Category Archives: Smart Technology

CES is Back and Stirring Up More Excitement in the Smart Home Space

It’s CES time again. The world’s biggest consumer electronics show will this week welcome an estimated 180,000 visitors, with over 4,400 exhibitors filling nearly three million square feet around Las Vegas with the latest innovations. Turning 52 this year, the event is showing no signs of slowing down in its middle age. Rather, it continues to be one of the biggest events in the tech calendar and a useful place for crystal ball-gazers to gauge where the industry is headed.

This year smart devices once again dominated, especially home systems integrating AI-power voice assistants and apps. From the quirky to the more traditional and everything in between, here’s a round-up of some of the highlights.

Smart home

A sign of the smart home’s growing position at the mainstream of the consumer technology space is the sheer range of gadgets on offer at CES. Many of these, like the Currant smart wall outlet, the C by GE smart lighting range and Onelink Bell smart doorbell integrate voice assistant tech from the key players like Google and Amazon. Some include robotic technology, such as the Temi personal butler which now has Alexa support, and the FoldiMate laundry folding machine.

Smart toilets come this year in a surprisingly large number of varieties, including Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet featuring Alexa integration. Their pet equivalents were also in attendance, courtesy of Inubox (dogs) and LavvieBot (cats). In fact, the pet theme continued to CES innovation award winner Mookkie, a device which uses AI to identify individual animals in order to dispense food intelligently.

IoT everywhere

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all pervasive at this year’s CES. If not manifest in smart home devices, it can be found in wearables like smart nappy monitors which detect when the wearer needs changing, and smart belts which track the user’s waistline, gait and walking speed. An AI-powered wearable camera captures contact details and promises the wearer will “never forget a face again”, while the Urgonight headband claims to help train the brain to sleep better.

Connected cars have also made major impact again this year, notably the electric M-Byte from Chinese startup Byton. Not to be outdone, Mercedes showed off its 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, Nissan debuted its Leaf e+ vehicle, Honda showcased its DreamDrive infotainment system and Qualcomm its AI-powered car “cockpit” platform.

A new spin

Although the smart home and IoT gadgets have garnered a great deal of attention on day one of the show, there were other notable appearances highlighting continued innovation in the consumer tech space. These included bendable smartphone the Royale FlexPai, which seems to have beaten Samsung to the punch in launching first.

Other new takes on established technology included a solar-powered smart watch. In the smart TV space, LG’s 8K OLED model has a screen which doubles as a giant speaker, while the same firm’s 65-inch Signature OLED TV R is a slick, rollable model which it is claimed will “liberate users from the limitations of the wall.”

By AS

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Connected Car Successes are following Smart Home Precedent

Growth in the connected car market is accelerating. The latest predictions claim that revenue in the US alone could top $37 billion by 2023, while globally, some have valued it as a $219 billion opportunity by 2025. Whatever happens, it’s undeniable that modern automobiles are as much computers as they are vehicles. That’s why we’ve seen a growing number of deals over recent months between car OEMs and traditional IT and OT providers. The latest is a tie-up between Google and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.

As yet another connected “thing”, our cars are set to become an extension of the emerging smart home. And that’s why the user interface will be key to success or failure as we go forward. In the smart home space we’ve seen a whole ecosystem of new connected things spring up to make people safer, happier and more entertained within the confines of their own four walls. The key gadget that has caught people’s imagination has been the smart speaker, now garnering sales in the millions of units. Those distributors that have managed to ink deals with Google, Amazon and Apple are already benefitting as their AI assistants get integrated into more and more products.

At the end of August, Amazon announced it had integrated Alexa into smart home sensors, bringing with it a whole new slew of functionality. Now you can ask Alexa if there are any doors open before setting your security alarm at night. Or program for the lights to come on if there’s movement in a room downstairs. This is the future of home automation and will open the floodgates on innovation in the space, and similar functionality can well be imagined inside the connected car.

Joining the dots
The average connected car today is said to contain more than 150 million lines of code, plenty of wireless connectivity and multiple on-board computer systems to provide everything from infotainment, monitoring of emissions, and even control of key functions like steering. We’re still some way off fully autonomous vehicles. But our cars are increasingly packed with technology designed to help with things like safety, navigation, predictive maintenance, entertainment and even in-car productivity.

Kal Mos, Global Vice President of Alliance Connected Vehicles at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, was quick to zero in on the benefits of teaming up with Google.

“In the future, the Google Assistant, which employs Google’s leading AI technology, can become the main way customers interact with their vehicles, hands-free,” he said. “With Google Maps and the Google Assistant embedded in Alliance infotainment systems, our customers will have some of the most advanced AI-based applications at their fingertips. And with in-vehicle access to the Google Play Store, our customers will enjoy an open and secure ecosystem of Android apps engineered for vehicles.”

Increasingly we will live in a digital world where the connected car acts as an extension of the smart home and vice-versa. And the smart home will heavily influence the connected car space. The habits consumers are already learning at home will need to be embedded into their vehicles if OEMs want to drive success. That’s why, alongside the Google announcement, we’ve seen:

  • BMW and Mini announce a tie-up with Amazon Alexa
  • Bosch develop an in-vehicle assistant dubbed “Casey”
  • Mercedes continue to develop its own in-car assistant tech as part of the MBUX system

It won’t all be plain sailing. A new study has revealed widespread gaps in awareness and even active hostility to the idea of autonomous cars. But change is coming. And it will bring with it new opportunities for the channel.

by AS

 

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IFA 2018: Consumer Electronics Gets Smarter

The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) show claims to be the world’s largest consumer electronics show. With over 1,800 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors from 31st of August-5th of September, it was certainly a mind-boggling place to experience. Continue reading

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IFA 2018: What Can We Expect?

Radio was cutting edge technology almost a century ago, and the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA)or Berlin International Radio Show, can truly claim to be “a partner to the future” having been a showcase for new technologies since 1924. The week-long event is still drawing in the crowds, and it’s estimated that this year’s IFA will welcome more than 1,800 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors when the doors open on 31st August— many of them industry professionals looking to build out their networks and scout for the latest technology innovations.

Relative newcomers to the technology show scene CES and MWC may have stolen some of the new products thunder earlier in the year, but this venerable exhibition still has the capacity to surprise, and provide a tantalising snapshot into the cutting edge of consumer technology. Continue reading

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Plotting the Future of the Smart Home

The smart home is gaining momentum across Europe, but there’s still much to do. That’s why the work of the Smart Homes & Buildings Association (SH&BA) is so important. We provide a place for business to showcase their systems, devices, products and services, and a much-needed forum for all smart home stakeholders to share their experiences and discuss ways to overcome the hurdles facing us.

At the heart of these challenges lies interoperability, which to an extent is still proving a stubborn barrier to the kind of integrated smart home experience we all want to see.

A unified experience
At our fourth bi-annual retail and manufacturer panel meeting recently, stakeholders from across the smart home landscape converged on the offices of Avensys, where we were shown around the IoT specialist’s impressive facilities. The firm’s several showrooms, open to all members of the public, really demonstrate the potential in the smart home to change the way we live. The largest space combines kitchen, living-room, bathroom, dining-room and second living-room, each showing off different technologies but giving a sense of a unified smart home.

We agreed that a model which works together efficiently holds most potential for the mass market, rather than the kind of plug-and-play mix of individual products which meet very specific needs but can fail to resonate overall.

However, the problem still remains that many products don’t talk to each other, making the unified smart home experience a pipe dream for most consumers.

Starting from scratch
One cause for optimism for the future comes from the new build space. Mark Swift, founder of Home Hub installations, told us his firm has gone from cabling two houses per month to 200, and is about to sign a deal for 14,000 houses in the next year. Many of these are integrating the open SmartThings platform, promising a unified experience for the buildings once completed.

Partnerships are of course key to driving this vision of the integrated smart home. On a bigger scale, Amazon’s recent tie-up with Lennar Homes, the second largest housebuilder in the US, also offers grounds for optimism. We also heard how the IET is currently producing guidance for electricians on smart home installation, which will help drive progress in this space.

Looking ahead
While interoperability is a big success factor for the smart home, there are others. Consumers also need to trust in the retailers and brands they’re investing in, and be assured that the tech they buy will last long into the future. As an industry, we also need to ensure that consumers are informed about the potential cyber-related risks associated with the smart home and how to manage them. SH&BA produced guidance around this in November 2015 and we’re looking to the industry to get proactive in this area.

Helping us to shape the future of the smart home going forward will be a new SH&BA initiative: the Smart Home Young Leaders’ Forum. This cross-industry group will seek to better understand the different ways that young professionals under 35 years of age who work in the smart home industry are engaging with technology in order to help companies transition from old to new smart home technologies. We’re looking forward to seeing what it can achieve, because the smart home will only succeed if we continue to build out these networks, partnerships and interconnections. The first meeting of the Young Leaders’ Forum will take place at IFA in Berlin on 3rd September at 4pm. All details can be found in the link to the event – To find out more click SH&BA YOUNG LEADERS’ FORUM @ IFA – REGISTRATION LINK

by AS

 

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Filed under Connectivity, Market Analysis, Smart Home, Smart Technology, Uncategorized

Wi-Fi Mesh Systems Start to Find their Feet in the Corporate Market

At CONTEXT we’ve seen consumer awareness of smart home products across Europe slowly start to take off over the past 18 months. That’s why the launch into the market of Wi-Fi Mesh systems last year seemed like a smart move, designed as they are to enhance Wi-Fi coverage for internet-connected gadgets around the home.

However, this hasn’t quite proven to be the case. It’s not the consumer but the corporate space which appears to be showing most interest. Continue reading

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Smartphones and Beyond: The Best of Mobile World Congress 2018

The world’s biggest mobile technology event was upon us again this week. Over 100,000 tecchies descended on Barcelona this week to showcase the latest and greatest smart devices and network technologies that is Mobile World Congress (MWC). Despite reports of an overall global decline in sales at the end of last year, just one look at the show this year will tell you that consumers’ love affair with their smartphones is far from over. However, MWC is increasingly also about showcasing other kinds of connected devices and technology platforms. Continue reading

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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, IoT, Market Analysis, Mobile technology, Smart Home, Smart Technology, virtual reality, Wearables