I’m a big believer that Wi-Fi will come to dominate the home networking environment because of its ubiquity and familiarity to consumers. If I needed more proof, I got it earlier this week while chatting with Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, about the more than 1,000 gadgets her organization has certified this past year. The Alliance shared with me some of the more outlandish gadgets they’ve seen. I know they aren’t all new, but taken together they make clear that Wi-Fi is moving way beyond computing equipment and even kitschy nerd wear (but I included the Think Geek T-shirt anyway).
First up is a Kohler bathtub available with Wi-Fi connectivity that allows music to be piped from a computer to the bath without dragging electrical goods in or near the water. At $10,000, this tub isn’t for the faint of wallet, but in addition to the Wi-Fi speakers it also offers four original compositions whose beats the tub will vibrate in conjunction with — totally surrounding your body in music. I can do this in my car with the volume turned up and a sub-woofer, so I personally think this is pretty silly.
Second on the list is another high-end purchase, a Chrysler car with uConnect service, which uses a combined 3G data connection and Wi-Fi to turn your vehicle into a hotspot. Pricing for the uConnect service isn’t out yet, but as cool as such an offering might be, I’m not sure it’s any different than firing up a 3G modem attached to your laptop in order to check email or write blogs during a car trip (only when you’re not driving, of course.)
Third up is the Spark solar-powered lamp, which uses Wi-Fi to notify homeowners if they’ve exceeded daily energy consumption limit. The lamp was conceived by industrial designer Beverly Ng in response to efforts by the Swedish government to reduce energy consumption in Swedish homes. The Wi-Fi in the lamp taps into an energy-monitoring system on a computer, and makes the lamp flash different colors depending on how much energy has been used up.
Then there is the WiFi-detection category, which includes a pair of sneakers, a watch and the aforementioned shirt. The sneakers are still a concept item, but the shirt is available for $29.99, and the watch is £19.99 ($32). Beyond Wi-Fi detection, I think there are some obvious options for actual reception or transmission of data with these objects. You could track your steps to meet a fitness goal, or have your watch start flashing when you get a VoIP call or have a meeting. For folks who keep their WiFi-enabled phones in a bag, that’d be awesome.
Speaking of bags, our final item is a series of WiFi-sniffing bags that range from backpacks to briefcases, and can tell you where you might find the best locale for sitting down for some intense computing. This is useful if you forgot your WiFi-detecting watch, your WiFi-detecting T-shirt is in the wash and you’re wearing penny loafers instead of your Wi-Fi sneakers. It’s also useful for outgeeking those folks wandering around with solar-powered backpacks. Yeah, Liz and Katie, I’m talking to you.