CES: Home appliances get digital photo frames

Digital photo frames are reaching home appliances such as cordless phones and refrigerators, as will be evident at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to be held in Las Vegas from Jan. 7 to 10.

In an attempt to make refrigerators a central information hub, Whirlpool Corp. is plugging digital photo frames on its refrigerators to display digital images and provide news to users. General Electric Co. is putting digital photo frames on its upcoming PhotoPhones, which will also display images of callers on an LCD screen on the phone's base station. Also at CES, Sentry Group Inc. is expected to introduce its SentrySafe Fire-Safe/Waterproof Hard Drives.

2008 International CES

View more stories from 2008 International CES Whirlpool's Centralpark connection

Gadgets in a refrigerator are not new -- LG Electronics Inc.'s LSC27990TT refrigerator has a built-in 15-in. LCD high-definition television and video playback. Whirlpool is now replicating the concept of making refrigerators a hub of home activity through its Centralpark Connection effort, which is intended to mesh consumer electronics into refrigerators.

The first fruit of the effort is Whirlpool's GD5VVAXT refrigerator, which will be available with a removable digital photo frame from Ceiva Logic Inc. The photo frame, which sits in front of the refrigerator, replaces magnets used to hold printed pictures, according to the company. An internal Wi-Fi adapter allows users to send pictures wirelessly to the digital photo frame, or it can get users weather and news updates.

This is just the start, Whirlpool says, as its refrigerators will soon charge and play music from MP3 players or satellite radios, among other devices. Whirlpool is expected to announce partnerships at CES with companies to help turn the refrigerator into a digital hub.

The GD5VVAXT refrigerator is available for $1,999 in the U.S.

Fuse your cell and home phone

GE is expected to announce at CES its new PhotoPhone, a desk phone that displays the image of a caller on a base station's LCD screen. The phone also doubles as a digital picture frame and can pull thousands of images from a memory card plugged into the phone's flash-card slot, according to the company. GE is expected to further detail the phone at CES.

Also on display at CES will be GE's Cell Fusion cordless phone, with which users can receive and make calls from either a land line or a cell phone. The phone has one phone jack to connect to a land line and a Bluetooth interface that communicates with up to two Bluetooth-compatible cell phones in range, according to GE. After the Bluetooth cell phone is paired with the cordless phone, the handset can make, answer and display Caller ID of cell phone calls. It also conferences cell phone and land-line calls, according to GE. It is available for around $149 from online retailer Buy.com Inc.

Waterproof your hard drive

At CES, Sentry is expected to announce its SentrySafe Fire-Safe/Waterproof Hard Drives, which are intended to protect data on hard drives from fire and water disasters. Sitting in an enclosure that is both fire and water-resistant, the magnetic drive can resist fire up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit (843 degrees Celsius) for around 30 minutes and stay underwater for close to 24 hours, according to the company. The drives will be available in capacities of 80GB and 160GB, priced at $260 and $340 respectively. Sentry provides additional data protection with data encryption and system restoration software.

Fuel cell power pack

Fuel cells will soon reach the masses with Medis Technologies Ltd.'s Medis 24-7 Power Pack, which the company claims gives cell phones 30 hours of talk time and 60 to 80 hours of audio play time on an iPod. Using its proprietary direct liquid fuel cell technology (DLFC) as a power source, the company claims it is designed to power and charge the most common handheld electronics such as portable media players and handheld devices. It weighs about 185 grams and is slightly larger than a deck of cards, making it convenient to carry.

Two components -- the fuel cell product and the cartridge -- combine to recharge or power devices. Once the fuel cell cartridge is loaded into the Power Pack, the cell extracts fuel from a cartridge and generates power immediately. The starter kit will retail for around $29.99, and replacement packs will cost $19.99. The company says it will be available online or through retailers, including Kensington Technology Group.

The company declared that it will have one of the more innovative ecofriendly technologies at CES.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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