It’s hard to fathom, but at least one giant tech conference/show went on as scheduled in 2020.
That was CES 2020, which drew 170,000 people to Las Vegas from Jan. 7-10. People from around the globe witnessed the unveiling of the coolest and craziest products in all sectors of the industry, including many smart home products ready to hop onto the bandwagon of the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IOT).
In what now seems ironic, considering the toilet paper hoarding issue we face, the buzziest little oddity from this year’s CES was the Rollbot. This is Charmin’s bear-faced, app-controlled wheeled robot which rushes to the rescue of those who get stuck on the throne without any toilet paper within arm’s reach.
This and many of the other items that debut at CES every year are “concept” products which may or may not ever make it to market. Others are available for purchase or will be soon.
Both are good fodder for fantasizing about just how “smart” your home can be, or debating just how intelligent it needs to be:
Available now or soon
- Hydraloop – This tank, about the same shape and height as a refrigerator but much slimmer, is installed inside buildings and recycles water draining from showers and tubs, sinks and washers, cleansing it of soap and dirt residue so it can be reused for the laundry, pool or garden. It is much smaller and lower-maintenance than other water recycling systems and can cut usage by up to 45%. Hydraloops have been sold in Europe and Asia for a couple of years now, and their estimated starting price in the U.S. is about $4,000.
- Samsung Sero – The name of this 43-inch television, featured in Ballie’s trailer, means “vertical” in Korean and that is what sets this apart; its default position is perpendicular to the ground, smartphone-style. It’s perfect for videos shot in that mode we were told never to use, but most of us do anyway and is easier for most of our purposes. Then it pivots for old-fashioned horizontal content, presumably appeasing every generation under your roof, except those too impatient to wait a few seconds for the transition. Available in Korea now, expected to hit the US market later this year.
- Narwal – This startup is coming after Roomba, which last year debuted a smart set of a mop and vacuum working in tandem, by combining the two into one device and adding a self-cleaning feature, leaving you with absolutely no excuse for having dirty floors ever again. It’s up and going on Kickstarter now, where “super early birds” can secure their own with a $499 pledge, or about one-third off the ultimate retail price.
High concepts for the future
- GE kitchen concepts Shift and Home Grown – The appliance behemoth unveiled two concepts this year. “Shift” uses voice and face recognition to adjust counters, cabinets and appliances for easier use by every member of the home, making them accessible to disabled or elderly residents within a household. “Home Grown” integrates three types of gardens into the kitchen to supply vegetables, fruits and other fresh produce, along with screens and notifications about the growth, nutritional value and freshness of those crops. No word on when these genuinely marvelous innovations might become a reality.
- Samsung Ballie – If you loved BB-8 in the final Star Wars trilogy, you’ll probably like the tennis-ball yellow “companion robot” roving through your home, an AI-driven home personal assistant which responds to voice commands and is also capable of rallying other smart devices, such as a Roomba needed to hoover up a spill. Its camera can record and relay special moments to your phone, and helps it learn to “read” people and pets and intuit their needs. How you stop the dog from playing with Ballie is unclear. No announced release date or price.
- U by Moen Smart Faucet – This rather ordinary-looking faucet, to an infinite number of settings in its smartphone app, delivers water in the exact amount and temperature you instruct it to (including voice commands if you have a Google Assistant or Alexa), and you can turn it off and on with a wave of your hand. And unlike many of those finicky sensor-controlled faucets you find in public restrooms there’s a backup – a handle on the right side of the spout allowing you to control the flow and temperature.
- Bosch Virtual Visor – It’s technically not a “smart home” device but the concept’s too cool not to share: a transparent LCD screen replacing your car’s sun visor, able to sense and block the sun’s rays without restricting your view of a lot of your surroundings. Reviews of this concept indicate it still needs some perfecting, but given how often drivers literally face this problem it’s something that screams for a solution. Studies have found too-bright sun can be a significant factor in collisions, though it can be difficult to prove.
Making sure your home is ready to be smart
Never have our homes been more “plugged in” then in 2020. From your smart TV to your smart refrigerator, internet connectivity has provided us with a home nearly worthy of The Jetsons.
To keep your home and all of its devices running smoothly, consider the need for speed and whether you have enough of it by using our speed test.
Before adding more home devices that require internet connectivity, take the time to find out what service you already have in your home. Research the requirements for smooth online use of your devices like Alexa, and then see if fiber or other services are available in your area.
Don’t forget to consider your router and other internet connection equipment, too, for an upgrade.
Back to the future
In these strange days when we’re being told to stay home and massive tech conferences feel like relics of bygone eras, it can be helpful to rewind all the way back to January when these hone innovations were being unveiled, and know they’re still on the way.