You’ve had a long day at work. It’s time to relax, and your belongings are here to help. Your car ferries you home on autopilot as you take a well-deserved break. It fires a quick message to your home thermostat to make sure your living room is cosy when you arrive, updating it on your ETA. Maybe it’ll even tell your bath to get the water ready. Fantastic. And don’t worry about nipping out for groceries later – your fridge has already ordered your weekly shop.
If you thought such idle luxury was fanciful sci-fi, think again. This year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has well and truly kicked off and is already demonstrating how connected devices – or ‘The Internet of Things’ – are no longer a pipedream. As highlighted by Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Association, “all of the building blocks are now in place” to connect our home appliances, cars, phones and even clothing in one intelligent network.
While drones, virtual reality and 4k TVs will certainly draw in the crowds, it’s the Internet of Things (IoT) that is truly dominating this year’s largest tech show. Here, we explore the top 3 IoT trends of CES 2015, which have captured the imaginations of tecchies and consumers alike.
The intelligent home is perhaps the most meaningful IoT movement, vibrantly represented at CES 2015. Last April we saw the UK launch of Google’s Nest, the smart thermostat. At this year’s CES, Nest announced 15 new partnerships with companies such as LG, Philips and Withings, promising to connect Nest’s products to a whole host of devices. Take Whirlpool, for example, a washer-dryer that links to the thermostat to adjust its noise levels and speed depending on whether anyone is at home. A smart driving monitor from Automatic lets Nest know when you’re in the car on your way home to ensure your room temperature is perfect on your return.
The key to the smart home – as with any Internet of Things product – is effortlessness. The helpfulness and efficiency of connected home appliances is an evident trend at CES 2015: the Smarter Wifi kettle lets you control your brew-making from your smartphone for the perfect cuppa; Parrot is launching a self-watering plant pot, perfect for forgetful or absent home-owners; and Misfit’s Bolt is a WiFi-connected lightbulb which wakes you up gradually with a simulated sunrise, no alarm clock (and naughty hitting of snooze) necessary.
But CES 2015 is also home to a crop of smart home appliances, which focus not merely on helpfulness, but also on home security. An interesting debut is Netatmo’s ‘Welcome’, a smart camera installed with family face recognition technology to alert you if a stranger enters your house.
A particularly large focus of this year’s CES is the intelligent car. While Mercedes-Benz unveiled a prototype of a fully autonomous vehicle, Ford’s chief technical officer claimed in his keynote address that he expected completely autonomous cars to be available within 5 years. BMW unveiled a function which enables cars to be parked using a smartwatch.
Aside from driverless cars, companies are developing other nifty connected capabilities for vehicles. Hyundai, for example, showed off a smartwatch that can unlock or start your car with the touch of a finger. OnStar’s product, AtYourService, connects drivers with retailers while en route, providing directions and money-saving deals from vendors.
Fitness and Health Monitors
While wearable tech for fitness tracking has been around for a while now, it is refreshing to see that personal sports monitors have become more streamlined and more, well, wearable. The Withings Activé Pop looks just like a traditional analogue clock, but also subtly displays your daily step count. The Swarovski Shine collection certainly sparkles for its style credentials if nothing else; the accessories are embedded with Misfit Shine technology and are the first wearables to use solar power to track fitness data and sleep patterns.
More innovative launches in healthcare IoT technology include devices that monitor and even help manage health issues. Quell from NeuroMetrix is a cuff that wraps around your leg to relieve pain related to diabetes and other diseases. For concerned parents, TempTraq has developed an adhesive strip that, when placed under a child’s armpit, tracks temperature using a monitoring app.
As existing products advance and new players enter the arena, it will be exciting to see whether IoT remains as dynamic a theme at the Consumer Electronics Show for years to come. With the movement evolving at a rapid pace, it certainly looks like the Internet of Things will soon come to merit its more grandiose namesake: ‘The Internet of Everything’.
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