AI. Displays. Robotics. VR. Autonomous vehicles.
It was all there. All big. All fun.
Yup, another year of mind-blowing tech from the usual brands… and a little tech failure that left show-goers in the dark. And, as expected, smart home devices and platforms took center stage as every company from Google to LG salivated for a piece of the action. It makes sense they would. It’s the dream scenario to be part of your life, interacting and learning your habits in real-time, all the time. The smart device industry is just as much of a push from manufacturers as it is a pull from consumers. Both sides want more and more is what you’ll get.
Samsung impressed. Google begged for attention. And, Amazon kept doing Amazon things. Samsung probably laid out the biggest dream of the three, while Google’s aim was clearly to make sure everyone fully understands that they plan on staying in the connected consumer business.
Samsung is dreaming big and it’s an exciting next step for those of us who have been with SmartThings for some time. Samsung is taking the idea of a smart home in isolation away and focusing, instead, on an always-connected consumer. The SmartThings app will become the hub of your connected lifestyle and will seamlessly connect your car (Harmon division), phone, wearables, home, appliances, etc. to one app that goes everywhere with you. Since it’s all cloud based, the goal will be for SmartThings to handle everything as you transition through environments (home/car) and situations (sleep/vacation). Think of listening to a song at home, then it continues when you climb in your car, then it plays on your headphones while you sit at the office.
I’m excited to see what’s next for Samsung (not sure they need to do the Bixby thing) and I applaud them for taking the huge strides necessary to reduce the connected consumer’s fragmented experiences.
Google filled CES with “Hey Google” tagged on everything. It’s safe to say they are tired of Echo and are fighting back. Probably their most important, immediate need was to fill their lack of displays similar to the Echo Show. I’m not a huge fan of Show, but it’s definitely on the right path and where the industry is headed. It’s not just about voice controls and apps. Life is a mix of all the senses and getting Google Assistant on some kind of display had to be addressed by Google – and it was.
Instead of creating their own display devices, Google decided to work with vendors to handle the hardware side of things. I was a little surprised by this, but I like it. Let the hardware folks compete for customers while Google handles the brains. Lenovo announced a nice little display called the Smart Display and JBL released the Link View. LG will have a Google based display, as well.
Google also announced more headphone and TV partners. I’m looking forward to have Google Assistant integrated into more devices and I’m hopeful that Google finally delivers on their I/O 17 announcement regarding Chromecast pushing info to displays based on Google Assistant commands. For example, I want to ask Google Home, “show my calendar on my bedroom TV,” or “show the 5 day forecast on my living room TV.” This was a promised featured that hasn’t happened and Google didn’t mention anything related to Chromecast at CES, from what I can tell. My guess is that smarter, native Google Assistant integration into TVs will solve this problem.
As far as Google Assistant TVs are concerned, I like what I saw from Sony and the LG AI TV line.
For you Alexa fans, Optoma now has a 4k projector with built-in Alexa.
Nanoleaf and LIFX are in an epic battle for your wall. Nanoleaf caught a lot of attention this week with their introduction of light panels than can be configured however you want. If you want to fill your entire wall with Google Assistant controlled lights, this is the product for you if you can afford it ;). I’m a fan of their remote control.. that’s pretty genius. Nanoleaf panels will go head to head with LIFX Beam and LIFX Tiles. Should be a fun year in this space. I’ll probably end up with Tiles since I already have lots of LIFX bulbs setup around the house.
Philips Hue also announced a new syncing technology with Razer and teased a new app. For me, the most significant news was the confirmation of an upcoming launch of outdoor bulbs. FINALLY!
Also, for around the house, there were lots of appliances on display and far too many smart vacuums. I think everyone has one now. LG seems to have a good one on their hands called Cord Zero. More to come in this space as iRobot fights to hold on to market share. Whether it’s the Samsung Family Hub or the ThinQ series from LG, the next evolution in appliances will demand to be connected.
That’s about all for now. There were lots of other smart home products on display, but I’ve hit on the big players. It was nice seeing Abode step up its home security game with more products and integrations. Blink also brought out its new doorbell and was glowing with pride in its recent acquisition by Amazon. This is not good news for me, however, since I have a Google based ecosystem with Blink cameras that will not likely integrate nicely in the future. But, don’t get me wrong. Blink makes great products for the price.
As you may have noticed, I didn’t discussed Alexa based products too much. That’s because I’m no longer using Alexa at home. My smart life is built around Google Assistant, SmartThings, and Harmony hubs. I’m sure it’ll change over time, but I’ll likely focus on products built on Google Assistant and SmartThings platforms.