standard 1080P HD TV. The TV features very slim bezels, Harmon Kardon audio speakers and Google's Android TV operating system. This supports all major streaming services and is infinitely expandable. With 2.4 ghz and 5ghz wifi on-board this TV was built for internet streaming. The processor features 32gb of on-board storage and 3gb of ram which means it is a powerful platform to consuming media and for gaming.
Google Voice search and Google Cast are both included in this TV. The TV comes in 43", 55" and 65" sizes. LeEco is offering amazing deals over the holidays to promote their products so pricing and availability will change daily. Only available at LeMall.com
An electric skateboard that runs on the latest Lithium Ion battery technology (Not the type that catches on fire). Yuneec first showed off their E-Go electric skateboard at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013 where I got to demo one. It was awesome. Since then they have refined the technology and made improvements. The E-Go 2 has a range of 18 miles on a single charge and a top speed of 12.5 mph. The original board went faster, but that enhances safety concerns. The board is charged by a USB charger and the board speed is controlled by an included bluetooth remote controller. There is also an Android or iOS app available to control the board. This is a really cool and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. Plus the portability makes it easy to take the 15 lbs board with you into a store or an office.
The E-Go electric skateboard is a super cool piece of technology. The board can be ordered from several online vendors. The best deal I have found is at Amazon.com
Ryobi is a company best known for their power tools. They are experts in lithium-ion powered tools such as drills and impact wrenches. In their quest to expand their offering they have made a unique garage door opener. The Ryobi Garage Door Opener includes a super quiet 2hp motor which can handle any weight garage door and opens faster than standard doors. The unique characteristics include the fact the unit is wifi enabled meaning that via a free app you can open and close your garage door remotely and check the current status of your garage door. Ever leave the neighborhood and question whether or not you remember to close the garage door? The app enables you to see this as well as to schedule the door to auto close after a certain amount of time. The unit can be expanded with a battery which will enable it to run even during a power failure. There are other accessories as well such as a recoiling power cord. The Ryobi garage door works with Homelink. Included are two remotes and an exterior keypad.
The Ryobi Ultra-Quiet Smart Garage Door Opener is available online and at certain HomeDepot.com store.
DJI Mavic Pro Drone $999
DJI has been the leader in drone technology for the past several years. Each year they release better and better equipment at a lower price point. The DJI Mavic Pro is their latest consumer focused drone. It is much smaller than the DJI Phantom units and it is foldable. In fact it can fit in a coat pocket when folded. The camera shoots in 4K video and the drone has almost 30 minutes of flying time on a single charge. The software has been greatly enhanced to improve safety and lessen the risk of crashing. My DJI Phanton 2 vision plus is at the bottom of the lake due to user error. The DJI Mavic Pro is smart enough to avoid that same fate. One of the coolest new features is the follow me function. The user sets the drones height and distance from the subject to be filmed and the Mavic locks in on the subject. This would be perfect for shooting wakeboarding or other high action sports. The drone comes with everything necessary for flight including a high tech remote control. The live streaming is fed to the users mobile phone over a wifi connection that has 2 mile range.
For those on a tighter budget consider the DJI Phantom 3 which still provides great video and is pretty easy to fly. The DJI Phantom 3 is priced at $460. The DJI Mavic Pro is available for pre-order and it will ship in January 2017. Both are available at Amazon.com
Sphero is an app-enabled ball that is like a remote controlled car. Using the iOS or Android app you can control the ball. This is a really cool gift for kids. The ball is practically indestructible and it is waterproof. It is a great pet toy as well. It is really fun to set up obstacle courses and navigate the Sphero through the course. Sphero has on-board lights for night use. Sphero is not just a toy but a learning platform. Sphero believes play is a powerful teacher. While the toy is fun first, Sphero’s SPRK program (Schools, Parents, Robots, Kids) was created to harness the power of learning and creativity that many early adopters found in the robotic ball. While kids are having fun they are learning the complex principles of computer programming, math and science and applying them to physical world. SPRK's approachable lesson plans empower parents and teachers to excite kids, so it's no wonder that over 4,500 teachers in 20 countries have used SPRK to teach 90,000 students. While kids instantly gravitate to Sphero, SPRK students range from elementary school through high school grades.
I first played with Sphero at the Consumer Electronics Show a few years ago and they have since made improvements with Sphero 2.0. I bought one for my nephew who has been having a blast with it. Sphero is available at a number of consumer electronic retailers and on Amazon.com
Battery technology has improved tremendously over the past several years. Battery powered clothing has yet to make it into the mainstream, but it makes sense. Imagine being outside in freezing cold conditions wearing a t-shirt and an outdoor jacket. Now that is possible thanks to lithium ion powered outdoor jackets. These high tech jackets can last up to 8 hours on a single charge. The small batter pack can be used to charge a mobile phone and can be rapidly recharged using a wall charger. The ORORO Slim Fit Women's Jacket features a waterproof shell and up to 8 hours of battery life. The men's ORORO Heated Jacket featured a removable hood, waterproof outer shell and 8 hours of battery life. Both jackets are a great way to stay warm during the winter with a light weight and waterproof jacket. Available on Amazon.com
Ultimate Cord-Cutters Package
Mi Box $99
Mi Box is a streaming set top box for all of your digital TV needs. The Mi Box runs android TV and makes any TV smart and any smart TV smarter. The box includes a bluetooth remote that includes a microphone for voice driven navigation. Apps can be downloaded to the Mi box including games and streaming apps. ESPN, Netflix, HBO, Showtime, YoutTube, Pandora, CBS and more apps can be easily added. The Mi Box can handle 4K TV feeds with High Dynamic Range (HDR). When you purchase the Mi Box you get $50 towards Sling TV service. Available on Amazon.com
Never pay a cable or satellite bill again. With a digital TV and the 1byOne amplified digital antenna you can pull in local broadcast channels from up to 50 miles away. We have one of these hooked up to the splitter where our cable used to come into the house. With this one antenna we receive all local broadcast channels on all of the TVs throughout our home. The signal is crystal clear in 1080 or 720P depending on the station provider. The small antenna can be placed in an out of the way spot in your house and is about the size of a place mat. This is a great investment for anyone wanting to cut the cord. We also use the antenna when we want to bring a TV out on the patio to watch Sunday afternoon football during the fall. Available on Amazon.com
Sling TV $20-$40 (per month)
Sling TV offers pay TV via your internet connection. Forget the cable or satellite bill and paying for tons of channels you never watch. With Sling TV you get the channels you want at a fraction of the cost and you can take your TV with you anywhere. Via the Sling TV app you can watch your channels from your phone or tablet. ESPN, HGTV, CNN, A&E, TNT, FoodNetwork, BBC and more are available in the basic package for $20 per month. The $40 package expands the offering to more channels and streaming of content to multiple devices or TVs at the same time. Streaming TV is the future of TV. In order to use this service you need a smart tv with the Sling app or you need a streaming device such as the Mi Box, Apple TV, Fire TV Stick, Roku or other Sling compatible device. Available at Sling.com
Snorkling is a fun way to explore aquatic life yet the traditional snorkel and mask combination can be uncomfortable and has seen little technological development over the years. That has all changed with the Tribord Easybreath snorkling mask. This new technology enables the user to breath normally through their nose rather than through their mouth while underwater. The mask offers 180 degree viewing angles and a snorkel stopper that keeps water out of the snorkel. The mask has extremely high ratings on Amazon and scuba sites. A great gift idea for anyone who loves to snorkel. Available at Amazon.com