News's tech holiday gift guide, 2014

Image of bicycle with illuminated Revolights in a tunnel
The Revolights Skyline creates a bicycle headlight and tail light from a ring of LEDs that sync to your speed.

LED bike lights, smartphone-enabled slow cookers, night-light stuffies and more

Back by popular demand, here's our annual list is full of gift ideas that can help you be smart about how you use energy in your life.

Energy efficient computer displays

A new line of computer monitors from Philips is using sensors to automatically manage energy use. The ENERGY STARĀ® PowerSensor displays (24-inch: $249.99; 27-inch: $349.99) reduce brightness when they've detected that there's no one sitting in front of them, reducing the electricity drain by up to 80 per cent. And there's a convenient switch that turns the monitor off completely when you're done for the day.

Disney SoftPals night light

These adorable stuffies double as cuddle pals as well as night lights. Soft and squeezable, kids can carry them around or snuggle with them in bed without any risk of injury. Easy to charge with the provided base, they are turned on and off with a simple tilt. And because it's illuminated by LED these buddies are cool to the touch and energy efficient, too.

Available in Mickey, Minnie, and, from Monsters, Inc., Mikey and Sully ($29.99 each).

Image of boy with glowing Disney Soft Pal
The Disney SoftPals night light is soft, squeezable and, thanks to LED technology, cool to the touch.

Automatic power management for the home

Embertec has developed a method of automatically dealing with wasted electricity, and it's built into their power bars. The Emberplug AV+ ($89.95, available at is intended for home entertainment systems with TVs, cable boxes, and stereos, while the Emberplug PC+ ($89.95, available at is configured for home offices with computers, routers, and printers.

Both save electricity by automatically powering down accessories that aren't being used. And they turn on those devices when they're needed again. Plus, they provide surge protection for your electronics.

Crock-Pot 'smart' slow cooker

From Jarden and enabled by Belkin's WeMo technology, this slow cooker ($159.99; can be controlled from your smartphone. You can turn it on and off or even adjust cooking settings when away from the home through the WeMo app.

Image of Wemo Crock Pot with a tablet computer
Slow cookers are a great, energy efficient way to cook. But Jarden has a slow cooker that can be turned on or adjusted from your smartphone.

Home energy monitor

These devices can really help you learn what items in your home are heavy users of electricity because they provide real-time information on the electricity being used, presented in kilowatts and in dollars and cents.

There are two models (Rainforest EMU-2: $34.99; Rainforest EAGLE: $64.99) that will work with most BC Hydro residential accounts, and for a limited time they're available at a discount because of an instant rebate.

Lono sprinkler controller

Managing your use of electricity is a smart thing to do, but so is reducing the amount of water we use. With the Lono ($199.99;, you can control your sprinker system with your smartphone. It's programmable, too, so you can make sure you're only watering your plants when you're supposed to.

And you can have the Lono tap into your local weather forecast, so if Environment Canada calls for rain, your Lono can shut off the sprinklers.

Home automation hub

The Wink Hub is a slick tool to help manage various home automation systems. Right now if you want to control your connected lights, door locks, or thermostats you need to use different routers, links, and apps.

The Wink Hub ($49.98; Home Depot) aims to make it simpler by connecting to all your devices and letting you interact with them using one smartphone app.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones

These are high-end headphones, with Bluetooth wireless and active noise cancelling among their best features. They can also connect to two devices at the same time, so you can seamlessly watch a movie on your tablet and take a call on your mobile.

The battery life is incredible, too, lasting up to 24 hours. But the reason the BackBeat Pro headphones ($299.99) appear on this list is because they are equipped with a sensor that knows when you've taken them off, and puts them into a sleep mode to conserve power.

WeMo LED lights

You already know how smart it is to use LED lightbulbs in your home. These WeMo LEDs can be turned on and off, even dimmed, using your smartphone. They can also be programmed to follow your family's set schedule.

The starter kit ($99.99) comes with two bulbs that are equivalent to 60-Watt incandescent bulbs but use only 10 Watts of electricity. You also get a WeMo link, which connects the bulbs to your home's wireless network, and can manage up to 50 different smart LED bulbs (additional bulbs are $39.99).

Designer LED lights for the home

LED lighting technology is providing designers with opportunities to create interesting new light fixtures that have not been possible before. Case in point are two designs from QisDesign.

The Hatha table lamp (US$450) is flexible, so you can direct the light where you need it. It comes equipped with a dimmer and draws only 6W of electricity. The Infinito LED suspension light (US$1,800) is a twisted figure eight design, giving you the opportunity to have different light brightness and colour emitting from either side.

Image of Qis Design Hatha LED lamp
Looking to splurge on high design? The flexible Hatha table lamp looks great and directs its LED light exactly where you need it.

Smart LED lights

Two "smart" LED bulbs automatically change brightness depending on the environment. The Sense (US$24.95, 4-pack for US$76.95; has a light sensor that activates the bulb when it gets dark outside. It's ideal for use in outdoor fixtures.

The Drift (US$28.95, 4-pack for US$100; slowly dims over a 37-minute period, mimicking sunset and helping the body prepare for sleep. It can also be set to "moonlight" mode to emit a gentle glow.

USB LED light

USB outlets are everywhere these days, which gives the portable Brite Idea light ($19.99; London Drugs) some utility. It plugs into any powered USB port and provides 100 lumens of light, which is just enough to illuminate a small area.

Because it only draws 2 Watts of electricity, it can plug right into a laptop if you need a bit of extra shine. And with a plastic bulb, you don't have to worry about it breaking on you.

LED lights for bikes

Cycling is a big deal in much of the province, and outfitting your bike with lights can be fun and help you stay visible when it's dark outside.

The Revolights Skyline (US$200; create a headlight and tail light from a ring of LEDs that sync to your speed. The Monkey Lights are more decorative and come in two different configurations.

The M210 kit ($36; includes 10 LEDs that can display 19 different themes while the M232 ($50; has 32 LEDs and 42 themes. Both are waterproof, something else that's important for much of B.C.

Image of BMW i3
Yes, that is a BMW. It's a fully electric vehicle with an amazing interior and plenty of power.

BMW i3

Not everyone is going out to get a new car for Christmas. But if you were going to add one to your list, just in case, consider this slick urban commuter electric vehicle from the German auto manufacturer.

The BMW i3 (starting at $44,950) is a fully electric vehicle (EV). But that doesn't mean it's not fast and fun to drive. It's a fresh, futuristic EV with lots of room for the modern family.