By Patricia Caso/January 25, 2015
Photos Courtesy Andrea Smith
Award-winning journalist and producer Andrea Smith can do what I consider nearly impossible: explain technological gadgets so the ordinary person can understand them. And, Andrea stresses why these gadgets are important.
“Instead of focusing on processing speed, dimensions, etc., I prefer to say, ‘This is a really cool thing and this is how it is going to change the way you live.’ That’s what matters to my audience and me.” Andrea Smith
I caught up with Andrea via phone to find out more about her, what she saw, tried out and was excited about at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. No small feat for this intrepid reporter and host-producer for MommyTech TV in the midst of thousands of new technological gadgets, which will be available soon to consumers….
EYE: What new trends are you seeing with all these tech gadgets?
ANDREA: My favorite trend is home automation. We are now seeing solutions to everyday problems. It’s no longer technology for technology’s sake. Technology can now help us build better, smarter, more efficient lives. For instance Samsung came out with a washing machine, which is not very sexy, but it has a built-in sink on top.
MommyTech TV–Andrea with Rebecca and Helena chatting Wearables/Smart Phones and More
So for people that don’t have a sink near their washer and dryer, you can pretreat clothes or presoak. It just makes it so easy. And, LG came out with a twin tub washer that does two loads of laundry at once! It is completely time efficient and makes life a lot easier.
EYE: What do you think about the wearable tech?
ANDREA: I am a big proponent of wearable tech. When I went to the CES show I was wearing the Microsoft band, which I like because it incorporates my heart rate. When I go to a gym class I can see what heart rate zone I’m in. The problem is it’s really ugly. It’s bulky and black and just really doesn’t do much for me.
However, Misfit Shine, which I have worn and written about, announced a partnership with Swarovski at CES. There’s a blinged out bracelet and tasteful necklaces that look like you are just wearing a pendant, but it’s really an activity tracker.
This item is very smart. It will do your steps, your calories and sleep. And, you can wear it in all different ways–a bracelet, or a necklace on a gorgeous night out with a little black dress.
EYE: As Producer of MommyTech TV, what did you find for moms?
ANDREA: We had two days of MommyTech TV live from the show floor at CES, interviewing tech companies ranging from smart gadgets that keep your kids safe to things parents really want to know about. One of the really cool tech gadgets comes from a mom at Intel, an engineer. She was very concerned about kids dying because they are accidentally left in cars.
She proposed a smart buckle attachment to the car seat. It’s called a “Smart Clip” and connects through Bluetooth. If you don’t unbuckle your baby and you walk away from your car, it warns you and says “Helllooo…I think you forgot something!….” Don’t look for this yet as it’s still in the prototype phase. If this can prevent an accidental death inthe future, I love it.
“There is also Temptraq, waiting for FDA approval and should be out soon. It’s like a bandaid, a thin strip that is placed under a child’s arm or near the armpit, and it gives a constant monitoring of their temperature.”
So if you are at work and you leave the baby home with the babysitter or the nanny, and you are worried, you can just check your phone and see if there has been a spike in temperature or see that everything is okay. It really gives you peace of mind.
EYE: What do Mommy Tech bloggers care about most?
ANDREA: Appliances, smart gadgets and home connectivity are the top blogger issues, which address real solutions to problems. Wearable tech, like the jewelry, was of interest as well. Bottom line though was, “How is this technology going to make my life easier?”
MommyTech TV–Spinmaster Toys’ VP Tara Tucker with Meccanoid Robot
EYE: What was the craziest thing you saw there?
ANDREA: People are making a lot of silly things, like Bluetooth phones for toddlers. The crazy things I saw and loved were the drones. I do believe we are going to have drones very soon.
EYE: Are we going to have personal drones?
ANDREA: We will have personal drones once we figure out the restrictions, but drones in the sense of using them for business; to photograph things for sports; and perhaps for Amazon home delivery.
EYE: Now, do we need to be little programmers to understand how to use all these items?
ANDREA: I think people need to be a bit more adept at handling different gadgets. We do not necessarily need to be programmers. My mother is about to turn 90 and she is a whiz on the iPad! And, that’s not because she is my mother. She can do Skype on her iPad. She watches Netflix.
Just because you are over 60, there is no excuse not to know technology. It is the way of the world. You need an email address to get a library card today. Even going to a doctor’s office, you have to download your forms on line and fill them out in advance.
“I think there are some basic things everyone should know, and that’s how to use a connected phone and computer. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist but you need to be plugged in a little.”
EYE: What about the idea that kids are socially isolated and couch potatoes with gadgets?
ANDREA: You know we talk about this a lot. Kids are still getting outside. It comes down to the fact that it’s all about the parents. They still need to set ground rules. Just like parents used to set limits on how much television kids watched. Now it’s about screen time.
On the positive side there is LeapTV and other companies, even gaming companies, that are making games designed to get kids up and moving, off the couch.
Schools are using Skype in the classroom to connect kids worldwide. We used to have pen pals, write the letters and then the teacher would send them to far away places. Now, they not only learn about different cultures, they see and interact with them.
EYE: From the beginning of your tech reporting to now, what key change have you seen?
ANDREA: The advent of mobile so you can have your information with you. When I got my first Blackberry, I could let someone know I was running late and someone could pick up my child.
Now if I have to make a certain train home, I can also see my email, make a post for work and do my work all on the train because I am connected. Think about voice recognition. I use SIRI on my iPhone constantly.
I will answer email with SIRI instead of on my iPad because using natural language is so much more efficient than typing. I would say having mobile connectivity and having smart phones have been the biggest changes.
EYE: What was the first tech story you reported?
ANDREA: One of the first was when I was in New York and I had “some guy” named Jeff Bezos scheduled for an interview in the local radio station in Seattle, Washington. We had remote technology for interviews. I asked if he wanted to cancel due to a snowstorm there, but he said no.
He really needed to get there to get the word out about this new Amazon thing he was starting. I remember people at KOMO radio in Seattle saying,” This guy just trudged in. You should see the snow here.” I interviewed him right before he launched Amazon.com.
EYE: How do the underserved get to participate in the educational and basic tech world?
ANDREA: First and foremost I think we need high speed broadband connectivity across the nation. A lot of areas still don’t have that. People and kids are missing out on a lot. It can be expensive. That needs to be worked out.
EYE: What is it about tech gadgets that is so newsworthy?
ANDREA: I was the first person I knew that tried to explain why technology gadgets mattered. I think that maybe it was good I had to fight so hard at the beginning of my career to convince my news bosses that tech was newsworthy.
And, that’s even something I write about now. Instead of focusing on processing speed, and dimensions, I prefer to say, “This is a really cool thing and this is how it is going to change the way you live.” That’s what matters to my audience and me.
EYE: Do you see many women tech entrepreneurs or reporters?
ANDREA: When I first started attending the CES show 9 years ago there was no line to the Ladies’ Room, ever. I was one of the few female tech journalists. Most of the people I interviewed were men. I didn’t see women in hiring positions, important marketing positions, and certainly not in the elite levels. That is changing.
I had to run out between interviews and use the Ladies” Room this year, and there was a line, a long line of about 9 women. Although I was frustrated, it occurred to me, “Hey, there’s a line to the Ladies’ Room! Yaaayyyy”¼!”
EYE: How does one decide what’s best in the new tech?
ANDREA: Don’t make an impulse buy or get talked into anything by a salesperson. Do your homework and research at sites like Chip Chick.
EYE: Is there anything tech-wise you’d like to see invented?
ANDREA: I always like to see tech invented for doing good, whether it’s helping with simple tasks or to assist people with medical issues. I have an elderly mother so I’d like to see more focus on aging in place; helping people maintain their lifestyle and independence; manage medication; and notify emergency contacts if there is a fall.
Many gadgets can do this now, but they require a smartphone, which not many 90-year-olds are using.
EYE: Are you ever unconnected?
ANDREA: I do love to garden and it is a wonderful tech-free zone for me. Sometimes I set up my iPhone to play my music out of a Bluetooth portable speaker on my back porch so I can hear it in the backyard but other than that, it’s a tech-free zone. So is dinner. My husband and I never look at our phones or read emails while we eat. Cardinal rule!
EYE: Thank you, Andrea, for your insight on making the ever-changing world of tech much clearer. We look forward to your future reports on andreasmith.org.