CES 2017 Smart Home Wrap-Up
Every year thousands of visitors converge on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual exhibition for new technology products. 2017 marked the show’s 50th year and AppMyHome joined about 175,000 others to check out the latest smart home gadgets. The event has now spread out to cover the entire city and it is virtually impossible to see everything in three days, but we did our best to check out all the smart home companies on our list and discovered some new innovations along the way. Here are some of our takeaways from the week.
Eureka Park Innovations
By far we found the most interesting new ideas and products coming from startups. We had the opportunity to join a couple of startup parties, one downtown and one at the nearby University of Nevada Las Vegas, where we met dozens of entrepreneurs showing off their ideas, and we spent several hours walking through Eureka Park, which has grown into its own little conference in the lower level of the Sands Expo. The small booths, crowded aisles and basement feeling contribute to the excitement of discovering and sharing new ideas. Eureka Park had its own dedicated smart home section but home tech was sprinkled throughout, in the university areas, the sponsored company areas and the country and regional areas.
Many of these products are still ideas looking for funding, partnerships, or kicking off their crowdfunding campaigns but we also found several ready to buy products that can fill in some gaps in our smart home. We are looking forward to trying out the Sense Home Energy Monitor to help us discover how much power each of our devices throughout our house is using, and the Smart & Blue Hydrao water saving shower heads are an easy way to make our mornings more energy efficient as well.
Some other really clever products from Eureka Park we will be watching include the inirv React, that monitors your stove to make sure you don’t leave the gas on, the Breezi Pulse, that monitors your air filters and let’s you know when to replace them, and the very simple, app-less way to automate your switches, the Switchflip.
Another trend we found throughout CES, from companies large and small, was an additional focus on security for the Internet of Things. Cybersecurity and privacy have continued to be global hot topics over the past few years and for some, smart home devices are just another way to allow hackers and the government into your home to watch, listen and steal from you. One of the hottest stories up to and throughout CES was the case of the Amazon Echo’s data being sought as evidence in a murder case.
We saw several companies offering solutions to help better monitor and secure homes with multiple installed devices, from startups Fingbox and Cujo to more established players like Bitdefender and BullGuard. Security has also been a big focus for Apple HomeKit and standards players such as ZigBee, ZWave, Thread, and the Open Connectivity Foundation are stressing security as one of the reasons for companies to adopt their platforms. This is an area we are committed to exploring more deeply and it will be interesting to see if these types of solutions migrate to smart home hubs and Internet routers or if they become more fully functional standalone platforms that become a must have for every home.
Smart Home Ecosystems
Some of the biggest smart home ecosystem players were all over CES without any formal booths. Amazon’s Alexa platform was everywhere, from standalone devices that integrate with the Echo, to the Ford Sync 3 connected car platform, to companies building in the technology into their own platforms, like WooHoo. A close second in the smart home section was Apple’s HomeKit, with companies like Fibaro and Elgato Eve showing off complete lines of HomeKit ready devices and smaller companies showing off their Apple integrations for their platforms. Google Home was a distant third – a few companies mentioned they had an integration done or were working on it, but we didn’t see many live demonstrations calling out, “Ok Google.” It was a little surprising to see how Lowe’s Iris seems to have completely disappeared, after they had such a big and impressive booth just two years ago, and how few companies were touting their integrations with platforms like Wink and SmartThings, which have been the mainstream consumer platforms for the last few years. Interesting to note is that European players Fibaro and Zipato had significant presence at the event demonstrating their platforms, much larger than two years ago.
Perhaps even more surprising to us given our industry background was that how many companies feel comfortable just going it alone without any integrations – putting the time and effort into building their own devices, apps and cloud services. One such company, ZModo, had a huge booth with their own versions of every smart product you can think of, from lights to cameras, to thermostats to smart doorbells, with their own end-to-end applicaton and service model. Even smaller companies seemed indifferent to standards in general, some using their own proprietary protocols instead of well-established efforts like Zigbee or Z-Wave, and many others choosing to build their own cloud services and subscription models rather than going with an existing platform. As hard as it is for us to believe that platform integrations are not important, perhaps consumers getting into smart home now just don’t really care and just want products that work. Time will tell.
Another trend everywhere at CES was home assistant robots. It seemed every booth in the main hall had its own version of the same small rolling robot with the touch screen face, a sort of updated Wall-E. Some vacuumed, some responded to commands, some, like LG’s Hub Robot even had Amazon Alexa built in. We saw educational robots, shopping robots, and robot pets. Vacuum and sweeping robots are available from every major appliance company but other than better battery life and a lower price point, they don’t seem any more exciting than the original Roomba. Autonomy and machine learning, two tech trends that are associated with robotics, will definitely continue to be useful innovations that impact smart home products (ShadeCraft and Vivint Sky are two interesting examples), but we have yet to see any home robots worth buying.
To learn more
We broadcasted a number of live videos from the CES show floor and associated parties that you can see below and captured lots of pictures of products from the show in our Facebook album. We look forward to continuing to test out these products and share our results here on AppMyHome.