Earlier this month I was able to attend my first ever International Consumer Electronics Show, and lo what a glorious sight! In addition to finally being able to meet my longtime coconspirator and GeekDad’s one and only benevolent leader, Ken Denmead, I was also afforded the opportunity to check out a dizzying array of current and future products from manufacturers and distributors large and small.
The biggest names were, I dare say, a tad predictable. Amid the lingering 4K television fervor, a number of companies went out of their way to showcase mammoth 8K resolution televisions, with Samsung’s 110″ model – that also featured glasses-free 3D, another favored industry buzz term – likely taking home the ribbon for most outlandish display. Intel showcased everything from their RealSense motion-tracking camera technology to the True Key password replacement system, and even preached the gospel of the oncoming wireless charging revolution while also highlighting current technological marvels like Lenova’s Intel-powered Yoga line of hybrid ultrabooks/tablets. (After messing around with the latter, I’m honestly inclined to consider picking up one rather than replace my aging MacBook Air.)
Learning about wireless charging in the main hall. #ces2015 A photo posted by GeekDad Blog (@geekdads) on Jan 8, 2015 at 9:47am PST
Wearables, however, were the order of the day. Everyone had their own take on the smartwatch or the health and wellness meter or some marriage of the two. By the end of day one it was easy to see that this was the go-to showpiece, from the main halls to the slimmer secondary booths. While I initially expected this to make my first-gen Pebble seem hopelessly outmoded, it instead made me appreciate its silent simplicity. While watches and the like may have been the ultimate expression of me-too tech at CES 2015, it seemed that many were just trying to worm their way into the marketplace ahead of Apple’s incoming first-party solution and/or trying to fill an already nonexistent gap in the Android ecosystem.
Another hot item seemed to be connected home tech, a niche that was admittedly more appealing to my personal interests than the easily attention-grabbing displays of 3D printers and consumer drones. Up to this point, home monitoring and automation has been mostly split between competing protocols, and CES showed some interesting movement along established battle lines.
The Z-Wave Alliance, a consortium unified behind this titular leading RF communication technology, touts its stability and a wide range of device interoperability. This is the system employed by my preferred smart hub, Piper; its soon-to-launch second generation Piper NV product builds upon already solid functionality with increased processing power, event encryption and night vision integrated its stellar 180-degree camera. Smaller providers also seem to be jumping aboard the good ship Z-Wave, with the Oomi Cube launching later this month via a crowdfunding campaign and the diminutive RaZberry allowing the more DIY-minded to use the Raspberry PI board to create their very own Z-Wave gateways. ZigBee, on the other hand, is an open IEEE 802.15.4 standard with its own Alliance, a group quick to point out ZigBee transceivers’ amazingly low power consumption – many of its remote smart switches are battery-free, using only the energy of a button-push to relay the necessary signal! Among its most fervent proponents is the Netherlands-based GreenPeak Technologies. GreenPeak’s CES showpiece included a “senior lifestyle system” designed to facilitate remote access elder care without the use of intrusive cameras or wearable devices. Using only a home gateway and a series of door and motion sensors, it allows children or other caregivers to monitor daily activity and ensure safety without compromising independence. Still, while some have closed ranks around their preferred standard, others, like the innovative Webee set-top hub, happily support both Z-Wave and ZigBee for an even broader approach to smart home integration. Others still find common ground by employing more traditional standards. Kwikset, for example, has long supported Z-Wave with many of their smart locks, but their unique Bluetooth-enabled Kevo line is set to expand its offerings in a very interesting way. Soon users will be able to upgrade to Kevo Plus and receive a free Bluetooth gateway that, using your router, at last allows for things like remote locking/unlocking functionality. A new partnership with the makers of the Nest Learning Thermostat also enables device inter-functionality, like the ability to set your Nest in Away mode when locking your door as you leave for work. For those who’ve never attended, CES is, in a word, surreal. From the sterile splendor of the Sony mega-booth to the unexpected delights of the Rotimatic (imagine if a bread maker and a 3D printer had a beautiful baby), it’s a place of commerce and creativity. It’s rather its own little world, where Toshiba’s terrifying android sings standards while across the hall a pack of Winbots, looking more like a throwaway gag from Astro Boy, diligently clean. There’s only one place where both Dish Network can launch their deceptively disruptive Sling streaming service and a tiny team with an iPhone and a dream can create Clockety, the ideal projection clock. That place is the International Consumer Electronics Show, and there’s nowhere else quite like it on earth.
Toshiba welcomes you to the uncanny valley. #ces2015 #yikes A photo posted by GeekDad Blog (@geekdads) on Jan 8, 2015 at 1:04pm PST
Disclaimer: My CES 2015 travel and accommodations were provided by Kwikset as part of their Ambassador Program. Neither Kwikset nor any other parties involved in the International Consumer Electronics Show provided editorial constraints or content oversight for the above post.