CES took place this week, the annual consumer electronics trade show where tech companies show what they have planned for the year ahead. I’m writing this from CES where I’ve seen a lot of robots, self-driving cars, and big, beautiful TVs.
One of the major trends this year–and one that will likely effect you soon, if not already–is the connected home. In a connected home, appliances can speak to each other and you can control them all with your voice. Dim the lights, call up a movie, start the wash, and put the security system on alert — there’s no limit to what’s possible.
Several companies are putting a lot of energy into convincing you that they’re the connected home platform you should go with. You wouldn’t want a mix of systems, since they’re not currently compatible, and the beauty of a connected home is that everything works together. Those smart speakers that Google and Amazon sell, often for attractively low prices, are starter devices meant to get you familiar with their connected home system. If you have an Amazon Echo device, you’ll choose the connected light bulbs that work with it, then the security cameras, television, and so on.
Apple is also a player in this race with its HomeKit platform, although it isn’t moving nearly as quickly as the other two. Apple’s first connected speaker, the HomePod, won’t hit the market until early this year. In typical Apple fashion, the company won’t compete on price. Its speaker will sell for $349, giving the low-end market to Amazon and Google.
At CES, I saw strong interest from Samsung in being your home network. It has a line of sleek appliances that can work together. You can see what’s in your Samsung fridge from your Samsung TV, for example. This is definitely not a system for the price-conscious.
Roku, which is known for its low-priced TV streaming devices, is also getting into this market. It’s first networked product will be a soundbar made by TCL and coming out in the third quarter of this year.
If you haven’t picked out a connected home system, take your time. There’s no benefit to being first here. New players are still entering the marketing, and it’s hard to say which system will be the most useful. While they all promise ease and a range of uses, I see a lot of work to be done. They’ll get more beneficial and more affordable in the near future, but it’s still early days.