When deciding on what to focus on at CES, I drew the “wildest smart home tech” straw among our home office team. True to my entrepreneurial/short attention span nature, I took a meandering path before I found anything that I considered “wild.” Here’s what distracted me along the way to the “wild” payoff at the end.
What’s old is new again?
One of my hobbies is finding old vinyl records at garage and estate sales. My sons are developing an affinity for this medium as well, and my middle son Jared has started his own collection of albums of his favorite movie soundtracks, such as Guardians of the Galaxy and La La Land (he has diverse tastes). It’s fun to hear him gush about the “warmth” of vinyl vs digital recordings, so while at CES, I was looking for tech that bridges the warmth of the old and the ease of the new.
There were plenty to be found, with Crosley and Victrola both displaying retro turntables, including systems that played analog off the needle and broadcast to Bluetooth speakers. Not all of them were retro either- for example, this Lexan-mounted set caught my eye.
I was interested to check out Sony’s PS-HX500 turntable which not only plays your vinyl, but also allows you to make a digital recording of it for easy access, portability, and archiving. Unfortunately, just as I put the headphones on the power went out to a large chunk of the show floor, so I didn’t get to hear the end product.
Regardless of the source of your audio, combine it with the Bang and Olufsen BeoSound Shape, where each “tile” is a wireless speaker, amplifier, or acoustic dampener, and you’ve got a sexy installation that sounds amazing.
One device that I saw in the Eureka Park startup marketplace at CES that made a bunch of sense for homeowners was the Iotobox Music Gateway. This device allows you to integrate existing home audio systems with Sonos or similar wireless speaker systems. This means that those speakers and wires that were carefully built in when that older home was constructed have new life, and new value as part of a smart home. I’m guessing there are other solutions that fill this need, as the one I found is a startup, and it’s not clear how viable the company or its products will be.
Giving new life to battery life
Setting aside my audiophile interests, one of the most impressive, brilliant pieces of smart home technology was truly minimalist and essentially invisible. Any parent who has dealt with the whining (or occasional meltdown) when all the batteries for the Wii remotes are dead will instantly see the beauty of this innovation. The Ossia Cota Forever Battery is a standard size AA battery which functions with wireless charging. This means if you put the charging unit within a couple of meters of the where the remotes are stored, they will charge wirelessly. No plugs, wires or charging pads or finding that one little screwdriver to get the battery door off. Not only will the battery issue go away, but it’s a powerful motivator for kids to PUT THEIR STUFF AWAY!
Wearing your smart home?
So that’s what I found cool for my own uses and interests, but what’s next in smart homes? Moving beyond the technology and the functions or services it provides, one of the next steps in the progression is for the home to anticipate the resident’s needs, desires, or requests and accommodate them without that person having to ask or take action. In other words, can our house know we’re cold and adjust automatically? Or sense your mood and shift the lighting and music accordingly? In order to do this, the home needs biometric data, but how can it get that? Enter smart textiles, and specifically…smart underwear.
That’s right. Smart skivvies. By actually wearing a base layer made of smart textiles on a daily basis, your body can communicate directly with your home, allowing it to adjust to suit you. Additional applications here include collecting physiologic data around activities like exercise or athletic training. When I brought up smart underwear like what was showcased by Skiin, the prevailing response was somewhere between “eww” and “no thanks”. Really though, in the progression of privacy tradeoffs we’ve already made, just how far out is it?