CES 2018 Hangover: The Smart Home

CEO Alex and Nader from Josh.ai with Lutron’s Ryan Boam (center)

The Consumer Electronics Show 2018 in Las Vegas officially came and went last week. If the weather on the first day of the show was any indication, it was going to be a show that would be a different from previous years. We were there all week taking meetings and demoing Josh in Lutron’s high-end Homeworks QS lighting room on the show floor.

We’ve finally had a chance to put our feet up and recover after the week (my watch told me I walked an average 9 miles a day), and spend some time reflecting on what we saw. Overall, with a few exceptions, there’s not much to see at CES that can be directly applied to the custom high-end integration world. That said, for the integrator or manufacturer that wants to keep track of trends in the mass market, CES is a good place to get a feel for that. Here are a few of our thoughts on CES 2018.

Google was everywhere at CES 2018

Nearly every booth / product we saw had voice as a feature for control. This is a big difference compared to last year, when voice and voice assistants were still being touted as an innovative and differentiating feature. While voice control is still very much in the early adopter phase for practical mass-market adoption, it was near ubiquitous at CES.

Speaking of voice assistants, the big battle at CES 2018 seemed to be between Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, and both companies took different marketing approaches at the trade show.

Google opted for the brute force in-your-face spend a ton of money approach. Everywhere you looked, from the billboards on the hotels on the Strip to even the Las Vegas Monorail, Google showed up there. The company also put physical brand ambassadors in many booths to show off voice control with specific products.

Google Assistant ambassador in a white jumpsuit in the Somfy booth

Amazon, on the other hand, chose to rely on its head start of thousands of product integrations and skills, and let those integrations speak for themselves. Amazon did rent a large ballroom in a prime entry location at the Sands to allow for private demos and meetings.

While this is not a surprise, it is still worth noting that nearly all the products we saw related to the smart home seemed to be only designed for small-scale enthusiasts, as opposed to whole-home automation.

Take smart lighting, for example. Many lighting “systems” on display revolved around the single smart bulb, with the idea that you could buy one bulb at a time to add connected lighting to your home. The problem here is that many of these bulbs used WiFi to communicate with the network. While one or two bulbs may be ok, if you have a home with 100 bulbs, your network could get overloaded very quickly.

Josh.ai in the Lutron booth CES 2018

On the other hand, Lutron was one of the only manufacturers there that was designed for whole home lighting, using central hubs for communications, instead of connecting each bulb to the Internet. Other solutions, such as Philips Hue, are on the right track, but still can’t seem to handle large installations with many lights, based on our experience.

The Z-Wave Pavilion at CES 2018

The space attributed to the smart home has been increasing for the last few years, and we were happy to see that trend continue for this year. For example, our friends at the Z-Wave pavilion had their biggest share of space yet, including their own little smart home replica, to show how the vast array of Z-Wave enabled products can be used to automate a connected home.

Skiin showed off undergarments that could sense a variety of bodily states, including mood and health

As with any year, while there are some very cool demos of new technology, especially from the big tech companies, there are always plenty of products that leave us thinking, “what in the …?”

For example, one product that keeps coming up in people’s review of Weird CES 2018 is the Foldimate. This device is designed to automatically fold your laundry for you and save you a ton of time along the way. Unfortunately, the time saving comes with a few conditions.

The Foldimate at CES 2018

First, it only folds certain kinds of clothes, such as tshirts and dress pants. The machine cannot handle a sweatshirt for example. Second, you have to actually feed in each article of clothing to the device in a very specific way. Third, the device is not yet actually shipping — the company is taking pre-orders.

Big trade shows, such as CES, are always a whirlwind of activity. Who knows if even half of the products shown will actually make an impact on consumers. That’s the thing about innovation, though — it may take a product with a seemingly weird application to inspire others to create something disruptive. Let’s keep an eye on Foldimate … will it be a hit of CES 2019 or will it not even show up?

This post was written by Nader who heads Business Development at Josh.ai. Previously, Nader was managing partner at GenYrator and before that he was Vice President / Supervising Execution Trader at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Nader has an MBA from USC and a BS in Electrical Engineering from UT Austin. He likes to play volleyball, travel, and rock out to pop music.

Josh.ai is an artificial intelligence agent for your home. If you’re interested in learning more, visit us at https://josh.ai.

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