The Consumer Electronics show isn't traditionally considered a venue for truck guys. It's generally seen as a place where big TVs and game consoles are on display. Yet we discovered at this year's show plenty of gadgets are out there that can make life easier; here are the 25 best from the show. There are tough components built for hard work, gear for long-distance travel, products for shops and garages, cool items for camping and the outdoors, and much more. Whether you've grudgingly given in to the smartphone era or have completely embraced the digital age, there's bound to be something here for you. Since the show is often a preview of things that will be on sale in the future, pricing was not yet available for these products.
GammaTech's Durabook CA10 semi-rugged tablet is dust-, water-, drop-, and shock-resistant (it meets Military 810G and IP43 standards and withstood drop tests from four feet). It has a 10.1-inch TFT LCD display, and its battery setup provides 8 hours of power. The tablet was designed with mobile service in mind, including fleet management, field service workers (like those who work in the utilities), and delivery services. It offers wireless connectivity, and features like a bar-code scanner, credit card reader, and GPS technology are available. It will work in temperatures as low as 0 degrees F.
2) ZoneGuard +
Eton is a company known for equipment that can be helpful when camping or in an emergency. One of the newest products the company offers the American Red Cross ZoneGuard +. It includes an AM/FM radio, alarm clock, provides NOAA weather alerts, has color-coded light alerts, and uses S.A.M.E. technology. With S.A.M.E., enter your county code, and ZoneGuard + will inform you of local weather advisories, warnings, and watches, for up to 25 different locations. There is a base station and two wireless battery-powered modules that can be used in different areas of your property, such as in the garage or the barn. All can be powered by AC adapter or AA batteries.
These are a cost-effective alternative to other waterproof containers already on the market. aLOKSAK bags are resealable, flexible, and also air- and dustproof. You can use them to store valuables and electronics while camping, out on the boat, or in the snow or mud, and you can still use anything with a touch screen while it's in the bag. aLOKSAK is certified waterproof to 200 feet. Other products include OPSAK (also seals in odors), SPLASHSAK (nylon carrying cases), and SHIELDSAK (RF shield pouch).
If you enjoy working in the garage or outside, but don't like having to cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder while working with tools, a Bluetooth headset is a DIYer's best solution. You can answer the phone when it rings, yet still work on your project without interruption. BlueAnt's Endure is a rugged Bluetooth headset that provides clear audio in winds up to 25 mph, and is protected against dust and moisture. The headset will announce the name of the caller; you can say "Answer" or "Ignore."
5) Garmin Fleet Management
Garmin introduced a portable fleet-management GPS. The fleet 590 allows fleet owners to track their trucks and observe the driving habits of the drivers. It uses a 5-inch touch screen, "black box," cable, and antenna, can be used for communication between HQ and a driver, and was designed to be easy to move from one vehicle in the fleet to another. The system allows fleet owners to track vehicles 24 hours a day, making sure that deliveries are on schedule and that supplies are getting where they're supposed to get, on time. There's also an electronic time clock, so data about the job can be logged on site. In addition, monitoring driving behavior can help pinpoint causes of wear and tear on the fleet, and can help the trucks last longer. The fleet 590 can also improve fuel efficiency by detecting excessive engine idling.
6) Flower Power
Don't let the light-hearted name fool you; the Flower Power is a serious tool. It can help everyone from landscapers and orchard operators to guys who want the greenest lawn on the block. Each unit is a smart wireless sensor. Place the sensor at the base of the plant -- which can include trees, flowers, fruit and vegetables, and grass -- and it measures sunlight, humidity, temperature, and fertilizer. You use a smartphone or tablet with a free app, enter the type of plant the Flower Power is monitoring, and it uses the data, sent by Bluetooth, to let you know if the plants need to be taken care of. Parrot's library includes more than 6000 plants, so you can get highly accurate data about your specific plant species.
7) Escort MobileTV
Not every RV or camper has a TV. However, Escort has a way that you can watch television while on the road. MobileTV is a digital receiver that lets you watch live television on iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Download a free app, connect the small receiver (1.3x1.6x0.5 inches, 0.65 oz) to the Apple device, launch the app, and watch TV. As of press time, MobileTV television service was available in 35 cities, with more coming. There's no subscription fee through 2013, and no wi-fi or data plan is required.
Magellan introduced new versions of its GPS devices for RVs and big-rigs, now both with smaller screens than before to make it easier to mount on a smaller dashboard. Seen here is the RoadMate Commercial 5370T-LMB GPS, with a 5-inch screen. It comes with a variety of features for professional drivers, such as truck-specific multi-destination routing that you can customize, a driving status log, state miles report, and Bluetooth. The RV model comes with the Good Sam Campground Directory and will let you plan your route based on the size category (A, B, C, etc.), type, and dimensions of your vehicle.
9) Energi Backpack
You're about ready to go on a camping trip, but aren't sure how to keep all your electronic devices charged. TYLT makes the Energi backpack, which can serve as a charging station. It uses a removable rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which can be charged from a USB port and can fully charge a smartphone up to four times; it also has enough energy to charge a tablet. The bag itself provides 190 cubic inches of space and 12 pockets, and you can route cords to five external pockets or two of the internal ones. It was also designed to meet TSA requirements: if you travel with a laptop, you can get through security without removing it from the bag. The Energi was built with extra drop protection, has stainless-steel zippers, and is available in three styles.
10) iRobot Looj 330
Robots aren't just found in factories and science-fiction movies; sometimes, they're around to help with projects that we don't really like doing. Take, for example, the Looj 330 from iRobot, the makers of the Roomba. You push a button, and it remotely cleans the rain gutters around your house. The Looj has a high-velocity auger that spins flaps that gets rid of leaves and dirt, and whatever else is clogging up the gutters. The remote control has a communications range of up to 50 feet, meaning that once you put the cleaner in the gutter, you can stand at the base of the ladder while the gutters are cleaned. It's also waterproof in up to 8 inches of water, takes about 5 minutes to clean a 30-foot section of gutter, and can clean 200 feet of gutter on a charge.
11) LoJack for Laptops
You've heard of LoJack -- the service that helps find and recover stolen vehicles? This is the equivalent for laptops, from Absolute Software. LoJack for Laptops is a software-based theft recovery service, which will let you remotely lock and delete files, locate stolen laptops, and protect personal data. This software is also designed to work, even after reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system. It uses a team of former law enforcement agents as Investigative Theft Recovery Officers who start working as soon as the police report is filed. It is a subscription service, with either standard or premium editions.
LoJack for Laptops
12) OtterBox Pursuit
This company is known for its durable, rugged, weatherproof cases. The Pursuit is the toughest OtterBox offers to date. It is waterproof to 100 feet, crushproof to 1000 pounds, and drop, and dustproof. It has been restyled for 2013 with a new look, and it's made from better materials. The latch is seamless, which helps seal the outdoors away from what you stow inside the case. It comes with cushioning inside and carabineer loops on the outside. There are two sizes: one that'll hold a smartphone or keys and cash (20 cubic inches) and another that can hold twice the amount of gear.