Talking tech since 2003

It’s not the only exhibition of exciting new consumer technologies slated for the year, but CES 2019 has already given us a look at many new products with implications for our homes, our lives, and our lifestyles. So what has the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, and the year so far, revealed about the next couple of years of innovation in the smart home industry? Let’s take a look.

5G Comes Home

We’re still waiting on a proper 5G network to come to market — and AT&T’s so-called “5GE” isn’t it. Some of the companies showing their wares at CES and elsewhere describe their products as “ready for” 5G. That’s an important distinction to point out, but it doesn’t dull the exciting implications any. Let’s consider the ways that 5G connectivity will transform the use of routers, home security equipment, wearables, smart appliances, heating and cooling systems, remote control for lights, doors window coverings, and much more.

When real 5G infrastructure is rolled out in earnest — likely between now and 2021 — the entire smart home products market will become even more compelling, functionality-wise. It might even take the tedium of home Wi-Fi setup completely out of the equation. Your smart bathroom scales, garage door openers, and doorbells will be able to utilize blazing-fast 5G cellular networks for even faster data transfers and easier setup and maintenance. Even better, it’ll clear up the clutter of multiple connectivity standards currently being used in the smart home industry, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, near-field communication, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and others.

Home Monitoring Gets More Advanced Thanks to AI

There will probably always be a market among property owners for advanced security technology with remote monitoring services. But what would have to happen in order for us to automate otherwise human-centric industries like this one?

One prediction would see artificial intelligence taking over a lot of the “heavy lifting” from security companies that utilize human staff in their remote monitoring. In other words, whereas smart video cameras and other security equipment are already delivering value in the form of easy connectivity and longer battery lives, human operators still need to monitor live video feeds in many cases to spot and respond to trouble.

What if AI could perform this all-important task instead? Thanks to progress in pattern recognition, homes everywhere may soon receive protection from AI-enabled security cameras that can flag security concerns based on parameters like certain types of movement during certain times of the day. Beyond recognizing patterns that might signify intruders, some AI home surveillance solutions on display at CES 2019 can also learn to recognize objects and pets, and provide additional monitoring, oversight and peace of mind for everything that matters under your roof. These are welcome developments in a world where multiple types of real estate liability can be a constant concern.

Alexa Toilets and Smart Mirrors

Do you want your “throne” to be, literally, a throne? If so, Kohler’s luxurious, Alexa-enabled smart toilet would like a word. Even though it’s one of the more outlandish entries making the tech show rounds right now, it packs quite a few smart home proofs-of-concept into a single product. In addition to using movement detection to open and close automatically, the toilet can also queue up relaxing lights and sounds, and even warm the seat according to the user’s pre-defined temperature preference.

Maybe your toilet is already exactly as smart as it needs to be, though. That’s why Kohler and others are also showcasing smart vanity mirrors, too. Just like the smaller Dot and Echo devices you may already own, smart mirrors can interface with Amazon services to deliver music on-demand as well as things like our personal calendars and traffic updates for our commutes. If you’re into multi-tasking, the idea of a heads-up display on your bathroom mirror is probably a compelling one.

Don’t expect the coddling you’ll receive from your smart toilet to help any with your morning time crunch. But while you can giggle all you want at the idea of having a conversation with Kohler’s new commodes, it’s impressive to see a 150-year-old company learning and marketing surprising new tricks.

Home Automation Gets Even Better at Delivering Savings

In very recent memory, we’ve watched the transition from incandescent to fluorescent to LED lighting for the home. Now, LEDs are receiving their next inevitable update in the name of energy savings: automation. In fact, if there’s one buzzword that stood above the others at CES 2019, it was automation. It’s possible you’re already using an emerging standard like Alexa, Google Home, Zigbee, Z-Wave, or HomeKit to connect and monitor many of your electricity-consuming devices and appliances within your home.

CES 2019 revealed offerings from GE, Philips and Lutron, like colored LED bulbs and ceiling fans, that can be programmed with detailed schedules to coincide with your comings and goings, or can otherwise change their behavior based on the presence of occupants in the home. These have been cost-prohibitive and niche products for the most part up to this point, but with prices falling across the board, it’s getting easier for homeowners everywhere to add smarter technologies to their home to automate tedious everyday tasks or turn equipment on and off automatically to save energy.

Smart Homes and Better Living

Current market research indicates that the smart home sector is likely to become a $53 billion juggernaut by 2022. As we’ve seen here, it’s little wonder: Smart homes already deliver new levels of comfort, convenience, environmental friendliness and a host of other advantages. In 2019 and beyond, we’ll see these already promising products and new technologies mature further and deliver better living for all.

In fact, one of the Design Innovation Award winners at CES this year was the “Solar Cow” charging station. It set out to prove that communal chargers and portable batteries can power villages and towns from the third world to the most heavily developed industrial nation. Making battery chargers more widely available in our homes and public spaces has implications for everything from smartphones and driverless cars to home battery backup systems.

From smart toilets to community power stations, 2019 is looking like the year technology and home appliance companies throw absolutely everything at the wall to “see what sticks.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not a compelling look at where the future may take us.

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