CES 2018: Smart Home Takes Center Stage

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is often remembered more for what happens off the show floor than its endless booths of new gadgets. However, every year a handful of things from CES resonate after it. Last year, we talked about smart home products, 5G wireless and AR as top trends. CES 2018 saw those three trends emerge further, with connected products tying into virtually every category. And the promise of 5G wireless by 2020 seems to only be speeding up the process.

Here are the most interesting takeaways from CES 2018:

It’s ALL Connected
We’ve previously mentioned that it’s time to shift from targeting early adopters to targeting early majority consumers when it comes to smart home products. Virtually every new gadget, appliance, and security product are now controllable via apps and Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and/or Apple’s Siri. And products are now targeting users of all ages as most consumers have at least become comfortable with using smartphones in the past five years.

One of the standouts in the connected home space is a free app called Streety, which allows neighbors to share their security cam feeds with each other to create a high-tech neighborhood watch. Basically, it will offer more camera angles to catch burglars and suspicious activity on your street.

Speaking of connected home innovations, let’s talk about HVAC. Who among us is actually good about changing their HVAC filter monthly/quarterly? 3M’s Filtrete Smart Air Filters offer a solution to this problem. Each one comes with a Bluetooth-enabled pressure sensor that’s paired with a smartphone app. The pressure sensor measures air flow and when it reaches a threshold for contaminants, the app sends you a notification that the filter should be changed. Brilliant!

Kohler Konnect offers automation and control over all manner of common tasks such as turning on a shower or adjusting a mirror’s lighting. It’s integrated with all three major digital assistants and the shower system looks especially impressive. The DTV+ Showering System is a panel that lets you adjust water temperature, control shower heads, music, lighting, steam, and the length of your shower.

Another standout is the Lenovo Smart Display, which is the visual learner’s dream for a smart assistant. It’s basically a smart home hub that adds a visual element to all the rich A.I. features we’ve already seen in the Google Home smart speaker. A feature called Routines lets you customize the information you want from the display based on a predictable part of your day.

5G Wireless is Closer Than Previously Thought
Ahead of CES, AT&T announced that it will roll out 5G networks in a dozen U.S. cities by the end of the year. Verizon announced it will roll out commercial service over 5G fixed wireless networks in Sacramento, Calif., by the end of 2018. But where is 5G going to make a real difference?

In terms of industry impact, transportation, automotive, and smart city are considered among some of the more obvious places where 5G’s network improvements will be most noticeable. It’s low latency, improved security and reliability make it an obvious upgrade. Additional industries impacted will be manufacturing, healthcare and VR gaming. But it is home Wi-Fi networks that will benefit on a daily basis with increased internet speeds. Many Wi-Fi modems and routers made in the past year already have 5G signals, which have been shown to increase download speeds beyond what customers are even paying for.

Augmented Reality Takes Shape
A few years ago, Google Glass tried and failed to usher in the mainstream use of AR. But Vuzix’s Blade AR glasses seem like the upgrade needed to make AR a comfortable part of our world. They communicate with Amazon’s Alexa assistant and can get text and email alerts when paired with phones or connected to Wi-Fi. The most impressive aspect of the Blade glasses is how bold and crisp the display looks. It’s a massive upgrade from the small Google Glass display and it will also be compatible with prescription lenses.

Additionally, some smart cars will offer AR displays to improve the driving and GPS experience. But for AR to really catch on, it’s going to take truly useful software to appeal to the masses.

Tech With a Purpose
While it’s great that tech offers so many entertainment and automation options, it also important to look at what it can do for healthcare. From smartphone apps and small devices to a life-sized robot, CES saw its fair share of technology solutions. Tech’s contributions to the multibillion-dollar healthcare industry are most likely to manifest in wearables, robots, sensors and AI.

Wearables aren’t new to the healthcare category, but they’re getting more sophisticated. Omron’s HeartGuide is a smartwatch with medical-grade blood pressure tracking. That’s on top of all the fitness tracking and notifications you’ve come to expect from wearables. Other fitness trackers are offering the additional option of music downloads and storage with Bluetooth connection to headphones.

An endearing entry into this category was My Special Aflac Duck. The animatronic duck is the product of a year of research and development by Sproutel, a startup that makes health-focused toys. The goal of the duck is to provide children going through chemotherapy with a toy that will not only be a source of comfort, but will also help them cope with treatment. It can help young kids better express their feelings during treatment. Cards with RFID chips and emoji allow you to change the duck’s “mood” from happy to sad to silly to nauseous or sad or angry. The duck body language, sound effects, and facial expressions change to match the corresponding moods. It can also help kids control their breathing through guided breathing sessions. Aflac says it’s partnering with hospitals so patients and their families don’t have to pay for the toy.

Overall, CES 2018 felt special. There was just something in the air -despite a few hiccups (power outages and too much rain). Google exhibited for the very first time, which seemed natural considering the growth of Google Assistant over this past year. Robots became more personal and fun. Cars are improving on self-driving and are adopting smart assistants. TVs are now able to roll up and hide when you’re not watching them. It’s a very fun time for technology and we’re seeing next-gen products in all the categories with some serious upgrades.