CES 2023: Smart Home Insights
It’s been a few weeks since our annual trip to Las Vegas for CES 2023 and we’ve had some time to reflect on our experience. It’s still the best place for us to see all the new consumer technology and trends and to learn about new products coming to market for us to review and share with our readers and viewers.
While CES 2022 was also live, this was really the return to a regular event post-pandemic. Attendance was 115,000, not nearly the record of 184,000 in 2017, but still far better than 45,000 last year. Well, better is relative – we certainly missed last year’s vibe of no lines, abundant restaurant availability and cheap hotel rates. We got a special sticker when we got our badges for attending in person in 2022.
Most people who did make it to CES this year were definitely ready to be in person again. There was only a smattering of masks, and handshakes and parties were definitely back in fashion. We said we were going to move on from shaking hands on the first day, but in a couple of hours that was out the window and we even hugged some folks we hadn’t seen in years. I would like to apologize to the first few people I refused to shake.
What was the biggest takeaway from CES this year? For us, for the home tech market, we didn’t see much that really wowed us. It felt like more incremental innovation. After almost three years of global supply chain challenges, chip shortages and now widespread inflation, maybe that’s no surprise.
Here are the trends we noticed overall at this year’s CES.
By far, we felt sustainability was the strongest theme of the week. Whether your motivation is for saving the earth or saving money, there were products at CES that promised both.
Electric Vehicles and Charging
Electric vehicles were everywhere, and not just in the automobile pavilion. Beyond the usual electric bikes and motorcycles we’ve grown accustomed to, we saw electric boats, in-line skates, and even electric snow bikes.
With so much reliance on electricity, you obviously also need batteries, and electric batteries/chargers/generators were everywhere. There were dozens of companies selling portable chargers in every size and color and for almost every application you could imagine. There were elegant travel devices to charge your phone as well as generators you can use to keep your entire home running during a power outage.
We loved that more and more of these are also incorporating solar panels for even more sustainable energy. We use solar whenever possible to keep our wireless smart home devices charged and like to see more and more companies integrating it directly.
Beyond electric vehicles and charging, we were excited to see hydrogen also emerging as a power source. We saw a huge hydrogen-based diesel truck and, tucked way in the back of the Venetian convention center, a prototype hydrogen home generator.
Coplanar, one of our favorites from the show, is developing a stand-alone hydrogen fuel cell power station using surprisingly light canisters of hydrogen that you can refill and reuse. We’re not sure how practical it is yet, but we’re excited about the potential of hydrogen as a super clean and renewable energy source, with water as its only by-product.
Hyundai and Toyota, if you’re reading this, we’d love to do a video on a 2023 Nexo or a Mirai.
Recycling and Reusing
Beyond EVs we saw lots of other companies highlighting new solutions to help save the planet.
We saw the Reencle home composter in 2022 just before they launched their crowdfunding campaign and named it one of our favorite products of the show, and this year they were back with fully-launched products and a growing base of users.
We found Clear Drop last year downstairs in Eureka Park with a really rough prototype of a soft plastic compactor to help take single use bags and other hard to recycle plastics out of the landfill. This year they were back with a beautifully-designed appliance that is almost ready to ship and a second prototype of a device ready to collect your organic waste and store it smell-free for up to a week.
Saving water was also a priority for many exhibitors. We especially liked the Power Shower from Dry Water, one of our favorites from the show, that holds your water at temperature until you are ready to get in. We hope it makes it to market.
One of the more head-scratching water-saving products we saw was the Kara Pure, winner of multiple innovation awards at the show. The Kara Pure is amazing – it makes water from air. However, with a price of $3,799 for 10 liters of water a day, and some obvious questions about power consumption, it seems like a very limited market. We look forward to seeing what will come next.
In the Ukraine Tech showcase, also in Eureka Park, we met two companies exhibiting next to each other, coincidentally, that both had unique sustainability businesses. Releaf makes brown paper packaging, including shopping bags and food cartons, from fallen leaves, and Rekava makes coffee cups and other tableware from recycled coffee grounds.
As a side note, all the companies we talked to at the Ukraine booths were so friendly, positive and had unique solutions. Some have had to relocate to other cities and even other countries to stay in business, and had to take significant personal risks just to get to Las Vegas for CES. It was hard not to get emotional visiting with them and it really put things in perspective. Maybe waiting 30 minutes on the bus to get back to the Venetian wasn’t such a big deal.
Health products have continued to grow every year and in 2023 for the first time we noticed a real break between health and fitness that started with last year’s event.
Physically, the products are now in two different places – Digital Health has its own focused area in the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall, while Fitness and Wearables are still mostly in the Venetian Convention Center, adjacent to the Smart Home area. If you’ve never been to CES, this might not mean anything to you – but these two areas feel like an hour apart via waiting, shuttle bus, and walking.
There was some crossover and some of both technologies in Eureka Park, but the physical division felt intentional. Sleep was one area that seemed confused – there were smart beds in the smart home area but other sleep technologies were scattered across both.
This was also a year where the health technologies seemed more serious and ready for prime time. After several years of big booths and prototypes we first saw in 2019, Electronic Caregiver formally launched their Addison virtual caregiver platform at CES. Addison uses a 3D animated, customizable avatar to make remote patient monitoring more engaging for patients of all ages.
We were also impressed with Conneqt Health, a company developing a device that monitors a suite of heart health indicators using a blood pressure cuff and Valencell, who demonstrated a cuffless finger clip blood pressure monitor. Maybe these two companies should get together?
Surprisingly, urine monitoring hit the mainstream this year with smart health tech company Withings demonstrating the U Scan, a hands-free home urine lab. They were next door to Vivoo, one of our favorite products from CES 2022.
Both companies help you monitor and track different health metrics from your urine, which contain a lot of wellness data. If you’re inclined to learn more about your pee, you can buy Vivoo strips now but you’ll have to wait until next year to go hands-free with Withings.
Smart Home Interoperability
It’s more than halfway through this article and we’re just now getting to the smart home. That’s about the level of excitement we had for smart home tech at CES this year.
The industry seems to have been hit pretty hard over the last few years with the chip shortages and kind of a general stall in innovation while companies waited for the Matter standard release.
Matter is here
Matter, the new smart home standard backed by Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung, has been one of the biggest stories at CES since 2020. It promises to solve one of the biggest challenges to smart home adoption to date – compatibility of devices across multiple smart home ecosystems. The first devices started to hit the market, either through firmware updates or new releases at the end of 2022, and at CES lots of the early adopters had demos to share.
While we were happy to see Matter devices running, in a way these demos felt like a time warp back in time when everyone was showing light bulbs turning on and off with voice. The only difference this time is that companies were showing an Apple HomePod, an Amazon Echo, or a Google Home all controlling the same devices.
After years of the voice assistant wars, it feels like Apple may be the true winner with Matter. iOS 16.1 has native Matter support and their new HomePod and existing HomePod Minis will be able to control hundreds more devices using the Home App. After letting Amazon and Google invest for years to develop these ecosystems, Apple seems poised with the most elegant solutions for the average consumer. Amazon and Google both had separate pavilions at CES, and we didn’t even bother to visit. I’m still curious about what we missed.
While Matter products are available now, the early solutions are not designed for the mass market yet, requiring firmware upgrades and tinkering to get them to work. Our guess is that by mid-2023 installation and support will be better and by next year, we will see more exciting demos at CES.
Home Connectivity Alliance
With all the focus on Matter, the Home Connectivity Alliance’s announcement at CES last year didn’t get that much press, so we were interested to visit their booth this year and see their progress.
This alliance, which includes 15 global long-life appliance brands, went from announcement to formal specification release in one year, and they were demonstrating competing products all working together in their booth.
We have hesitated to replace our large home appliances like our refrigerator and washer and dryer with smart versions, because we have worried about compatibility and long-term support. No matter how many cool demonstrations we see from LG, Samsung and GE Appliances, we are not likely to buy all these products from one company.
HCA has taken a practical, cloud to cloud approach to connect these appliances together, since these usually always have power. Since they also are huge power consumers, the alliance is also focused on energy management across the ecosystem. We look forward to finally upgrading our smart home with HCA member appliances soon.
Other Smart Home Trends of Note
Continued evolution of smart lighting
Lighting seemed to be the area that had the most interesting demos at CES. Lots of companies were demonstrating fun gaming and entertainment lighting setups. We especially loved the Twinkly booth with their beautiful smart LEDs and panels, and the Cync Dynamic Effects Smart Neon Shape Lights coming soon from GE Lighting.
Nanoleaf probably had the most compelling display of smart lighting in real life at the show, showing practical ways to use all their different shapes, light strips and Nala learning technology all around the home.
Built-in-Screens in the Kitchen
The trend in recent years has been to make smart kitchen devices app and voice controlled but we saw three brand new products that have gone the other direction and integrated the screen into the appliance.
The Typhur sous vide, the Versaware connected mixing bowl, and the Blok smart cutting board all had built in screens with dedicated content. Blok’s vision is to be the “Peloton” of the kitchen.
We find this puzzling and not sure how sustainable it is long term. Will we need to refresh our smart cutting board every three years? How dirty will that screen get in the kitchen? I guess we’ll have to try at least one of these out and see how it holds up before we decide.
While this year’s CES might not have been as transformational as previous years, we still discovered plenty of interesting home tech products during the week and had a healthy debate to get down to our top 20 to feature in our video.
We look forward to testing and reviewing these and many others we saw during the show and hope you’ll continue to join us on our journey.