The debut of electric pickups signals a new EV era

Several companies rolled out electric pickups in 2019. Tesla’s Cybertruck got most of the attention, but don’t sleep on General Motors and Ford — bringing electric pickups to market is critical for the viability of electric vehicles.

Automakers build vehicles around shared components. These platforms, the underpinnings of the vehicles, often live for 10 or more years, and are critical to each automaker’s economic stability. The exterior sheet metal might change, but dozens of models often share the frame, powertrain and electrical components.

Electric pickup platforms offer vehicle makers a new revenue source. Instead of building electric vehicles designed to move people, these platforms can move goods. That’s key to building a long-term strategy around electric vehicles.

Look at Ford, whose best-selling F-150 is just a portion of its success. From the F-150, the automaker has dozens of commercial vehicles built off platforms that share components. If Ford can produce an electric pickup — which it says it’s doing alongside startup Rivian — Ford will be able to electrify its commercial offering more quickly.

Specific vehicle platforms are perfect for electrification. Vehicles with a predictable driving route like municipal vehicles, delivery vans and even hearses could benefit from electric powertrains.

Electric powertrains have long offered advantages over internal combustion; electric counterparts feature fewer moving parts and are now often smaller, allowing for more interior space. And then there’s the torque that gives electric vehicles near-superhero strength.

How companies are working around Apple’s ban on vaping apps

Apple banned vaping apps in November 2019. Since then, the company has said very little about its decision, leaving many companies upset and confused about its blanket prohibition.

Three months later, companies are working around Apple’s ban. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Apple’s wide-sweeping ban on vaping affected apps from Juul, Pax and many others, including apps that calculate electrical resistance because they can be used to build vape components. It appears to have hit the cannabis industry at a higher rate than tobacco, as few tobacco vapes have a companion application.

The removal was sudden but not unexpected, given the climate at the time. In 2019, the vaping industry suffered a crisis as the Centers for Disease Control stumbled through a health scare caused by illicit products. Industry experts quickly identified a filler additive as the source of the illnesses, but these reports were ignored for months, creating widespread panic. Consumer sentiment promptly settled on the conclusion that all vapes are harmful, even when clear data shows the opposite. Vapes sourced through legal means are proven to be safer alternatives than other consumption methods.

It’s important to note Apple didn’t disable the apps or force the removal from phones. Apps that had already been downloaded continued to work, though they could not be updated.

CES takes half-baked stance on cannabis

A cannabis company won a CES award for 2020. Called Keep, the desktop storage device features biometric security to secure cannabis products, and looks good while doing it. The CTA gave them an Innovations Award Nominee in October and then weeks later told the company they were unable to use the word “cannabis” when exhibiting.

Keep Labs decided to stay home and not exhibit at the massive Consumer Electronics Show, potentially missing out on distribution deals, funding and increased brand awareness.

Vaporizers, cannabis and tobacco alike have long been found on the CES show floor. They’re often hidden under different names, like aromatherapy devices. This year is different. They’re gone from the show floor. I spent hours in the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo center. The vapes are missing from the 2020 show.

That could change, according to a spokesperson for CES. The trade group behind the show is evaluating if cannabis has a place at CES.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) runs CES. It’s the largest such trade event in the world and attended by some 200,000 people. After speaking with a CTA spokesperson, it’s clear the trade organization knows its under close scrutiny and yet it’s still willing to blur lines to allow some companies ancillarily to cannabis to exhibit. That is, if they don’t talk about the device’s true intention.

In the past, sex tech was explicitly banned, so companies like OhMiBod exhibited under Health and Wellness. Vaporizers could be categorized as aromatherapy devices. Emails obtained by TechCrunch show the CTA has told cannabis-adjacent companies it can exhibit if cannabis is not mentioned on the show floor.

Keep Labs submitted its cannabis storage device exhibit under the “Home Storage” category. Upon its acceptance, the CTA nominated the device to the coveted Innovation Award and told the company it could present, as long as it doesn’t mention cannabis. You see, to the CTA, Keep Labs’ product is acceptable as it could have another purpose other than storing cannabis gummies; it could, in theory, be used to store candy gummies. Keep Labs told TechCrunch that avoiding saying “cannabis” goes against the company’s best interest, so it decided to skip the show.

Canopy Growth operates several prominent brands in the cannabis space. Like Keep Labs, it feels CES is not the right place to exhibit its wares if true intentions need to be hidden.

The Canadian company announced a new line of vape pens and cartridges in late 2019. With smart features and an app component, it would be perfect fodder among CES’ high-tech exhibits. The company also owns Storz-Bickel, a vaporizer company with historic roots that could exhibit in this CES gray area.

Canopy Growth acknowledges it’s banned from the show while some smaller competitors are able to exhibit by skirting the rules.

Canopy Growth CTO Peter Popplewell tells TechCrunch he still attends CES. It’s essential for him and Canopy Growth’s brands, even if the company isn’t exhibiting. For him, as the CTO, he’s meeting with component makers and suppliers.

“As the largest producer of legally produced medical and recreational cannabis and hemp products, and now a hardware manufacturer, Canopy Growth is constantly looking for ways to provide next-generation innovation to our customers and enhance their cannabis experience,” Popplewell told TechCrunch. “Within its portfolio of brands, Canopy has brought to market five different vaporizer products this fiscal year and our R&D pipeline is full of exciting developments.

“CES is the tradeshow where I am able to meet with a host of component manufacturers that help us develop safety features on our devices — such as accurate temperature control and locking the devices to address the unique needs and concerns of cannabis users,” Popplewell said.

Pax is one of the largest cannabis hardware companies and does not exhibit at CES. To be clear, Pax still has a presence in Las Vegas during CES, even though it’s not at the show itself. Like many companies at CES, Pax holds meetings and attends third-party events during CES. This lets the company bypass the CTA’s rules and still access CES attendees.

Earlier this week Pax released its Era Pro vaporizer that features PodID, a clever feature that brings a lot of information to the user.

Pax VP of Policy Jeff Brown, tells TechCrunch he’s puzzled by the CTA’s stance.

“CTA’s stubborn refusal to allow cannabis companies on the show floor is both comic and puzzling,” Brown said. “Cannabis is fully legal in Las Vegas, and there are multiple dispensaries within a mile of the convention center. Inside, companies offer an open bar in their booth, and hundreds walk the floor with a drink in hand.

“Nobody is asking to consume at CES,” Brown added. “There’s a lot of interesting technology being developed to take the guesswork out of weed. There are vaporizers with apps that tell consumers what they’re smoking, they detail the chemical attributes, and provide controls to measure each dose. There’s even a numeric lock to make the vaporizer unusable by children.”

As he told TechCrunch, this technology is legal, and cannabis itself is legal in 33 states and Canada.

“Unfortunately, you’re not going to learn about it at CES,” Brown said.

Right now, even in 2020, there are ways around the CTA’s ban. In the case of Keep Labs, the CTA granted the company permission to exhibit — as long as cannabis wasn’t mentioned. The company decided that to exhibit without saying “cannabis” wouldn’t do the brand justice. They don’t want to shy away from cannabis.

This is the puzzling part. The CTA will let companies exhibit, as long as their true intentions are hidden. The CTA used to do the same with sex toys, too.

In the run-up to the 2019 show, the CTA awarded sextech maker Lori DiCarlo with an Innovations Award. It later rescinded the award after the trade organization decided it was too sexy for CES. Fallout followed and expanded as the show opened, and sextech was found throughout the show floor, despite the ban affecting Lori DiCarlo. As with cannabis, the CTA allowed sextech under the guise of as “personal massagers” alongside therapy and sports massagers in the Health and Wellness category.

The CTA introduced the Sex Tech category for the 2020 show on a trial basis. I’m told the category will likely live on to future shows, too. This is how the CTA operates, the CTA told TechCrunch. It trials a category, and then if it works out, the category is rolled into the show.

“For us, cannabis is a tough decision,” a CTA spokesperson told TechCrunch. “It’s complicated, and the laws are changing quickly. We are watching closely, and I would not be surprised if, at some point in the future, it was part of the show.”

The CTA tells TechCrunch it continually looks at the regulatory environment, pointing out that cannabis is still an illicit substance at the federal level in the United States. The CTA however acknowledges cannabis is legal in the state of Nevada.

Nevada is one of the 33 states in the United States where cannabis is legal in some form. In Nevada, it’s legal to consume for recreational uses. The state law allows for cannabis consumption in a private residence, making it illegal to consume in a hotel, public space or convention center. There are dozens of cannabis dispensaries within miles of CES.

Cortney Smith’s vaporizer company DaVinci is based in Las Vegas and has exhibited at CES a handful of times. As he tells TechCrunch, the company didn’t have a problem presenting on the show floor, but “didn’t paste pot leaves all over.”

Smith explained that he feels the CTA’s radar has grown more sensitive in part by the vaporizer scare in 2019.

“In the past, [cannabis products weren’t] challenged,” Smith said. “So when we were there, as a cannabis vaporizer, we did not get scrutinized because [the CTA] was not on alert.”

DaVinci isn’t exhibiting this year despite recently launching a new product. The dry herb DaVinci IQ2 just hit the market and is among a new crop of vaporizers designed to bring more transparency to cannabis use. It uses on-device processing to track and record active compounds produced per draw. The sleek device and smartphone app would look at home among the latest gadgets found at CES.

As he puts it, if CES doesn’t want the business, there’s an opportunity for other trade shows to pick up cannabis products and run with it.

“CES has competition,” Smith said. “There are other consumer electronics shows around the world that would love to steal their thunder and star power. And the chance [the CTA] takes when they limit their innovation — like no sex toys or no cannabis — it gives the opportunity to some other electronics show to welcome adult toys or adult devices. So I guess they’re willing to make this compromise to play it safe.”

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

GM to release an electric Hummer pickup, per report

General Motors could be bringing back the Hummer brand. According to this report by The Wall Street Journal, an all-electric Hummer pickup will be sold under the GMC brand and LeBron James is enlisted to help market the vehicle.

There are no details about the pickup’s capability, including electric range or seating capacity.

The move revives one of GM’s more controversial brands and pushes it in a different direction. The Hummer brand was often known for its large, quasi-capable SUVs. The Hummer H2 was the poster child for gas-guzzling vehicles in the early 2000s. The brand’s revival and electric revamp might confuse consumers accustomed with the Hummer of old.

The vehicle is set to be announced during the Super Bowl with an advertisement featuring LeBron James, the WSJ says. If that’s true, the auto maker is likely set to bring the model to market in a year or two. That’s along the same timeline as another classic brand goes electric — the Ford Mustang.

CES awards cannabis company then bans it from mentioning cannabis when exhibiting

Keep Labs won an Innovation Award Honoree award for CES 2020 but is banned from saying the word “cannabis” on the CES show floor. Weeks later, the CTA, the trade group behind CES, told Keep Labs it could only exhibit if the company’s signage, marketing materials, and the product is free from cannabis product and paraphernalia.

To be named as an honoree is a significant honor for any company, but with Keep Labs, it’s historic. Keep is a product designed explicitly for cannabis, and this is the first time a company centered around marijuana has won an award from CES.

Because of the strict guidelines, Keep Labs decided it wasn’t in its best interest to exhibit at CES despite winning one of its top awards. The company is currently featured on the CES website, among other Innovation Award Honorees, where the word “cannabis” is used throughout the description.

Keep smart storage

Keep is a discreet desktop storage device designed to keep cannabis fresh and locked away. It looks like a smart speaker with a clock, but if you engage the biometric lock, the top opens, revealing several storage containers for cannabis products. With mobile alerts, a built-in scale and a hermetic seal, the device is purpose-built to be an ideal spot to store and secure weed.

The company was founded by two Canadian dads looking for a more secure way to store edibles. Their story is familiar: A friend unknowingly consumed cannabis gummies from an unmarked container. This led the founders to try to find a safe place to store cannabis items. Unable to find such a device, Ben Gliksman, a venture capital attorney with 10 years of experience, and Philip Wilkins, who previously built and sold two companies, set out to build their own.

Available in chalk white and slate black, the device is beautiful and achieves its goal of securing cannabis without hiding. This storage container would look at home on a bedside stand or hallway table.

Facial recognition keeps the device locked. If Keep is tempered with, the owner gets a smartphone notification. An airtight seal keeps things fresh and contains odors. Inside, separate containers keep things organized. There’s even a removable rolling tray and space for accessories. A battery allows owners to use the device anywhere.

This is Keep Labs’ first product, and the company is conducting its own fundraising campaign. At the time of writing, the Keep is available for pre-order for CAD 199.

The CTA awarded Keep Labs the Innovations Award Nominee honor on October 15. On December 4, the CTA gave the company the restrictions on exhibiting.

I spoke with Keeps Lab co-founder Philip Wilkins after the company first heard of the restrictions. At that time, in early December, the company still planned on attending and exhibiting the award. Later, the company had a change of heart.

Now, Wilkins tells TechCrunch that without being able to mention or talk about cannabis, they wouldn’t be doing the brand justice. The CTA had lumped them in with “storage solutions and appliance for the home.” Shying away from cannabis goes against everything they believe in. They aren’t a home storage solution, the company says, and that’s not why they won the award.

There’s a stigma around cannabis tech, Wilkins said, adding Keep Labs’ product is lumped in with “bongs and blunts.”

The company’s ban from CES is the latest hurdle facing Keep Labs. The company previously attempted to list its product on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but neither platform would allow it, because of the word “cannabis.”

Instead, the company launched a self-ran crowdfunding campaign. Right now, 805 backers have pre-ordered the device for CAD 199. The campaign is at 77% with just under two months to go before the self-imposed deadline of March 1, 2020.

Wilkins told TechCrunch the company is in the middle of mass-producing the product and are looking for additional distribution channels as well as venture capital investors who understand the need and cannabis space.

CES, Las Vegas and Cannabis

Cannabis and e-cigarette products are historically banned from CES. Vape makers like Pax and Puffco and Juul have been unable to exhibit, but with the Keep Labs award, it felt like the CTA was softening its stance. After all, Keep Laps doesn’t make a consumption product, but rather a storage product. The distinction seems significant.

The trade association issued TechCrunch the following statement: “There are no cannabis or e-cigarette products on the exhibit floor at CES, as the show does not have a category pertaining to that market. Given cannabis is not a category at CES, the company was able to exhibit under the terms they’d showcase their product as a storage device,” adding later “Keeps Lab (sic) fit in the Home Appliances category for the Innovation Awards.”

Exhibiting at CES can lead to significant growth for companies. Buyers, distributors, bankers alike attend the show in the hopes of adding companies and products to their portfolios. For a startup like Keep Labs, it can lead to retail distribution, financial capital and valuable industry partners. And being nominated as an Innovation Award Nominee shines a spotlight, making deals even more accessible.

Over 180,000 people attended last year’s show, including over 6,500 members of the media.

There are other ways of being at CES than through conventional means. Many companies take up private spaces throughout Las Vegas, in hotel rooms, and in other conference centers. This lets companies access the CES attendees in more private settings. However, by nature, these spaces are invite-only, which eliminates a lot of opportunities for the companies.

For cannabis companies, renting a hotel room bypasses the CTA’s rules, but not Nevada state laws. In the state of Nevada marijuana is legal to consume in private residence, but banned from consumption in parks, dispensaries and hotels. This means there isn’t — really — a place Las Vegas visitors can legally consume cannabis. And for cannabis companies looking to make deals, there are few legal locations where they can demonstrate their products.

Banned Tech

This incident smells familiar. In the run-up to the 2019 show, the CTA awarded sex-tech startup Lora DiCarlo with the same award only later to rescind it. The CTA told TechCrunch at the time that the Lora DiCarlo Osé does not fit into exciting product categories, and the company should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program.

The CTA drew widespread criticism for revoking Lora DiCarlo’s award.

TechCrunch confirmed at the time the CTA also prohibited Lora DiCarlo from exhibiting at CES, citing the company doesn’t fit a product category. However, other sex tech companies were on the show floor that year.

Past CES shows featured sex-tech companies, including a virtual reality porn company in 2017 and a sex toy robot for men in 2018. This 2020 year’s show will be sexual wellness company OhMiBod’s tenth year exhibiting at CES. In years past, the company launched wellness products, including a Kegel exerciser and in 2019, when Lora DiCarlo was banned, an Apple Watch-controlled vibrator.

“There is an obvious double-standard when it comes to sexuality and sexual health,” Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock wrote last year. “While there are sex and sexual health products at CES, it seems that CES/CTA administration applies the rules differently for companies and products based on the gender of their customers. Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle. Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outright banned.”

In the CTA’s letter to Lora DiCarlo, obtained by TechCrunch, the CTA cited a clause that explained how entries deemed “in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with the CTA’s image will be disqualified. CTA reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any entry at any time which, in CTA’s opinion, endangers the safety or well being of any person, or fails to comply with these Official Rules. CTA decisions are final and binding.”

CES or Bust

The cannabis market is exploding. In the United States, the substance is legal in 11 states, with Illinois becoming the latest to allow the sale and consumption for recreational use. Public support for legal pot hit an all-time high in 2019, according to this CBS News Poll. Over 30 states have legalized it to some degree, and more will follow.

Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, where Keep Labs is based.

The sheer demand raises the question of the CTA’s slow acceptance of cannabis-related products. As a trade group, it’s tasked with promoting policy that leads to growth within the consumer electronics world, and cannabis tech are quickly becoming a lucrative industry with broad acceptance across demographics.

Someone within the CTA sees the appeal of the Keep device. By awarding it with one of its top honors, the CTA is celebrating the responsible use of cannabis. And yet, by requesting the company hide its intended purpose while exhibiting, it is seemingly forcing cannabis back into the shadows.

Apply to present your startup at TechCrunch’s CES Pitch Night

CES is a magical place full of gizmos, gadgets and communicable diseases.

TechCrunch is hosting another pitch-off event this year. Called Pitch Night, selected early stage companies will take the stage and have 60 seconds to present their wares to TechCrunch editorial and industry experts.

This event is free. Obtain a ticket here. Want to pitch at the event? Apply below.

This Vegas Pitch Night isn’t a polished show with massive screens, celebrity guests and life-changing cash prizes. This event is quick and efficient, held in a coworking event space outside of downtown Vegas. There will be coolers of beer, sodas and whatever snacks we can find at a 7-11.

We’ve held these events for years and they’re among our favorite to host. There are countless startups in town for CES and we just want to hang out away from the noise of the Vegas strip.

Space is very limited. Register as soon as possible.

All the high-tech, powerful vehicles TechCrunch reviewed in 2019

TechCrunch occasionally reviews cars. Why? Vehicles are some of the most complex, technical consumer electronics available. It’s always been that way. Vehicles, especially those available for the consumer, are the culmination of bleeding-edge advancements in computing, manufacturing, and material sciences. And some can go fast — zoom zoom.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve looked at a handful of vehicles from ultra-luxury to the revival of classic muscle cars. It’s been a fun year full of road trips and burnouts.

In the last weeks of 2018, we drove Audi’s first mass-produced electric vehicle. The familiar e-tron SUV.

I spent a day in an Audi e-tron and drove it hundreds of miles over Abu Dhabi’s perfect tarmac, around winding mountain roads and through sand-covered desert passes. The e-tron performs precisely how a buyer expects a mid-size Audi SUV to perform. On the road, the e-tron is eager and quiet, while off the road, over rocks, and through deep sand, it’s sturdy and surefooted.

Read the review here.

A few months later, we got an Audi RS 5 Sportback for a week. It was returned with significantly thinner tires.

This five-door sedan is raw and unhinged, and there’s an unnatural brutality under the numerous electronic systems. Its twin-turbo 2.9L power plant roars while the Audi all-wheel drive system keeps the rubber on the tarmac. It’s insane, and like most vacations, it’s lovely to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live with the RS 5.

Read the review here.

At the end of Spring, a 2019 Bentley Continental GT blew us away.

The machine glides over the road, powered by a mechanical symphony performing under the hood. The W12 engine is a dying breed, and it’s a shame. It’s stunning in its performance. This is a 200 mph vehicle, but I didn’t hit those speeds. What surprised me the most is that I didn’t need to go fast. The new Continental GT is thrilling in a way that doesn’t require speed. It’s like a great set of speakers or exclusive liquor. Quality over quantity, and in this mechanical form, the quality is stunning.

Read the review here.

In late May, we drove Audi’s 2019 Q8 from Michigan to New York City and back. To the passengers, it was comfortable. For the driver (me), it was unpleasant.

Yet after spending a lot of time in the Q8, I found it backwards. Most crossovers provide the comfort of a sedan with the utility of an SUV. This one has the rough comfort of an SUV with the limited utility of a sedan. Worse yet, driving the Q8 around town can be a frustrating experience.

Read the review here.

2019 bmw i8 1

The BMW i8 is a long for this world, so we took it out for one last spin, several years after reviewing it just after it was released.

The BMW i8 is just a stepping stone in BMW’s history. An oddball. It’s a limited-edition vehicle to try out new technology. From what I can tell, BMW never positioned the i8 as a top seller or market leader. It was an engineer’s playground. I love it.

Read the review here.

2020 gt500 3

This fall, we went to Las Vegas to get the first taste of Ford’s latest GT500. It’s exhilarating and yet manageable.

During my short time with the 2020 GT500, I never felt overwhelmed with power when driving it on city streets. The 2020 GT500 is an exercise in controlled restraint. Somehow this 760 HP Ford can hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and still be easy to putz around town. It’s surprising and a testament to the advances made within Dearborn.

Read the review here.

McLaren Senna GTR doors

Supercars are often an exercise in excess, and yet the McLaren Senna GTR is something different. It’s a testament to how McLaren operates.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, I feel at home. The cockpit is purposeful. The track was cold with some damp spots, and the GTR is a stiff, lightweight race car with immense power on giant slick tires. Conventional wisdom would suggest the driver — me in this case — should slowly work up to speed in these otherwise treacherous conditions. However, the best way to get the car to work is to get the temperature in the tires by leaning on it a bit right away. Bell sent me out in full “Race” settings for both the engine and electronic traction and stability controls. Within a few corners — and before the end of the lap — I had a good feel for the tuning of the ABS, TC, and ESC, which were all intuitive and minimally invasive.

Read the review here.

Quick thoughts on other cars we drove this year.

2020 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
A grand tourer for the modest millionaire. With all-wheel drive, a glorious engine, and heated armrests, the 850i is exciting and comfortable anywhere.

2019 Ford GT350
Forget the GT500. The GT350, with a standard gearbox and naturally aspirated 5.2L V8, is a pony car that gives the driver more control and more thrills than its more expensive, supercharged cousin.

2020 BMW M2 Competition Coupe
This small BMW coupe is perfectly balanced. It’s powerful, controllable, and, during our week with it, gave endless thrills (and donuts). This was my favorite car this year.

2019 Ford Raptor
Need a pickup that’s faster than a sports car? You probably don’t, but if so, we discovered the Raptor was capable and enjoyable if not a bit unwieldy in traffic thanks to its wide body.

Gift Guide: 10 gadgets for a smarter smart home

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

When it comes to smart home stuff, once you start, it’s hard to stop. As soon as you’ve got one light that you can turn on and off from your phone, you’ll want five.

As such, smart home gear can make great gifts for anyone who’s already started making their way down that rabbit hole.

Alas, there’s a lot of bad smart home hardware out there — mystery devices from brands no one has heard of, with apps that hardly work out of the box and will probably just silently stop working altogether the next time there’s a big iOS or Android update.

Looking to help someone make their already smart home a little smarter? Here’s some of the stuff we liked this year:

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

TP-Link Kasa Plug

Smart plugs are a great way to introduce a person to the connected home. The TP-Link Kasa plugs are inexpensive but work with every popular voice assistant and smart phone. Smart plugs let you turn a basic lamp or coffee maker into a smart device without replacing the things they already own.

Price: $28 for a two-pack on Amazon

Wyze Cam Pan

The Wyze Cam Pan packs a lot of features for the price. At $35 the small 1080p camera pans, tilts, and zooms, and sports a low-light mode. Best of all, the Wyze cam works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for things like “Alexa, show me a view of the living room on my office TV”. It’s by far the best smart home camera for the price.

(If you don’t need it to tilt/pan/etc on command, there’s also a $25 version without all that.)

Price: $35 on Amazon

Echo Dot with Clock

The Echo Dot with Clock is part of the Amazon Alexa family. It’s slightly more expensive than the ubiquitous Echo Dot… but it has a built-in clock! The clock makes this thing way more useful when you’re not actually talking to it — and, fortunately, unlike the Echo Spot, there’s no built-in camera to make it extra weird to put on your bedside table. One catch: these keep going in and out of stock, so they might be a pain to get this late in the game.

Price: $35 on Amazon

Nanoleaf Canvas

The Nanoleaf Canvas is a new type of wall art. It’s an interactive, fun way to splash a wall with light and design. The panels snap together allowing the owner to create and recreate designs to fit their life and space.

Price: $180 for a starter kit of 9 tiles


The Ember is a smart coffee mug. No, really. The Ember uses an internal heater to keep the drink at an ideal temperature as set by the user via a companion app. If the coffee drinker in your life is more of an all-day coffee sipper, the Ember should bring joy to their life.

Price: $100 on Amazon


Some people love plants but hate watering. That’s where the Dewplanter comes in by capturing and filter water in the air. It works as dehumidifier — but instead of dumping excess water into a bin, it waters a plant. A control panel allows the owner to set the desired water amount. Set it and forget it and get a green thumb without any skill. Low maintenance plants like evergreens, ferns, violets and aloe plants work best.

Price: $50 


It’d be nice if we could all be home with our dogs 100% of the time — but for most people, that’s just not the case. Furbo is part web cam and part treat dispenser. Using a smartphone app, dog owners can monitor and interact with their pets, remotely tossing out treats when your pup does something good. Dog-friendly color signals and sounds are designed to get attention, while real-time updates and a camera let owners gain insight in their pet’s life from afar. Need to know when Mr. Boots starts barking so the neighbors don’t complain? Furbo can listen for barking and send you notifications accordingly.

Price: $134


The Weber iGrill is a fantastic thermometer designed for grilling. Wireless connectivity brings the grill into the modern era, allowing the user to check the meat’s temperature from a smartphone and without opening the grill. A magnetic base sticks the control unit to the side of the grill and the probes are designed to withstand searing heat.

The iGrill Mini is around $50 and includes Bluetooth connectivity. The slightly more expensive iGrill 2 adds a LED display to the base unit and an extra probe, while the priciest model, iGrill 3, has more battery life and the extra probe but is only designed to be permanently mounted directly on the side of specific Weber grills.

Price: iGrill Mini, $45 on Amazon | iGrill 2, $65 on Amazon | iGrill 3, $80 on Amazon

Casper Glow Light

The Casper Glow Light makes going to bed and waking up a bit easier. The light is warm, and gradually dims to assist in falling asleep. Likewise, there’s an alarm function that slowly turns on to help knock the sleeper out of a deep slumber. The $129 Casper stands apart from other light alarm clocks in several ways. One, it works as a lantern, allowing the owner to carry it throughout the home and recharges using a bed-side dock. The Glow Light’s design is simple and durable; it can likely survive a fall off a table. Most importantly, the clock is managed with a smartphone app eliminating the need to use clunky, on-device controls.

Price: $129 

Sonos Move

Sonos Move 11

For the Sonos lover in your life, the Move speaker fills a massive hole that existed in Sonos’ lineup for far too long: portable speakers. The Move brings all of Sonos’ features to a speaker designed to move around the owner’s house. And it sounds great, too, with full, expansive sound able to fill any room. At $399 the Move is more expensive than competitors, but for someone who has already embraced the Sonos concept, the connectivity and ecosystem is worth the price of admission.

Price: $399 on Amazon

Lucid Motors breaks ground on its $700 million Arizona factory

Lucid Motors today is breaking ground on its manufacturing facility. Located in Casa Grande, Arizona, the factory will be used to build the Lucid Motor Lucid Air electric sedan. According to the company, production will begin in late 2020.

This groundbreaking is the latest step taken by Lucid Motor towards getting the Lucid Air on the streets. Earlier this year, the company hired Peter Hochholdinger to head up its manufacturing operations. Hochholdinger came to Lucid Motors after a two-year stint at Tesla, where he oversaw its Fremont, CA factory as well as other sites around the world. Before Tesla, he was a senior director of production at Audi.

Last September, Lucid Motors secured $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which the company said at the time would be used to finance the commercial launch of the Lucid Air. Lucid Motors it will invest over $700 million into the Casa Grande factory by the mid-2020s.

“The Lucid Air is a cutting-edge electric vehicle designed, engineered, and destined for manufacture entirely in America,” said Peter Rawlinson, CEO, and CTO, Lucid Motors. “We are proud to be moving forward on our commitment to manufacturing the Lucid Air in Casa Grande. With supportive investors, an outstanding team of designers and engineers, and a product strategy that extends well beyond the Air, we expect today to be just the start of a longstanding presence in this dynamic city.”

Lucid Motor’s Casa Grande facility is said to result in approximately 4,800 direct and indirect jobs by 2029. It’s also estimated to produce $32 billion revenue impact for the city and county over 20 years.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a rebased statement that attracting a high-tech automotive company such as Lucid Motors is a testament to Arizon’s talent, business environment, and geographical location.

Lucid Motors says it picked this location after a search that included 13 US states and 60 sites. It says that it chose the area based on business climate, infrastructure, talent, location, and the Arizona-Sonora region’s automotive supply chain.

Lucid Motors was founded ten years ago with a different name and mission. Then called Atieva, the company focused on electric car battery technology until 2016 when it changed its name as it shifted to producing electric vehicles.

Top mobility VCs discuss their current investment strategies

The mobility industry is rapidly shifting to readjust for an electric and autonomous future.

Automotive companies are increasingly looking outside the manufacturing sector to fuel growth, and companies that used to bank on selling vehicles are now building mobility apps, scooters, and subscription services. Detroit is turning to to Silicon Valley for fresh ideas while Silicon Valley is studying Detroit for proven methods.

We surveyed top VCs in the mobility sector to see where they’re putting their money, and one thing quickly became apparent — investors are funding startups that bring connectivity to mobility. From automobile components to social apps, connectivity is critical to investors and the industry alike.

Reilly Brennan, general partner, Trucks VC
Michael Granoff, managing partner, Maniv Mobility
Jim Adler, founding managing director, Toyota AI Ventures
Dr. Ulrich Quay, managing partner, BMW i Ventures

Answers were edited for clarity.

Reilly Brennan, general partner, Trucks VC

Where are you investing in the automotive space?

We invest in startups that make transportation safer, cleaner, and more accessible. Anything that moves goods or people is interesting to us. We are first interested in exceptional founders, then exceptional ideas. For example, we just invested in a new type of car wash that doesn’t use any soap or chemicals; although it was never our intent to seek out that idea, we really believed in the founders’ vision for making it happen.

Which areas in automotive offer the most opportunity for startups?

There are many big opportunities across transportation — such is the case when you’re operating in markets measured in trillions. Right now, I am more convinced than ever that there is a 10-figure opportunity for a new navigation app — it’s one of the few/only transportation-related apps on everyone’s home screen. Still, the leaders are mostly incumbents (Apple Maps, Google Maps), where the products are good but haven’t made fundamental leaps in years or an app like Waze, which is high utility but low user experience. Other than YouTube, Waze is probably Google’s only social network, although I doubt they think of it like that. For how important navigation is and will be, we’ve been surprised more founders don’t create more there because the value is high. If you are working on something in this space, please email me! [email protected]

What makes a startup attractive for investment from OEMs?
Most OEMs are interested in companies that support their future product vision. Every once in a while, you will find an OEM with an alternative strategy that does not invest in supporting their products, but these are quite rare. As a result, startups who are actively selling in the auto supply chain are the best positioned for auto investment. Remember that many OEMs passed on investing in Uber in the early days.

Dr. Ulrich Quay, managing partner, BMW i Ventures