The 50 Most Intelligent Things
Illustration by Meg Robichaud
Over the past several years the Internet of Things has grown exponentially. According to IT research firm Gartner, between 2009 and 2015 the total number of connected devices has grown from 900 million to 4.9 billion units. With the explosion of products available in new categories like wearables and the smart home, Flex has compiled a list of 50 of the smartest, connected products available and in development today.
Among them, we’ve asked Flex experts in the fields of consumer technology, connected living, and others to evaluate the intelligence and potential impact of three products in their infancy: real-time people counter Density, gesture-control device Bird, and modular transportation system Next.
1. HyGreen Hand Hygiene System | HyGreen Inc., Spring 2010 To help curb hospital-acquired infections, the HyGreen Hand Hygiene system reminds doctors through an LED on their badge and other indicators to wash their hands before interacting with a patient. All hygiene data is recorded and displayed in real time through a digital dashboard.
2. MineStar | Caterpillar, Summer 2011 Caterpillar’s MineStar is a comprehensive mining-vehicle-fleet monitoring and control system. It features five different functions: Fleet tracks vehicles in real time; Detect combines radar and camera technologies to monitor safety hazards; Terrain deploys guidance technology for precision drilling; Health predicts mechanical breakdowns; and Command automates mining.
3. Enevo ONe | Enevo, Spring 2013 Enevo ONe is a Finnish smart city solution that uses a network of sensors to measure and communicate data about garbage-waste levels in containers, then calculates the most efficient routes for trash pickup. The system has already been shown to reduce emissions, noise pollution, road and vehicle wear, and litter, and can save customers up to 50% in waste collection costs.
4. Smart Body Analyzer | Withings, Spring 2013 While the Withings Smart Body Analyzer may look like an ordinary bathroom scale, it is actually a comprehensive health and environmental monitoring device. Beyond weight, sensors in the scale measure body fat, BMI, and heart rate, and transmit the information to its partner app. The device also monitors temperature and air-quality levels in the home.
5. Mother | Sen.se, Winter 2014 Mother lets users keep track of nearly anything they want: from home entry and room temperature to sleep monitoring and exercise habits. The hub unit comes with four sensor-laden Motion Cookies, and sends push notifications about the tracked objects to users’ phones.
6. Cellnovo System | Cellnovo, Winter 2014 Cellnovo is a connected diabetes management system. A discreet pump houses an activity tracker and ensures accurate insulin delivery. The pump is controlled by a touch-screen handset, which collects and stores blood information that is transmitted in real time to a physician-friendly patient portal.
7. Muse | InteraXon, Spring 2014 Muse is a brain-activity-sensing headband for use during meditation. It provides real-time relaxation feedback and tracks meditation progress over a given amount of time through its companion app.
8. Wink | Wink, Summer 2014 A recently announced acquisition of Flex, Wink is becoming the hub of smart, connected living. The suite of products enables home appliances to talk to each other, from climate control to lighting to air-conditioning and more. Read our feature about Wink's role in sparking a smart city here.
9. MiCoach Smart Soccer Ball | Adidas, Summer 2014 Adidas’s miCoach Smart Ball uses a triaxial accelerometer to monitor data such as speed, spin, strike, and flight path to help improve a soccer player’s kicking technique. The Bluetooth-connected ball sends this information to its companion app, where users can track improvements.
10. PetPace Collar | PetPace, Summer 2014 The PetPace collar is a comprehensive health and activity tracker for animals. It unobtrusively collects important health data about pets such as temperature, respiration rate, pulse, activity levels, and posture to help pet owners identify health issues as they develop.
11. August Smart Lock | August, Summer 2014 The August Smart Lock is an intelligent locking system that turns a smartphone into a house key. When the Smart Lock senses the homeowner leaving or approaching the house, it locks or unlocks appropriately. Through the August app, the user can create virtual keycards granting access to neighbors and friends.
12. Myo Armband | Thalmic Labs, Fall 2014 Based on electromyography, the Myo armband is a wearable gesture-control device that measures electrical signals from a person’s arm and translates them to digital actions. Users can control presentations, browsers, and apps with the wave of an arm.
13. Density | Density, Fall 2015
What started as a way for cofounder and CEO Andrew Farah to gauge local coffee shop traffic, Density quickly grew into something much more robust: a discreet infrared sensor that counts people's movements in and out of any given space.
“We’ve heard from so many people that we had no idea would be relevant or would have an interest in people count,” says Farah. Density is in talks with a variety of potential customers, including companies looking to monitor employee flow, farmers tracking livestock movement, and museums and universities aiming to optimize foot traffic.
Farah believes that an entirely new dimension of actionable data could be available through citywide, anonymous people counting. He says that it will soon be possible to study population movement during natural disasters, or even tell emergency responders how many people are on a particular floor of a burning building.
14. Mojio | Mojio, Fall 2014 Mojio transforms ordinary cars into intelligent vehicles by connecting them directly to the cloud. The plug-in device provides a 3G AT&T connection, GPS, an array of vehicle apps, and sensor-monitored diagnostics; it also records driving analytics over time.
15. Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew | Mr. Coffee, Fall 2014 Mr. Coffee has brought wake-up time into the connected age with the Smart Optimal Brew, which can schedule a week’s worth of freshly poured coffee from a smartphone. Users can remotely control and monitor the brewing process from the bedroom, as well as receive updates when it’s time to change the filter.
16. Bolt Lightbulb | Misfit, Winter 2015 Bolt is a wireless smart LED bulb that can display millions of color combinations and even simulate the lighting effects of a rising sun to help ease into the morning. The bulb has a 20-year life span and does not require any smart-home-hub installation; instead it’s controlled by the Misfit Home smartphone app.
17. Fitbit Surge | Fitbit, Winter 2015 The newest activity from Fitbit, Surge boasts continuous heart-rate monitoring, exercise tracking for up to seven different activities in addition to running (such as yoga, hiking, and biking), sleep tracking, GPS, push notifications, and caller ID.
18. Canary | Canary, Winter 2015 Canary, a single-unit sensor, uses motion detection and machine learning to determine normal movement patterns and identify anomalies within a user’s home. Canary then notifies the user of unusual activity and transmits live video to its companion app.
19. Apple Watch | Apple, Spring 2015 The Apple Watch communicates directly with the user’s iPhone for easy access to notifications, texts, calls, and a growing list of frequently used applications. Some notable capabilities include its fitness tracker, Apple Pay, and a multitude of other native apps refaced to work with the Apple Watch’s square screen.
20. Recon Jet | Recon, Spring 2015 Recon Jet is a pair of intelligent glasses designed for athletes and active lifestyle users that allows for the wearer to make informed decisions based on activity, such as avoiding an icy route while biking or stopping a workout after a certain number of calories are burned.
21. Neurio | Neurio Technology Inc., Spring 2015 From your blender to your TV, Neurio creates a network of intelligent home appliances by monitoring electricity usage through a single cloud-connected sensor. Usage and cost are analyzed, then beamed back to the customer in a simple visualization with recommendations on how to be more efficient.
22. Propeller | Propeller Health, Summer 2015 Propeller is a small device that clips onto most standard inhalers helps asthma and COPD sufferers track and manage their condition by recording when and where they are when an attack occurs. Propeller syncs up with any smart device to provide personalized feedback and show which areas are likely to trigger reactions.
23. New Jersey Turnpike Authority's Advanced Traffic Management Program | IBM, Summer 2015 IBM’s IoT-based Advanced Traffic Management uses an extensive network of sensors to track traffic incidents as they happen in real time on two major New Jersey highways. The data allows hastened emergency response and updates information on road signage to inform drivers and limit traffic jams.
24. Petnet SmartFeeder | Petnet, Summer 2015 The Petnet Smartfeeder is an automated pet-food dispenser that allows users to feed their pets remotely, control portion sizes, schedule feeding times, and even automatically order more food when it senses a low food supply—all at the press of a button on the Petnet app.
25. HomeKit | Apple, Summer 2015 Apple’s HomeKit system simplifies home automation by letting users control all the intelligent aspects of their home—from the lights and thermostat to the locks and shades—using their iOS-enabled devices. Through voice commands and location-based activation, HomeKit allows users to command a multitude of smart home appliances.
26. Bird | MUV Interactive, Spring 2016
Controlling the onslaught of devices and applications can get complicated quickly. “When you [control an IoT device], you have to open and close different applications, and your eyes have to be on the screen of the smart device,” explains Iris Toledano of MUV Interactive, the company behind Bird.
Bird, a sensor-packed wearable that fits on a person’s finger, is a seamless way to control the abundance of available connected devices. It converts any physical space into a virtual playground through optical, motion, and voice-recognition-enabled sensors. Bird can even turn walls and tables into smartphones using a standard projector, creating new interactive experiences in the boardroom or the game room.
Says Toledano: “We are just beginning to realize [Bird’s] potential. We’re just starting to scratch the surface here.”
27. SAM | Sam Labs, Summer 2015 Equal parts Lego and IoT, Sam is a DIY modular kit that allows users to build custom Internet-connected electronic projects—no programming skills required. The snap-together parts communicate wirelessly with one another using Bluetooth technology, and the Sam app allows users to share their inventions with ease.
28. Tesla Model S | Tesla, Summer 2015 The Tesla Model S lets drivers build their own profiles based on preference for things like seating and temperature, and voice-activated commands lead it anywhere the driver wants to go. A new software update utilizes onboard sensors to engage Tesla Autopilot for hands-free driving.
29. Amazon Echo | Amazon, Summer 2015 A response to the now-famous Siri AI on Apple’s iPhone, the Amazon Echo functions as an all-in-one problem solver. Alexa, the device’s vocal persona, answers questions, controls smart devices, acts as a speaker, and even shops—all processed by voice commands.
30. Roost Smart Battery | Roost, Fall 2015 The Roost Smart Battery, which replaces an ordinary 9V battery in a smoke detector, syncs with the user’s smartphone via Wi-Fi to send notifications about smoke and carbon-dioxide alerts, as well as battery life.
31. Skully AR-1 | Skully, Fall 2015 The Skully AR-1, featured, is a smart motorcycle helmet designed to protect riders by limiting distractions and focusing their attention on the road. Important navigation and blind spot information are relayed via the device’s heads-up display and Intelligent Sound system.
32. BodyGuardian Heart Monitoring System | Preventice Solutions, Fall 2015 The BodyGuardian Heart is a cloud-connected heart-monitoring wearable that tracks cardiac rhythms in patients with arrhythmias. The bandage-like sensor continuously records important biometrics such as ECGs, heart rate, and respiration, and then pushes the information to the patient’s health-care professional.
33. Nest 3rd Gen Thermostat | Nest Labs, Fall 2015 Nest's Wi-Fi-connected thermostat monitors energy usage and creates a personalized temperature schedule based on the user’s habits. Nest can now detect when someone is home more accurately, lighting up a bigger display showing temperature and time information when it senses someone nearby.
34. Moov | Moov, Fall 2015 Moov is a next-generation fitness wearable that aims to improve the user’s exercise goals by acting as a coach. Through a trio of motion sensors, Moov analyzes the wearer’s movements during activities, such as running or cycling, and transmits both audio and visual feedback in real time.
35. Philips Hue 2.0 | Philips, Fall 2015 The Hue 2.0 intelligent lighting system expands on its predecessor by enabling connectivity with Apple’s Siri for easy voice control. The color-changing LED bulbs communicate wirelessly with a bridge unit, allowing the bulbs to be controlled individually or in groups.
36. Smart Wireless Pill Bottle | AdhereTech, Fall 2015 AdhereTech's smart, wireless, cloud-connected pill bottle calls or texts a patient to remind him to take his medication. A CDMA chip records when the bottle is opened and how many pills are taken, and can send the information to the patient’s health-care professional.
37. Samsung SmartThings Starter Kit | Samsung, Fall 2015 The SmartThings Starter Kit includes a motion-, light-, and temperature-detecting Multi Sensor for monitoring open windows and doors, a Motion Sensor to detect movements in the home, a Presence Sensor that recognizes when the user enters and leaves, and a smart power outlet that can be controlled remotely.
38. Chromecast 2nd Gen | Google, Fall 2015 Google’s second iteration of the Chromecast features three antennae to optimize Wi-Fi streaming. A new option called Fast Play predicts the content you’ll want to view next and queues it up automatically. Lastly, a sleek new design allows more room for other devices on the back of the TV.
39. Next Modules | Next, TBD
Next, a conceptual system of self-driving modules designed to join together and detach while in motion on regular city roads, is a glimpse of a hands-free driving future. “The market is shifting from driving from point A to B to living from point A to B,” says Tommaso Gecchelin, cofounder of Next. Gecchelin highlighted some of the features necessary to enable this new mode of on-the-go living: Service modules will allow passengers to select any number of service modules—a bathroom, dining, or even bedroom module—that will join their module in motion. Battery swap in motion between passenger pods and cartridge modules that store multiple batteries. The Next Travel Planner app enables users to hail a Next, choosing where to go and which route to take. When the module arrives, their phone works as a ticket to board.
40. Harmony Elite | Logitech, Fall 2015 With the Harmony Elite, users have a wide range of smart home appliances at the tip of their fingers via a touch-screen remote and the iOS- or Android-enabled Harmony app. Harmony can even program various appliances to turn on and off based on activity, such as dimming the lights and boosting the surround sound for watching movies.
41. Seaboard Rise | Roli, Fall 2015 Roli’s Seaboard Rise is a mini-keyboard designed for music production. The sensor-packed keys, or “keywaves,” can emulate a host of instruments and effects all through an intuitive, touch-based system. Musicians can map several gestures such as gliding or striking their fingers to produce different effects in real time.
42. June Intelligent Oven | June, Spring 2016 The June Intelligent Oven is an Internet-connected smart kitchen appliance. Through an HD camera mounted on the inside, June currently recognizes up to 20 different dishes a user is cooking and can offer suggestions for how to cook it, then adjusts the user interface accordingly.
43. Lumo Lift | Lumo Bodytech, Spring 2016 A sensing technology from the company that makes Lumo Run shorts, the Lumo Lift attaches to a wearer’s shirt and is designed to improve her posture. Meanwhile, the shorts improve a runner’s form by monitoring her performance over time.
44. Linx IAS | BlackBox Biometrics, Spring 2016 The Linx IAS is a wearable wireless sensor that attaches a tiny gyroscope and accelerometer on a football helmet to measure head trauma. Once a trauma incident is recorded, the intensity of the hit is graded and beamed via Bluetooth to the app so that coaches and trainers can monitor player safety in real time.
45. Vive | HTC, Spring 2016 The HTC Vive is a head-mounted virtual reality system intended to completely immerse the wearer in the worlds of video games and other applications. The accompanying Lighthouse base station not only tracks the position of the headset but also maps the user’s room to construct a walkable, virtual environment.
46. Blocks | Blocks Wearables, Summer 2016 Blocks lets people customize the capabilities of their watch by changing modules that make up the wrist strap. Current interchangeable modules include heart rate, extra battery life, GPS, wireless data transfer, and environmental sensors. Future modules will include fingerprint authentication and a SIM card attachment.
47. Bio_Sole | Autonomous ID, Fall 2016 Through sensor-packed shoe soles, Bio_Sole measures an individual’s walking data, including gait and pressure points, to construct a digital identity of the wearer. This digital identity is then compared against the wearer's master profile at areas that require identity verification for access. If profiles don't match each other, an imposter is afoot.
48. Digital Lightfield™ | Magic Leap, TBD Magic Leap is a wearable device that projects 3-D images directly onto the wearer’s eye to create uninhibited, 360-degree augmented reality. While the company has been silent about a release date, Magic Leap promises to put a new spin on the way we interact with our physical environment.
49. Ninja Sphere | Ninja Blocks, TBD The sleek Ninja Sphere is an all-in-one platform that connects an array of smart devices. Using simple hand gestures, users can do things like call an Uber, shut off the lights, or manage home climate control. The Sphere also uses location, environment, and device data to make informed recommendations to users.
50. Solar-Powered Contact Lenses | Google, TBD In October 2015, Google patented a smart contact lens that can monitor and record environmental and biometric data ranging from allergens to body temperature to blood-alcohol content. A photodetector could communicate with computers while solar cells could absorb the sun’s energy to keep the lenses constantly powered.