8 gadgets that might make your home smarter than you
WASHINGTON, DC. KAZINFORM In the near future, you may no longer need to remember to turn the oven off when the cake's done, switch on lights when you enter a room, or run the clothes dryer when electricity rates are cheapest. Your home will do it for you.
Dozens of home IQ-boosting gadgets debuted this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, which ended Friday. While some offer conveniences, such as waking you when your coffee is ready or remotely watering your plants, others have societal benefits such as helping to prevent power-grid blackouts, the National Geographic said.
These products are part of the "Internet of Things"concept, aimed at automating our lives by connecting mobile devices to appliances, lights, and just about everything-a shift that could improve efficiency if it works right, but compromise privacy if it doesn't.
They monitor behavior-via motion sensors, Bluetooth signals, or facial-recognition technology-to identify when we're home or away and make corresponding tweaks to room temperatures or lighting. They come from Kickstarter-funded startups as well as industry stalwarts such as Samsung.
"There's a lot of exciting potential out there," says Ben Artis, Whirlpool's senior category manager of smart homes. "For the first time, appliances can be better informed about when to run" so they avoid peak-hour pricing, he says. "We're in the early stages, but we're already seeing consumers seeking out these benefits."
The surge in innovation can be overwhelming, saysMichael Wolf, chief analyst of Next Market Insights, a research firm that tracks emerging technologies. He says consumers are bombarded with so many choices that "it's kind of confusing, because you don't know which ones will work together."
At this year's CES in Las Vegas, an entire showcase was devoted to the "smart home" and exhibits featured at least 20 different kinds of connected light bulbs and ten kinds of door locks. In the next year or two, Wolf expects shakeouts in each category that will leave a few dominant players.
Can't We Just Get Along?
The smart-home industry's biggest challenge may be compatibility. Not all products can talk to each other, because there's no universal coding language or protocol. So tech behemoths are elbowing for market dominance. Last year alone, Apple launched its HomeKit app to connect home products to its smartphones; Google spent $3.2 billion to buy Learning Thermostat-maker Nest Labs, and Samsung acquired the maker of a hub-SmartThings-that can control and coordinate devices made by different firms. (See related story: "10 Energy Breakthroughs of 2014 That Could Change Your Life")
Since consumers will likely get frustrated if products don't work with each other, companies are now rallying to create one language.
"It's going to take time, but there's great momentum," says Mike Soucie, who leads Nest's partnership program, Works With Nest. In July, his company joined Samsung and others in launching Thread Group, aimed at building a new communication standard that all devices can use.
Companies must collaborate to make connectivity work, Samsung CEO Boo Keun Yoon said in a keynote CES speech. "The Internet of Things has the potential to transform our society, economy, and how we live our lives," he said, but to deliver on that promise, "it is our job to pull together."
Nest is working with more than a dozen big companies, including appliance makers LG and Whirlpool and lighting companies Osram and Philips, to ensure products can talk to each other. For example, unlocking or locking doors with the August Smart Lock will automatically put the Nest thermostat into "home" or "away" mode. If the thermostat indicates no one will be home for hours, it can tell a Whirlpool clothes dryer to use a slower, lower-heat setting or wait until off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower.
"It's reducing the load on the power grid and saving consumers money," Soucie says, noting that such a system spreads out the demand for electricity.
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