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ShadeCraft’s new solar-powered patio shade is more than an umbrella

The Sunflower is an autonomous patio umbrella/shade that has a ton of tech packed into it.
The Sunflower is an autonomous patio umbrella/shade that has a ton of tech packed into it. HANDOUT

The ShadeCraft Sunflower outdoor shade umbrellas aren’t expected to be available until later this year or early 2018, but it’s a cool, innovative product worth mentioning.

What the company refers to as “the world’s first autonomous robotic shading system” can be used as a standard umbrella, but you will get a lot more out of it by utilizing what seems like endless smart-home features.

The shade has a pair of security cameras, WiFi, Bluetooth, tells you how long you have been in the sun, and is app and voice controlled. There’s also an embedded microphone and speaker system.

Best of all, there is no power connection needed: It runs on solar power. In addition, it has a USB connection for charging mobile devices and other accessories.

On its own, the Sunflower tracks the movement and position of the sun while collecting solar energy, storing enough power to last more than 72 hours.

The WiFi is an optional add-on cellular data connection, which allows it to become a WiFi source.

Included are a table attachment and a beach/grass attachment. A drink holder, which will cool or heat beverages, also can be added.

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the umbrella is expected to cost about $2,000.



If you’re an Apple fan, the iHome ($129.99) docking clock radio and charger is for you.

The nightstand-sized device is AC powered and will handle the hat trick of devices many Apple users have – iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

Cable-free charging is done with a top-sided flexible lightning port, which allows you to charge an iPhone. An Apple Watch charging dock is on the right side. On the back is a USB port to connect your cable for charging an iPad or non-Apple devices. All of the features have certification from Apple for safe charging.

In addition to the power charging, it has all the basics you want, including dual alarms a speakerphone and Bluetooth capabilities. An aux-in port is built into the back for connecting a non-Bluetooth device.



The Drivesafe express was designed to help keep people from going behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink.

For $12.90, you get five single-use breathalyzers. After the user blows into the tube, crystals will change color upon the detection of alcohol. The higher the alcohol concentration, the darker the pigmentation.

Results are ready in 2 to 4 minutes from the device that can be carried in a pocket, purse or computer bag.

According to the company, the devices are accurate within a 5 percent margin. The results are displayed on a quad-colored strip.


Contact Gregg Ellman at Follow him on Twitter: @greggellman