The right hardware can patch a hole in a wall or plug a leaking faucet, but can it save a marriage?
This week in Las Vegas, iTouchless Housewares & Products used the National Hardware Show to unveil its low-cost alternative to hours of expensive counseling, trial separation and divorce: the automatic toilet seat. Controlled by a couple of strategically placed sensors, the seat opens on its own and, much more importantly, closes 30 seconds after it no longer is in use.
"Either women have to put down the seat or the men get yelled at for not doing it," said Michael Shek, marketing director of San Mateo, Calif.-based iTouchless. "We think this is an easy way to keep couples together."
iTouchless, which has spent 15 years attaching sensors to household items from trash cans to paper towel dispensers, will roll out the toilet seat in Sky Mall airline catalogues in July and hopes to line up other outlets.
Retail price: $139.
Many of the exhibitors at the three-day show pushed products that have changed a little over time, often in ways largely unnoticed by the typical consumer. Cordless tools with smaller batteries, stronger glues and hoses with click-seal connectors were among the favorites of the more than 30,000 attendees, many of them buyers for hardware retailers.
But a handful of the exhibitors came hoping to sell products so innovative that shoppers just might stop in their tracks if only to ask, "Why would someone want that?"
"They don't know they want it yet because they don't know it's available," said Steve Levine, a sales director for Amitex Interiors, which has a line of lighted shower heads you don't yet consider vital to your existence.
As water flows through the Amitex shower heads it spins tiny hydroelectric turbines that power LED strips. One model is steady white, another changes colors with the water temperature, and a third constantly rotates among seven different colors. Retail price: $60.
Other innovations on the cutting edge of the hardware frontier include the stadium parking lot grill to end all grills offered by Blacktop 360, based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
Aimed at the football tailgate market, the portable cooker is round for a reason.
"I think this makes grilling much more sociable, with people standing around and eating, instead of just the cook at the grill and other people off to the side," said Joe Chichelo, Blacktop 360's senior vice president of sales.
But it's no charcoal-burning Weber kettle. It has a propane heating element covered by a top that includes a grill for meats, a griddle and an oil sink for deep-frying. Chichelo wants to make it to the shelves of sporting goods stores starting in August, at $249.
And there's a new weapon in the war on terror -- or at least fear -- of bedbugs.
"It's a widespread problem," said Dennis Tilles, president of Bird-X in Chicago.
That's why you need Bed Bug Alert, Tilles said.
Bed Bug Alert features a small blob of goo in a gap between two pieces of plastic about the size of a driver's license. The goo is laced with a human scent to attract the bugs and then catch them, much like flypaper.
Travelers can place one alert between the mattress and the box spring at each corner of the bed. Tilles said travelers can detect and dispose of any unwanted company. A package of two retails for $10.
The hardware show concludes today.
Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5290.