Sunflower LogoGreetings from the future.  Announced this year at CES, the ShadeCraft Sunflower solar patio umbrella gives us a glimpse of the type of outdoor Home Automation solutions we can expect to see appearing in the IoT world in the near future.  The Sunflower is scheduled to be released in 2018 and totally transforms the concept and functionality of a traditional or ‘dumb’ patio umbrella. The Sunflower is a patio umbrella that utilizes robotics to position and open or close the shade and track the sun as it moves.  It also uses solar panels to provide power for the robotics and a host of other features built into the shade.  Connectivity is available using Bluetooth and Wireless and optional cellular.  The connectivity allows you to not only control the shade but to use it to control other smart devices in the home.  There are USB ports for changing, speakers, and microphones integrated for listening to music or communicating, and lights to keep the party going after dark. The Sunflower also includes multiple sensors that provide real time data access through the SmartShade Application.  Proximity sensors allow the shade to detect its surroundings and obstructions, wind sensors allow it to close when it recognizes high wind speeds; weather and air quality sensors help you to understand the health and safety risks you may be facing and can encourage you to be outdoors or wherever the air quality is best. All of that and we haven’t even scratched the surface of the functionality built into the shade.  It also includes integrated cameras that can take 360 degree panoramic images as it rotates or snap still shots from a distance.  You will never miss another memory of your time outside whether you are in your back yard, the park, or at the beach.  The cameras can also integrate with your home security system or store the images to a cloud service of your choice. Additional optional features and accessories include: a custom weight system for easy transport and increased stability and additional attachment options for tables or grass/beach.  You can even order additional solar panels that increasing both charging and solar power. Other accessories also include a heating/cooling drink holder and a wind power accessory. The Sunflower is scheduled to ship in 2018 with multiple color options and even more accessories and features in the works.