CES tech show gears up

Sep-16-2015-Blink-251-e1450900362715

LAS VEGAS–The International CES consumer electronics show gets underway later this week, but on Monday evening journalists were granted a sneak peek at some of the newest gadgets.

Massachusetts companies were well represented, including a surprising newcomer–Boston-based insurance company Liberty Mutual Group, which is promoting a smartphone app to track its customers’ driving habits.

“This is actually our first time having a booth,” said Jeffrey Wright, the company’s vice president of usage-based insurance. “It’s just a great opportunity to reach out.”

Like many insurance companies, Liberty Mutual offers a device that plugs into a car’s computer system, records driving patterns, like speed and braking habits, and relays this data to the insurance company. Safer driving habits lead to lower premiums for customer.

But Liberty Mutual is now rolling out a smartphone app called RightTrack that does the same thing using the phone’s built-in sensors, and eliminating the need for a separate monitoring device.

The company also announced a partnership with carmaker Subaru of America Inc. to offer RightTrack software for Subaru vehicles equipped with Starlink, a system that connects cars directly to the Internet.

Blink, a  wireless home security camera from Immedia Semiconductor of Andover, makes its debut at International CES, the giant consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas.   (John M. Blodgett for the Boston Globe)
Blink, a wireless home security camera from Immedia Semiconductor of Andover, makes its debut at International CES, the giant consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas. (John M. Blodgett for the Boston Globe)

Immedia Semiconductor Inc. of Andover, creator of the new Blink home security camera system, is also a CES newcomer. Immedia currently sells its products online, but vice president of sales and marketing Don Shulsinger hopes to win over some of the many retail executives who attend the show.

“I think retailers will look at us and see what we’ve managed to accomplish,” he said. “Our goal is to be in retail in 2016.”

Ecovent Corp. of Charlestown has been to CES before. But this year, chief executive Dipul Patel can talk about paying customers. About 20 people have retrofitted their homes with Ecovent’s “smart” ventilation system, which allows precise control of the airflow in each room of a house.

Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance shows off its RightTrack technology, which tracks safe driving habits, at the International CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. (John M. Blodgett for the Boston Globe)
Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance shows off its RightTrack technology, which tracks safe driving habits, at the International CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. (John M. Blodgett for the Boston Globe)

Patel said he’s mainly hoping to get feedback, not only from potential buyers, but from manufacturers and even people whom he might want to hire.

“There are a lot of pros here,” Patel said. “It’s really a huge deal for tech dorks.”

This year’s show features new security measures that will likely make the long lines common at the convention center even longer. For the first time, visitors’ bags will be subject to searches, and  attendees will have to pass through metal detectors before entering the convention center. Also the show will no longer offer on-site storage of visitors’ luggage; rolling bags of all kinds are forbidden; and visitors are urged not to bring backpacks with lots of pockets, because they’re harder to search.

Still, the Consumer Technology Association, which sponsors the annual show, expects that between 150,000 and 175,000 visitors will show up, compared to the 176,000 who attended last year.

Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. E-mail him at h_bray@globe.com.
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