CES 2016 Preview: Some Super-Cool Home Automation Finds – CEPro

I’m wrapping up my presentation for tomorrow’s CE Pro Webinar, 10 Big Home Automation Trends at CES 2016, and I’ve pretty much examined the entire show floor virtually (thanks, CTA for a new and much improved map-my-show navigator).

In advance of the webinar, I thought I’d share a few interesting nuggets among my discoveries.

1. We have written much about the dominant SHaaS (smart home as a service) providers in the market today: Icontrol, Alarm.com, SmartThings, Zonoff and others, but here’s one that will be taking a big bow at the show: ROC-Connect. The company’s technology already powers the OZOM smart home system from one of the largest retailers in Latin America – perhaps the equivalent of Lowe’s Iris.

The more interesting news is that former Iris leader Kevin Meagher is leading ROC’s initiatives in the U.S. and elsewhere. He tells CE Pro that the company will introduce ROC-Master at CES, providing partners with a “simple, open framework for rapidly deploying complete smart home solutions and apps at relatively low cost.”

Leveraging ROC’s ROMP open-API architecture, the new framework gives developers the “freedom to design and deliver their own unique services using our cloud platform,” Meagher says. “Effectively, it can provide major brands with the type of products and services that Iris, Wink and SmartThings offer but under their own brand.”

2. The pre-CES webinar will address all types of home automation and connectivity initiatives including ZigBee, Z-Wave (some big news announced Wednesday), AllSeen, Thread, Nest Weave, HomeKit and more, but two efforts should be particularly interesting in 2016.

One is Bluetooth mesh networking, which is looking to be a powerful force in home automation. The standard, expected be ratified in 2016, extends the distance for cheap, ubiquitous, low-power Bluetooth technology, allowing the entire home to be controlled through a smart phone, with no Wi-Fi network or Internet connection required.

Jasco, one of the largest providers of Z-Wave devices under the GE brand, gave us a hint of its BLE mesh ecosystem, called Avi-On, at CES 2015. But the products are now available and the line is growing. There’s more of the same throughout the show.

3. The other “standard” to watch is DECT ULE, the “ultra low-energy” version of the mighty DECT protocol for voice communications. Clearly we don’t need another standard, and most of my home-automation advisors have no faith that ULE will survive, but there’s no denying it has legs at least.

The big proponents of ULE are the one-time giants in multi-handset cordless phone systems such as Panasonic, Gigaset and Vtech, which have millions of DECT-enabled products in the marketplace that would be compatible with ULE.

We saw a wide variety of ULE devices at the ULE Alliance booth last year, and expect to see more at CES 2016.

4. One of my favorite product categories of CES 2015 was: devices that make dumb things smart. These included products that turned water hoses into smart irrigation systems, made traditional light switches flip on and off, let dumb window shutters open and close on command, and turned dumb old smoke detectors into connected devices by simply listening to them.

The listening thing – audio analytics is what the grown-ups call it – will be huge at CES 2016 and will be a major topic in our pre-show webinar. Have a look at the new Sengled Voice smart bulb if you want a preview.

But here I want to highlight one of my early picks for CES showstoppers: the Microbot Push by Naran Inc., “a wireless robotic finger that can push most ordinary buttons just like a human finger does.”

Which reminds me: I have heard that a similar product from CES class of 2015, SwitchMate, may be on its way out before ever hitting the market.

5. Musaic has appeared at past trade shows with a nice little Sonos alternative for wireless multiroom audio, but the product also is a modest lighting controller. Lighting and audio can both be controlled via standards-based keypads, the Musaic app or the speakers themselves. The problem is that the “standard” is LightwaveRF, which is more European than North American.

In any case, it’s a nice touch that you can create music and lighting scenes by setting the audio and the lights and then “capturing” them with the press of a button. Musaic supports high-resolution audio.

6. But Musaic isn’t the only “Smart HiFi” device out there. During the Webinar, we’ll introduce you to the industry’s Tower of Babel, featuring omnidirectional sound and every automation bell and whistle you can imagine … or not imagine, as the case may be. Attend the Webinar Wed., Dec. 16 to learn more about the insanity.

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10 Big Home Automation Trends at CES 2016

Free Webinar, Dec. 16, 2015, presented by CE Pro’s Julie Jacobson
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