The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the largest tech conventions in the world, and often presents the first opportunity to discover the technological innovations of tomorrow. As the Managing Director of OVO’s In Home Technology department, I went out to Las Vegas to see what the tech world has on offer for 2015 and beyond. Now that I’m home safe and sound, my jetlag has (almost) vanished and the constant ring of fruit machines is a distant memory, I thought I’d share some of my findings.
My first day started with the keynote address from Gary Shapiro, the President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. He told us that data driven prediction is becoming increasingly important in all industries. The more data that we collect about everything we do, the more percentage based probabilities will be presented to us. It’s all very impressive - but is it just me that prefers the excitement that comes with uncertainty?
Shapiro also touched upon tech’s higher purpose. While many of the news stories surrounding events like CES focus on what must-have gadgets might be hitting the shelves in the future, electronics shows are also equally important as platforms to discuss and share applications of tech that can improve living standards worldwide. Shapiro talked of technological developments tackling world issues like hunger, poor health and environmental damage.
Once the keynotes were over, I was free to explore the show itself. Across the 2 million square feet of floor space, there was every item of tech imaginable. From my (very unscientific) perspective, this year’s most popular gadget seemed to be headphones - they were everywhere! Wearable Tech was also prominent - I was particularly impressed with the LG Watch R - and there were plenty of other examples of manufacturers trying their hand at the smartwatch game.
We’re constantly coming up with innovative ways to be in two places at once. One of my most memorable experiences was the chance to walk around the show and converse with a man called Raphael who wasn’t even there. Thanks to Beam Smart Presence System from Suitable Technologies - a sort of a combination of a tablet and a remote control segway - Raphael was able to virtually attend the show live from Paris. I resisted the temptation to ask him to shout out ‘Johnny 5 is Alive!’ as we, erm, ‘walked’ around.
And on to the main reason I was attending CES - to investigate the future of smart home tech. There were dozens of smart home ecosystems on offer, with everyday items getting the ‘smart’ treatment including thermostats, plugs and door locks. From unlocking your front door from your television (a video stream showing who’s there is also displayed) to having your lights flash when the fridge door is left open, smart devices are now interacting and homes are getting truly smart. But these developments come with some questions, not least among them: is there actually any demand? Well, yes, but the trend isn’t taking off as quickly as you’d expect. A recent survey showed over 60% of American consumers aren’t familiar with what smart home products are. More education and cost reduction are needed in order to speed up adoption.
Another issue on the table when it comes to smart home technology is interoperability - getting all of your smart tech to co-operate with each other in a way that makes for an intelligently run, hassle-free home. The industry is starting to realise that the key to consumer adoption will be simplifying this process - allowing users to easily use all of their home tech together, no matter how many different manufacturer’s names are on the products. Samsung led the way, announcing that their smart home platform will be ‘open’ to allow collaboration, while Qualcomm demonstrated the power of the Allseen Alliance, a partnership of some of the biggest consumer brands to deliver a standard that allows wi-fi based devices to interact seamlessly in the home.
Of course, the major issue when it comes to ‘smartening’ up our homes is security. We’ve never been more aware of the threat of hacking, and bringing things like door locks into the digital world obviously raises some questions. Manufacturers were quick to allay any fears - the phrase ‘online banking level of security’ was spoken many times.
It was also good to see energy on the smart home agenda, too. Bosch showed off an interesting storage solution for excess solar energy generated at home: a Lithium ion battery fills up and can even use any extra power to heat a hot water cylinder.
On the energy theme, Ford has produced a range of apps called MYENERGI LIFESTYLE 2.0 which let you control your smart home appliances, plug-in vehicles and solar energy systems, helping you ‘use less energy, reduce emissions and save money’. Their initial partners so far include Nest and Whirlpool - it’s precisely this sort of thing that will help make green technology a more attractive and viable option for homes.
So lots to take away. The gadget world is still pushing the wearable trend, green tech is getting more attractive and smart home technology feels like it is on the brink of widespread adoption. One thing is for sure, when homeowners do decide to embrace the smart home technology, they won’t be short of useful and innovative options.
Take a look at some of the things I got up to - I’m off to finish unpacking!
‘It’s always good to travel with some form of protection’
'Me trying on some new outfits courtesy of Toshiba’
The opinions expressed by Mel and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of OVO Energy. OVO Energy is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Mel. Mel was not paid to endorse any products mentioned in this blog.
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