LAS VEGAS – It’s not difficult to envision a time in the near future where virtually everything in the home is connected.
Smart speakers and video doorbells have steadily increased in popularity, and it’s far less strange in 2020 to watch someone ask Alexa or Google to turn off a bedroom light, turn up a song, or turn on a movie.
And more Smart Home technology is on the way, if the products on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) are any indication. Products that you’d never believe could be called intelligent (looking at you, “smart air freshener”) are drawing a crowd at the convention center.
“There’s a sense in which connected products will get adopted simply because it becomes the default ante to play the game,” Brad Russell, Research Director from the IoT consulting firm Parks Associates, told a crowd of attendees on Tuesday.
At CES, I caught a few companies ready to show their hand in the Smart Home space. Here are five technologies that aim to add intelligence to some surprising household objects.
1. Sliding Doors
The smart idea behind Wayzn began when the company’s co-founding brothers-in-law Mike Demele and Adam Smithline were together for the holidays – a time where most people want to just sit back, relax, and not have to keep opening the sliding door.
“They were letting the dogs in and out constantly throughout the day,” said Tyler Smithline, who was helping his co-founding father at the booth this week when I met him at CES. “They thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this.’”
The "better" technology is a relatively simple one, in the sense that you may not even notice that the device is even there.
After being installed on the bottom of your typical 5 -to 8-foot-wide sliding door, the Wayzn system detects when a pet is nearby. When you’re home, an auto option allows the door to open and close automatically.
Wayzn also integrates with personal assistants and Google Nest products. When remote, you can integrate Wayzn with cameras and survey the scene before letting any dogs in or out.
Do you know how to make a good mushroom soup? If not, Julia can help.
And when I say “Julia,” I’m referring not to the legendary chef, but to an all-in-one intelligent cooking system.
The CookingPal product, which consists of the multifunctional appliance and a tablet “hub,” offers a simplified idea for cooking: Prep the ingredients, put them into the system, and hit Start.
For mushroom soup, you select a recipe on the app and begin by watching the tablet’s photo- and video-guided demonstrations of the first steps: gathering the mushrooms and the cream, for example, and peeling the carrots. You follow the preparation instructions on the screen and add the ingredients into the system.
For a technology with one button, the Julia product performs several cooking functions: chopping, whisking, steaming, weighing ingredients (to ensure exact amounts), and even kneading dough. All of these tasks, taken over by tech, leave the user with valuable free time, says Anna Khomenko, Marketing Manager at CookingPal.
“You place all the ingredients in, and it’s done,” Khomenko told me at CES. “It allows you to have remote control so you can be in your living room with your kids while Julia does the cooking.”
And after making some tech-inspired mushroom soup, perhaps it’s only fitting to open up some fine wine, not from a bottle but from a “smart bag.”
Although wine enthusiasts may be wary of drinking Cabernet from a pouch, the patent-pending technology from Albicchiere preserves wine for up to six months, eliminating the need for the preservatives that are often required to maintain quality of the vineyard’s product as it is shipped overseas.
The Albi Home is a connected countertop device that, along with pouring and storing wine, also brings it to the appropriate serving temperature before dispensing.
“Now you have unlimited access to your inventory,” said Douglas Beltran, Vice President, North America, at Albicchiere. “You don’t have to open up a bottle and say 'Ok, am I going to waste it or do I have to consume the whole thing in 24 hours?'”
Albicciere means "by the glass," and that’s exactly how their product line serves you.
“You see even at restaurants that you can only get lower-quality wines by the glass because the restaurants can't afford to open up a very expensive bottle,” said Beltran.
The smart bags contain near-field communication NFC chips – information tags that provide details about the wine, including the year it was produced and recommended temperature settings. A blockchain system also ensures that the wine arrived in the proper conditions, was kept at the appropriate temperatures, and was protected from vibrations.
The chip communicates with the dispenser to read wine details, manage temperature, and interact with personal assistants.
“Alexa, what is in my inventory that pairs well with steak?” suggests Beltran.
And the same idea goes for beer, too. A South Korean company called INTHEKEG offers a system that resembles a 3D printer, except it pours you pale ales, stouts, or whatever beer you want to make.
“We’re going to turn wherever you are into a nanobrewery,” said INTHEKEG's Yongseok Jang, who spoke with me at CES.
INTHEKEG is another “push Start” kind of company. You don’t have to know anything about brew-making.
A canister containing the four ingredients of beer – water, hops, malt, and yeast – is shipped to you. After reading a barcode specifying the desired beer, the crafty machine knows to enact the appropriate processes to make that lager you want.
The machine contains ten 18-liter kegs, each brewed independently.
5. Pill Dispensing
A small, voice-activated robot has a life-saving job: ensuring that its users are taking the medications that they need.
The “Pillo” device from Pillo Health employs facial recognition to dispense medication to the right person, and only the right person. The technology is a way for caregivers or doctors to stay in contact with a patient remotely, says CEO and co-founder Emanuele Musini.
“We know if the person hasn’t taken their medication, and we alert the patients and caregivers or the hospitals, so they can call inside the house via the device," said Musini.
Pillo’s camera also works for telemedicine visits and allows third parties to ensure that people with chronic conditions are managing their health properly at home.
When it’s time for a dose of medication, Pillo wakes up and proactively alerts users, improving engagement to health regimens by encouraging them and even communicating about the weather.
What device do you think is most valuable? What other Smart Home technologies have you seen or have impressed you? Share your questions and comments below.