The fastest growing trend in the tech world is hands down Home Automation and the burgeoning ecosystem, as evidenced by the slew of tech on display for the Smart Home at CES. Being an industry with a high percentage of startups, many of those that made their debut at last year’s CES have fallen off, while some of the returning faces have weathered the storm and brought to the table more complete offerings.
Across the board though, the consensus is that there are some clear directions the industry is headed in that are shaping the future of IoT, on display at CES 2018.
Voice Assistants are King
If you didn’t pay attention before, now it can’t be ignored. Smart Home at CES is blanketed with the conversation of Alexa and Google Assistant, with numerous companies’ announcements being that their products are now compatible with one or both of the digital personalities. I’ve lost track of how many times I heard “Hey Google, adjust..” or “Alexa, turn on..”, and even off the floor their presence was made known.
The search giant came out swinging en force, plastering their Google Assistant ads in banners across the strip. Motion billboards, towering booth displays, costumed workers across the show floors, and even the entire Monorail were dripping with Google marketing their voice assistant. To say that they were omnipresent would be putting it lightly, as every single Smart Home booth with a compatible product had either a Google Home or Google Home Mini on deck to show off their capabilities.
Amazon’s Alexa was not nearly as present in an overt fashion, however stop by any of the legit companies Smart Home at CES and you have a good chance of seeing the compatibility claim.
Smart Home Future Prediction
By 2019 every product on the market will be compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. This isn’t earth-shattering or a drastic shift in direction, but I believe that, within the next two years, every single Home Automation product that comes to market will have integration with one or the other, if not both. The rate these assistants have spread throughout the population is unreal, and with the continued adoption by those without knowledge of the industry it is a key inroad to exposing more people to the Smart Home ecosystem.
The Stronger Protocols are Dominating
One of the trends in Smart Home is the shrinking Bluetooth ecosystem, which signals a “cleaning house” as companies are using either Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee. Brands are realizing that as the consumer demand for more comprehensive products grows, passing off a Bluetooth product for the connected home just won’t fly anymore. Even Apple HomeKit is not nearly as present as last year’s show, but it is not uncommon to see the logo affixed to a booth here and there.
The Z-Wave Alliance (collection of Z-Wave brands) tripled in size over last year’s display of products, while the ULE (Ultra Low Energy, aka Bluetooth) alliance booth collection was quite small with limited selection.
Surprisingly enough, even as the Bluetooth Mesh technology is growing on the R&D and conceptual side of things, the product adoption on the floor isn’t there just yet. While the Bluetooth Mesh network will be a huge boost for the protocol and practicality, this next year will be the testing ground to see if it can lead to integration with products by CES 2019.
Nanoleaf Modular LED Wall Panels
As tech gets more compact and lighting solutions more dynamic, companies like Nanoleaf are thinking out-of-the-box and designing innovative solutions for those who like to have fun. Their modular LED wall lights are full RGB, wafer-thin panels that clip together to form any design, with up to 12 programmable scenes.
The panels can respond to audio input in Rhythm mode, or be set to any of 16.7 million color variations via the app or Bluetooth remote. The multi-faceted remote looks like something out of a board game, but control can also be programmed via Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, or Siri.
This year Nanoleaf debuted their square panels, adding to the collection of the original triangle pattern.
remo+ Delivers Smart Entryway Video Recording
We’ve had hands-on experience with the first generation of RemoBell’s video doorbell, and this CES brought an announcement of two new lines to the CES Honoree collection.
Their DoorCam is an over-the-door security camera targets the apartment crowd who can’t alter the doorbell setup by allowing the same security features, with a less invasive installation. Two-way communication, a passive infrared sensor, 720p video, 160° field of view and up to five accounts with mobile access position this as a great option for back or side doors as well, or even inside office buildings. The wireless DoorCam is marked at $199.
The new remObell W is a smart doorbell that is drastically smaller than the first iteration, leaving the battery-powered roots and opting for a wired connection. The leaner model has a 160° field of view, which can be tapped into at-will to view the live feed by up to five account holders. Learning from past mistakes, the W comes with remote USB-powered chime capabilities that allow for a more useful alert system.
Blink Expands Their Surveillance Network
Newly acquired by Amazon, smart camera manufacturer Blink recently launched their second generation compact surveillance camera with the indoor/outdoor Blink XT.
The XT is a $129 waterproof, wireless camera that can run two years of AA batteries, with infrared night vision and motion detection driving mobile push notifications. The neat little camera has a clean design, and allows for live view and motion-triggered recording viewing.
Adding to their smart ecosystem is their latest announcement at the show, the $129 Blink Video Doorbell, which joins the ranks of SkyBell, Ring, RemoBell, August and others in the smart doorbell space. This small doorbell is battery-powered, and packs all the same features from the Blink XT camera into a super-compact and sleek design, and like the XT can be added on an existing Blink ecosystem for $99.
This makes the third consecutive year that Blink has brought home a CES honoree award for their cameras (all of which have free cloud storage to boot).
Maximus Guards the Entryway
The newest from the smart outdoor light fixture company Maximus tackled the motion floodlight sector with their smart Camera Floodlight. Packing a 270° field of view camera with 1080p resolution and 70’ detection range, this may be the first smart floodlight system on the market.
With the fresh offering users can get live streaming on mobile with push alerts, starting 10 seconds before motion to deliver a full picture instead of just the glimpse at the end of whatever triggered the recording.
The Camera Floodlight accompanying Kuna app enables AI object detection, identifying either automobiles or humans, and allowing for rules to disable alert triggers for either. Additionally, the app can “turn off” certain areas of the video feed if certain traffic is common, as well as incorporating programmable dimming.
For $229 the weatherproof set comes with two-way communication and 2400 lm LEDs, and of course Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility.
Stay tuned for more of our CES 2018 coverage.