CES '17 Review: A Custom Integrator’s Perspective on the Smart Home Exhibits

Gordon van Zuiden
Jan 11, 2017

The 50th annual Consumer Electronics Show is now history. With almost 200,000 attendees and over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space, it’s the greatest electronics show on earth –– and the 2017 edition was one of the most spectacular to date.   

The smart home section of CES occupied almost half of the top floor of the Sands Convention Center and smart home products could be found in many of the booths in the Eureka Park entrepreneurial section. Artificial intelligence and voice control seemed to be features of almost every smart home product. Alexa’s voice control was nearly everywhere – controlling lights, shades, thermostats, door locks, sound systems, kitchen appliances, and even automobiles. And AI and the ability to personalize the smart home user experience could be found in everything from the Whirlpool refrigerator that could determine how much water to dispense based on your daily preferences to the new Moen intelligent showering system that had the ability to learn your preferred shower temperature (see photo below).

Home control interfaces are no longer just keypads, graphical, and voice user interfaces.   Fibaro displayed gesture and button based control, and Seven Hugs was the talk of CES for their new remote control. With Seven Hugs, the user merely points at a light switch, Sonos speaker, or TV and the appropriate graphic control of that device shows up on the user’s control wand based on GPS knowledge of where each of these intelligent components are located in the home.

The Network Grows

As custom electronic integrators we have spent the last several years connecting networked subsystems in the home. The next several years we will see a rapid progression of connected intelligence in the home. We’ll soon see scenes that we can create from companies such as IFTTT and Stringify to interactive voice control conversations our clients will have with Amazon Alexa and Google Home (with Apple and Microsoft to joining the party shortly).  

Every home technology category – AV, lighting, security, HVAC control, access control – now has dozens of IoT products from which to choose, making it a challenge for the custom integrator to select the best connected product for a given home technology requirement. Today the attractiveness of a connected product is defined as much by its
aesthetics and ongoing software upgrades as its current hardware features.

The new intelligent Baldwin Evolve door locks exhibited at the show exemplified another emerging trend: IoT products can now be as beautiful as they are functional. Doorbird’s new line of well-designed intelligent front door stations that complement the look of the front entrances of our client’s custom homes are another example of a product line with both beauty and brains (Doorbird's below, the Baldwin Evolve products appear at the end of the article).

Almost everything one can install in the home now has some form of built-in intelligence, from the practical to the bizarre. On the practical side a company called Dome demonstrated their Guardian water valve shutoff that can be placed on a home’s incoming water line. Communicating over WiFI or Z-Wave, it will respond to a detected water leak in the home and shut down the main water line. In the bizarre category, that same company has introduced a Z-Wave communicating mouse zapper that will notify your phone when it catches a mouse so you can check the trap and dispose of the electrocuted little creature.  

Becoming the Trusted Tech Advisor

This is an exciting time to be a custom electronics integrator. We have never had a broader range of products from which to choose from to enhance the entertainment, comfort, and security of our clients’ homes. Our greatest challenge in the future will no longer be integrating all of these different products in the home so they work reliably and consistently – but choosing the right products in each of these categories that we trust. Done properly, we will remain market leaders and delight our clients with ongoing software based innovation, leveraging the personalization of AI and the ease of use of voice communication in various product platforms.

As custom integrators we own the network in the home. Traditionally our core strengths were in the categories of audio/video, lighting control, comfort control and security. But a future holistic approach to home technology will demand that we have knowledge of all the intelligent connected products inside and outside the home –f rom smart sprinkler systems, showers, ovens, and refrigerators to garage doors and even cars. These products will all be integral to our clients’ home technology lifestyle – and we will need to be their lifelong trusted advisors.

About the author:

Gordon van Zuiden is the president of cyberManor and a member of the CEDIA® Tech Council.



CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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