There’s always excitement at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, especially when it comes to the array of brand-new products, many of which are unveiled there for the first time. The recent Las Vegas event was no exception.

“The show was off the hook,” says Steve Schlange, sales manager at Hanley Wood Exhibitions. “Attendance grew by double digits and the exhibitors really brought their ‘A’ game. The sheer number of products and services offered were overwhelming, and there was a palpable hum of business being conducted. The accolades from attendees and exhibitors reflected the positive spirit the industry is feeling toward the future.”

In that spirit, let’s take a look at some standouts that the PSN team found on the show floor.

A) Lifesaver: Aquatic Safety Concepts

The idea is simple, yet powerful: Before entering the water, a child puts on a lightweight, soft plastic headband and, if he or she is submerged beyond a preset time limit, an alert will be sent to an iPhone or iPad — so the person receiving it can spring into action. This personal swim monitor, the iSWIMBAND, won “Best New Product” at the 2013 IPSPE Product Showcase.

It also comes with a wristband that works in a similar way, which can be placed on a nonswimmer, such as a toddler, to send an alert when that individual enters the water.

Up to eight iSWIMBANDS can be monitored per iOS device, with a range of up to 100 feet, depending on environmental conditions. These portable devices work in virtually all bodies of water.

“The question people always ask is: ‘Will kids wear the headband?’” says Paul Newcomb, general manager of Aquatic Safety Concepts, based in Redding, Conn. “My reply is ‘Yes, it’s like wearing a helmet when they’re on a bike or skiing.’” If parents make it clear that it is a necessary part of their swim gear, it won’t be an issue.

The iSWIMBAND headband and wristband retail for $150. “It is the single greatest advance in consumer-level aquatic safety, literally a revolutionary device,” Newcomb says.

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B) Simple, intuitive: Hayward

OmniLogic was one of the most talked-about new products in the exhibit hall. Its maker, Hayward Pool Products of Elizabeth, N.J., tried to make it simple for everyone — builders, service technicians and pool owners, says Greg Fournier, senior product manager for automation and backyard synergies.

The simplicity of the user interface is one of the product’s notable features. Besides being able use smartphone and Web apps to manage the pool remotely, it’s also easy to do on site. The touch screen on the OmniLogic base unit contains 50 icons, which control multiple features and functions simply by tapping on the screen. There are 25 theme functions, so every family member can set and save their own pool “themes.”

Fournier explains how the theme concept works. Say Wanda wants to use the family pool, and turns on the waterfeatures, music, jets, blowers and lights to her liking. She can then save the settings, naming it “Wanda’s Evening” and giving it a wine glass icon. Now every time Wanda wants to use the pool, she taps on her icon and all the features are configured just the way she likes it.

The reactions at IPSPE, Fournier says, ranged from “Hallelujah!” to “You knocked it out of the park.” He adds that “there really wasn’t anything asked for that we haven’t built in, or plan to build in. This is really about trying to make automation simple, intuitive and sophisticated.”

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C) Customizable: HydroFloors

Movable pool floors in commercial applications, sure. A customized, movable floor for the family pool, priceless. U.K.-based HydroFloors is relatively new in the United States, arriving two years ago — and creating a fan base of its own at the 2013 Expo.

Specifically designed for each project, HydroFloors can be used indoors or outdoors, moving vertically to any pre-selected water depth — from a reflecting pool depth to children’s wading pool to diving pool. At the highest elevated point, the water is completely out of sight underneath the floor and it looks like any other solid surface, making it safe and secure for children to traverse. Another advantage: With the pool fully closed, energy costs are significantly lowered.

“You get the maximum use of your space with HydroFloors,” says Cesar Cortes, senior sales executive based in Miami. “Press a button and the floor disappears [to reveal a swimming pool]; press again and you can have a dance floor or meeting space.”

New this year: steps that also can move with the pool floor.

These variable-depth pool floors feature a simple mechanical system and air pack. That makes for a natural buoyance, so it uses less hydraulics to raise and lower the floor, Cortes says. He adds that the floor goes up and down very slowly, taking approximately 20 minutes to reach the desired depth.

HydroFloors are created at the company facility in Belgium. The firm works in partnership with pool builders and architects to meet homeowners’ requirements.

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D) Energy cost-cutters: Pentair

It’s safe to say most pool owners would perk up at the thought of saving hundreds of dollars annually, and thousands over the life of a pool pump. Throw in rebates from utility companies in many regions and it’s a win-win.

Enter SuperFlo VS and SuperMax VS, the latest additions to Pentair Aquatic Systems’ family of Energy Star-certified variable-speed pumps.

“[They] are ideally suited as drop-in replacements for some of the most popular pumps in the field today,” says Ryan Weaver, product manager. He adds that this replacement option is suitable for pools using standard 1- to 1.5hp single- or two-speed pumps.

SuperFlo VS and SuperMax VS are new for 2014, and won “Best Green Product” at the IPSPE Product Showcase. These Eco Select brand pumps can cut energy costs by up to 80 percent over conventional pool pumps, according to Weaver. Then there’s the fact that they’re “incredibly easy” to install and use because of their intuitive interface, built-in timer, and easily accessed electrical connections.

People who saw the pumps in Las Vegas were impressed by how easy they are to operate, he says. They also appreciated the straightforward programming interface.

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E) Advanced, unique: Pleatco

“Pleatco has a mantra of ‘constant improvement’ and Pleatco Advanced was the next in a long line of scientific innovation …,” says Richard Medina, senior vice president, research and engineering, at the Glen Cove, N.Y.-based company.

He’s talking about Pleatco Advanced Filter Cartridges, which were launched at the 2013 Expo.

This filtration fabric contains more fibers per unit area and a unique cross filtration flow, offering greater dirt-catching and holding capacity than other filtration fabrics, says Medina. That means a deeper level of water cleanliness and clarity.

By combining the new, 4-ounce bonded media with Pleatco’s Free Flow Core technology, he says these cartridges can deliver lower pressure and higher flow rates, resulting in a regulated flow that uses less energy and reduces wear on the pump.

Uniformly placed weld spots make for a stronger fabric and high performance. That, in turn, translates into greater usability, longer cleaning cycles and less service time.

Pleatco Advanced Filter Cartridges were tested nationwide by more than 40 pool professionals and pool owners over an 18-month period. They’re now shipping as a standard across all Pleatco Pool Filter Cartridges.

This new enhancement to the product line is described by Medina as the distillation of innovation, science and marketplace analysis. It was developed by the company’s team of engineers, who sought to develop and deliver “a truly new, industry-leading standard in filtration.”

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Note: Hanley Wood Exhibitions is a division of Hanley Wood LLC, which also owns Pool & Spa News.