Not too long ago, the phrase “smart home” might have conjured up images of a house where two people with Ph.D.s sit in leather chairs reading lots of thick books on philosophy and physics.
But today we use the term “smart home” to talk about devices in our living space that connect to Wi-Fi and each other, creating an ecosystem of interconnected devices. It’s a market that has exploded in the last few years, and was the name of the game at CES 2018, where smart home tech spilled way beyond exhibit space dedicated to that sector and into places like electronics, fitness equipment, health, and more.
It seems like everything is smart in the home these days, and at CES we saw several smart home trends that gives us a clue as to what’s next in the space. Soon, we might all be able to control every single thing in our homes — from coffee makers to our faucets — with just our voice.
Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant have been around for a while now on phones and computers. But when Amazon introduced voice assistant Alexa into the original Echo smart speaker in 2014, it ushered in a new era of help in the home via voice assistants. At CES this year, we saw just about every smart home device on the market announcing integrations with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and/or Siri.
The bulk of the announcements centered around Amazon and Google. Several third-party companies introduced products with a smart assistant built directly into the device, such as the Lenovo Smart Screen, a smart voice assistant speaker with a screen like the Amazon Echo Show that uses Google Assistant instead, or the LG Instaview Smart Door-In-Door Refrigerator, where you can literally ask your fridge to play music on Spotify. Other companies announced Alexa or Google Assistant compatibility, meaning that you can connect the devices to the voice assistant using a smart hub or bridge so that you can tell them to control your devices for you. For example, Gourmia announced that all of its appliances, including the new GKM9000, are now compatible with Google Assistant.
In fact, we were hard-pressed to find a smart home device at CES that doesn’t interact with a voice assistant, and we don’t expect the craze around Alexa and Google Assistant to die down until just about all products have the technology to talk to you and each other.
Air and water monitoring
You might have heard about that smart blender that you can turn on via an app from your phone or the connected lock that you can control from afar, but what about monitoring the air around you and the water you depend on?
At CES, we saw an increase in the number of smart air monitors and water leak detectors. While radon, carbon monoxide, and smoke detectors have always been around, smart detectors do more than just scream at you when you’re burning the casserole in the oven. Airthings debuted a new smart indoor air quality monitor at CES that monitors carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and radon, and alerts you when the levels become dangerous.
Monitoring water leaks via an app on your phone is also becoming easy. For example, Elexa just introduced Guardian, a water leak-detection system that requires no installation and will shut your water off automatically in the event of an earthquake.
While not sexy products, they’re potentially lifesaving, and it’ll be interesting to see what else appears in the space over the coming year.
DIY smart home security
New smart home security cameras, locks, and doorbells were everywhere at CES this year — and for good reason. Home security is projected to be a $47 billion market globally by 2020. Where a solid deadbolt or a security company like ADT or Brinks used to be enough to secure a home back in the day, the advent of smart home connectivity and a flood of relatively affordable, easy-to-use devices has made do-it-yourself home security a snap.
Users can now even control devices via a voice assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to make things like locking doors and checking video footage easier than ever. At CES, there were smart security product launches from companies like RCA, which introduced a smart doorbell camera; Ring, which launched smart security lights and a security camera; and Blink, which introduced a doorbell. These are just a few of the long list of companies creating home security tech for the market.
While we’ve known about smart cameras, doorbells, and even digital peepholes for a while, one thing we found interesting at CES is that a few companies are talking about integrating car security devices that you can attach to existing home security systems in order to monitor if someone is breaking into your car. We’ll keep an eye on that trend-within-the-home-security-trend.
Chances are, you probably have a dishwasher that washes your dishes and that’s about it. But the most recent models debuting at CES feature not just functionality but also connectivity. For example, dishwashers from several companies communicate technical problems to customer service before you’re even aware of any problems. Ovens can begin preheating via a tap of a button on an app from anywhere in your home. Your fridge can recommend recipes based on what’s in your fridge. Cameras inside your fridge can tell you if you’re out of milk — something you can check while you’re already at the grocery store.
At CES, it was all about connected appliances that not only talk to you, but to each other. Samsung’s Family Hub Smart Refrigerator with Bixby voice assistant has a huge screen on the right-hand door that can serve as a TV, smart speaker, recipe finder, and more. Kenmore’s new washer and dryer can be started and stopped via Amazon Alexa. GE Appliances even debuted the Kitchen Hub, a smart ventilator with a 27-inch screen that mounts above your stovetop. You can watch movies, play music, and more on the appliance.
While a lot of these thing feel futuristic, as CES showed us, we’re getting closer to having a fully connected home that will be able to handle a lot of our chores for us. Now, if only someone would invent a way for us to get our darned laundry directly into the washing machine.
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