The year’s most innovative products have not necessarily been the headline-grabbing devices. They probably haven’t had as much money poured into their marketing campaigns as the latest and greatest smartphones because they’re trying to break some ground, and change opinion and behaviour, rather than simply fly off the shelves with the greatest of speed.

So, if you’re wondering what those names on our nominations announcement are all about, here’s a little rundown of the five Innovation of the Year contenders for 2012. Oh, and once you’ve had a gander, don’t forget to vote.

Philips hue


Release date

For those not in the know, Philips hue is an LED lighting system for your home that can be controlled by smartphone or tablet. Coming in packs of three light bulbs, Philips hue is capable of changing colour, to thousands of, well, hues. (Hello hue)

Also in the box is a bridge that connects to your home’s Wi-Fi router, the system working in a similar way to the Sonos music system by creating a mesh network in your home with each bulb automatically connecting to the system. It’s £179, which ain’t cheap, but when you consider that each bulb has a life expectancy of 15 years and uses a fifth of the energy of a conventional light bulb, you might be able to balance the books while doing your bit for the environment. It works with Android but, for the full fun, you’ll need an iOS device.

READ: Philips hue

Nokia PureView


Release date
February 2012

Nokia PureView isn’t so much a product or even a technology, it’s a mission by Nokia to make significant improvements to mobile phone cameras and its results have so far been impressive. The first time around it was about the 41MP Nokia 808 PureView phone, which effectively offered a way of achieving optical zoom without the need for any lens mechanics.

More recently, PureView turned up in the rather heavy Nokia Lumia 920 and brought about a stunning ability to take well-exposed pictures at very low light levels, thanks to a floated camera array and very clever optical image stabilisation system. It’s by no means perfect and a PureView phone isn’t necessarily a good phone but, with so very many photos taken from smartphones these days, it’s great to see Nokia addressing this issue in such a proactive and unique manner.

READ: What is Nokia PureView?

Nike+ FuelBand


Release date
April 2012

The concept is simple. You wear a digital electronic band that looks like one of those charity bands, but instead of it just showing others that you support a cause, it monitors your movement to allow you to quantify your exercise by earning fuel. As you earn more, your band lights up more until you reach your daily goal and then that’s exactly what it says around your wrist, “Goal”.

It’s not a wildly new idea but what Nike has done to this activity measurer is to make it work in your life by adding all the social and connected angles needed to really push you to achieve. It appeals to our inner competitive streak and gives you enough of a shove to get you moving. We also like that the iPhone app lets you see your friends on Facebook who also have the FuelBand, so you can challenge them, gloat or just feel you have to do better when you see their daily score. Great stuff.

READ: Nike+ FuelBand review

Nintendo Wii U


Release date
November 2012

We are nowhere near a final verdict on the Nintendo Wii U as a piece of hardware but, as innovative concepts go, it’s right up there. Tablets are becoming more about being a companion device for the television and this thrusts Nintendo straight into the firing line. The Wii U controller is a considerably better experience than we were expecting and it gives you a different perspective on gaming in the living room.

The only catch we can see is the price. At over £300, it’s an expensive console. What you’re buying for that, though, is a brand new conundrum; a potential paradigm shift or game-changer, as the marketing speak might go. That doesn’t mean this thing won’t end up gathering dust under your TV but, the idea behind it, and the potential to turn the whole space around you into your gaming world, is just too interesting not to applaud.

READ: Nintendo Wii U picutres and hands-on review

Illuminated E-Ink


Release date
September 2012

The only real complaint from Kindle owners the world over has been that it’s all very well and good until it’s dark. The minute you don’t have a light source, it’s simply not possible to use your eBook reader any more. That was until the concept of illuminated e-ink arrived and it was the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple with GlowLight that went and brung it.

 Amazon has since followed suit with the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and the illuminated e-ink system is all down to a kind of flattened-out fibre optic source. Nano-imprinting technology is used to keep the lighting as even as possible and you'll still get huge battery life with up to eight weeks from a single charge. Problem solved then, and at no significant cost either. Full of win, as they say.

READ: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review

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