LAS VEGAS -- In the future, the walls of our homes may be screens that provide key alerts from the Internet, but today we Feedair, a tiny Wi-Fi device that pulls your most important information off the Internet and shows it to you on a red-LED ticker. The $50 USB-powered device made its debut at CES where WOWFii Inc, the company behind the speech bubble shaped gadget, demonstrated its ability to alert you to the most important things in your life.
Using an app for either your Android or iOS handset, you'll be able to install cloud-based apps called "vidgets" that control your Feedair (pronounced like "feeder"). There will be vidgets for alerting you to the common things like email, news, and social media updates, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Future vidgets will allow seniors to get life-saving reminders to take their medicine, remind business people of appointments, and provide vital emergency alerts, all on the tiny red LED screen that currently hold 6 t0 7 characters at a time.
WOWFii CEO Simon Milner told us that giving news alerts to Sabbath-observant Jews is one of Feedair's most unusual but important use cases. Observant Jews are not allows to turn on electric devices from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday night, but they can glance at a device that has been on since before the start of the Sabbath. According to Milner, religious Jews in Israel could use the Feedair to get valuable alerts, even when they're not allowed to turn on a computer or a TV. He said the company is trying to have the device certified as kosher.
"If you respect the Shabbat, you're not allowed to operate certain things," he said. "Now you might want still to get your sports scores still streamed. You might want to know if there's impending disaster, tornado or tsunami coming in, and we are working with rabbis to get certification."
The Feedair can do more than simple alerts and reminders. It also supports messaging and seamless check-in. Milner explained that one person can send another person a message that will appear on their Feedair, but they will get a message back saying whether or not the person they messaged was actually at home to receive the update.
The Feedair can also help you step through an activity with time-based notifications. Milner described a cookbook vidget that will first display all the ingredients you need on your smartphone screen then, on the Feedair screen, give you each of the steps in order (ex: "cut the onions"), pausing a few minutes between each step to allow you to complete that action.
"It doesn't say sautee the onions for two minutes," Milner said. "It says 'start sauteeing the onions.' Two minutes later it says 'add the tomatoes.'"
If you leave the house after putting your food in the oven, the seamless check-in feature knows how far you are from your house and lets you know when it's time to head back so you can prevent your food from getting burnt. While we can't recommend someone leave the house with the oven on, this does sound like a helpful use of technology.
The Feedair will be available in black, pink. blue, or silver colors in the first half of this year. It supports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and is powered over USB, though it will come with an AC adapter that's appropriate for the country you buy it in.
We can see users buying four or five Feedairs to place in different areas of the home -- bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, livingroom, etc -- so they can be alerted to the most important information no matter where they go within the home. Whether you have one or eight, the Feedair could be an inexpensive, but helfpul addition to our digital life, a bat phone for what really matters.