January 8, 2016
John Vomhof Jr.Staff Writer
Smart home technology is no longer the new kid on the block at CES. In fact, this year’s displays make it clear this category is growing up fast.
From thermostats and light bulbs to door locks and security cameras, homeowners have access to more connected products than ever before. And smartphone apps make it easy to control all of those so-called “Internet of Things” devices, whether you’re in the living room or on the go.
The Consumer Technology Association, the group that runs CES, expects sales of connected home products to increase 21 percent in 2016, to 8.9 million units sold. Industrywide, revenue could reach $1.2 billion.
Here are five ways that your smart home is about to get even smarter.
1. Appliances become “Internet of Things” hubs
Samsung is starting to embed its SmartThings hubs — the “brain” of your smart home system — into TVs and appliances, so you can use them to manage all of your other Internet-connected devices and sensors. The company’s new “Family Hub” refrigerator, announced this week at CES, features a built-in 21.5-inch tablet you can use to search for new recipes, play music and control your lights, doors and cameras. There’s also a camera inside the fridge so you can peek inside while at the grocery store. And a barcode scanner keeps an inventory of products and alerts you when you’re running low on something.
2. Home security gets high(er) tech
Do-it-yourself home security is getting easier, cheaper and more advanced, thanks to innovations in door locks, video doorbells and wireless security cameras. This week at CES, Flir announced the first thermal-imaging technology available in consumer home security cameras, and most of the video-security companies are developing more advanced audio and video analytics to help you make sense of all the data that’s gathered.
3. Light bulbs that do more
Smart lighting, in general, is getting brighter and more affordable, and now there are a variety of add-on products and features. Philips launched dimmer switches for its Hue lights in October, and startup iLumi introduced gesture control this week at CES. There are also bulbs that are embedded with Bluetooth speakers and can boost your Wi-Fi signal.
4. Better ways to control your stuff
There are now easier and more natural ways to control your connected devices than just through your smartphone or tablet. New smart home hubs let you operate your August smart locks and Philips Hue light bulbs through voice commands, and more and more products are being integrated to work together. For example, a Nest thermostat can operate many of your devices for you — turning off lights you left on, locking doors and even switching your dryer to refresh mode to keep your clothes wrinkle-free until you get home.
5. Distributed Wi-Fi
This era of ubiquitous sensors and Internet connectivity can put a lot of strain on your home Wi-Fi. That’s why there’s a lot of buzz around gadgets that can extend your router’s power and reach, and kill dead spots throughout the house. These extended networks can even keep your smart home working when your router fails.
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