TecHome Builder is at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. If you’ve never been, you’ve probably seen it on TV. It’s one of the largest trade shows in the world, last year attracting 150,000 people packed into three gigantic convention centers, hotel ballrooms, conference centers and suites to peruse all manner of gadgets, gizmos and geegaws.
Not only will the show feature the latest in home networking and computing, audio/video, mobile devices and gaming; there are “Tech Zones” for digital home health, ‘Mommy tech,’ robotics, wireless ZigBee networking, electric vehicle technology, hi-res audio, the Internet of Everything … the list goes on and on. There’s a “Silvers Summit” and even a Driverless Car Experience.
It’s a testament to how electronic technologies are pervading every aspect of our lives, from working to driving our cars to relaxing at home—and blending it all with always-on, always-connected capability. Yes, we’ll soon be controlling our homes with smartphones and using them to provide our entertainment home and away, and we could control robots and other devices to make our home lives easier and allow us to age in the healthiest ways. The homes people have in just a couple of years will be vastly different than the ones sold today.
Here are just a few of the home technologies we'll be examining this week:
Connected and Smart Appliances
Smart appliances used to mean connecting to the “smart” utility grid to automate energy-saving washing cycles, etc., but a smart grid has been slow in coming. Now smart appliances mean connected. We’ll be scoping the wares from LG, Samsung, Haier, Whirlpool, Bosch and Dacor. LG and Samsung have shown smart fridges for a couple of years, and I’ve wondered if such high-end appliances could actually take off. HGTV’s popular “Property Brothers” are talking up emerging technology such as white glass refrigerators that check your email and keep track of what foods you need.
Voice and Gesture Control
We’ll no doubt see more home control systems that will respond to verbal commands, even gestures. Voice recognition technology has gotten much better, and we’re bound to see this more for home control and home entertainment systems. One voice and gesture controlled device to be shown at CES is called HAL (for Human Algorithm LTE) and is said to allow changing channels, streaming movies and music, placing Skype calls and even playing Angry Birds. I’m not sure I’d call any voice-activated controller after the uncooperative computer HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (Open the Pod Bay doors, HAL. ~ I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that.)
And at least for another generation there will be some people who choose not to talk to their homes or worse—get into disagreements with them, so voice and gesture control will be a matter of taste.
This can get more discerning audio and music lovers out of the computerized and lo-res iPod music world, enabling us to hear more of the music and in better fidelity.
We’re interested, and it could be a good upsell for both custom and high-volume homebuilders. Sony has already come out with some receivers and other products, but many homebuyers may be more interested in wireless streaming of music from their smartphones and tablets and the cloud (Internet). Smart builders should look at good-better-best solutions. Hi-res audio gives us a “best.” This is for the guy interested in a higher-quality multiroom music system, home theater or man cave.
Maybe. Some of us already have them to clean our floors and pools. We may not see the Jetson’s Rosie or need to make room for robot closets (yet), but CES will show everything from a grill-cleaning, Roomba-like Grillbot to Five Elements Robotics’ Budgee that lends humans a hand by carrying your stuff. I’m hoping for a robot to help me with yard work—and one that will never need Lighting Science’s Intelligent LEDs that Rhythm Downlight that adjusts light to a person’s biological rhythms and moods.
Z-Wave, ZigBee and Bluetooth
They sound like cartoon characters, but they’re the wireless technologies that will soon dominate homes, from Z-Wave and ZigBee connected thermostats, door locks and garage-door openers and web cams to short-range Bluetooth-enabled music systems and now a Bluetooth-enabled door lock that you can unlock with a smartphone. Sweet! We expect to continue writing about a lot of this stuff.