7 Gadgets That Prove the Cell Network Isn't Just for Phones

Updated: After writing extensively about how cell phone providers want to boost their business by offering wireless access for emerging devices, such as electric meters or e-readers, I decided to check with the nation’s four largest carriers to see what they consider to be some of the most interesting devices that run on their networks. I was looking for products that don’t resemble traditional computers or cell phones that we commonly use for data today. A lot of these gizmos fall into the people-tracking category, but some use the cellular network for sending video files, real-time data and even photos. Here’s seven cool devices that piggyback on cellular networks. 

Smart Insoles

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AT&T Labs has been working with Texas Tech University and a company called 24Eight to develop a remote monitoring technology that prevents elderly patients from falling. The result is an insole that contains accelerometers and a radio that connects to the AT&T network. When the accelerometers detect an unsteady gait that may lead to a fall, it alerts the patient to sit down and the insole calls for medical personnel. It can also detect falls and call for help immediately. AT&T hopes to trial the product later this year.

The BI HomeGuard Anklet

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This unfashionable gear is used to make sure parolees stay at home after curfew or in a specified area of town, as mandated by the courts. The device, which is used by correctional agencies, runs on the Verizon network. You and I can’t buy one, but keep reading for other ways to track your friends and family.

Zoombak

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This GPS locator fits in the palm of your hand, weighs 2.5 ounces, and can be attached to a dog collar, stuck in the trunk of your kid’s car and even dropped into your spouse’s laptop bag. For $100 for the tracker, and about $15 a month, it can tell you where it is as long as its battery is charged and it can access a signal on T-Mobile’s network.

The Cameo Picture Frame

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This digital picture frame has its own email address and phone number so it can connect via T-Mobile’s wireless network and receive photos on the fly. For a monthly fee of $2, and the $40 cost of the frame, you can send your grandparents all of those photos you upload to Facebook or Flickr without expecting them to hop online.

Ford Work Solutions

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Available on the 2009 Ford F-150, F-Series and E-Series vehicles — and later in 2009, on Transit Connect vehicles — Ford Work is an in-dashboard PC with Internet connectivity provided by Sprint. Drivers with enabled trucks can access real-time labor and material costs, inventory updates, invoice generation and editing and completing work orders. This isn’t for watching YouTube on road trips, though.

The Flaik

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Flaik makes a GPS device used by ski resorts to track their ski school students. The device, which runs on T-Mobile’s network, also delivers information about various ski runs, the quality of the snow and an unspecified level of social networking. Update: Our previous photo showed an earlier version of the device. We replaced the photo to show the latest version.

DriveCam

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Families can buy a DriveCam for $899, which includes a camera installed on the windshield of a car and a year of access to a web-based repository of video events. The camera continuously records the scene while driving, and temporarily saves the previous several seconds in a video buffer. If the device doesn’t experience “excessive G-forces,” all the data is permanently deleted 10 seconds later. But if the car brakes too suddenly, swerves or hits something, the camera saves the video and sends it to the DriveCam network via Sprint for later review. It’s available for fleets as well.

All images were provided by the companies offering the devices.

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