Sunday night kicked off the CES 2020 trade show in Vegas with an event called Unveiled. It’s the first of three evening events that startups and large companies pay to attend to show off new stuff. It’s a trade show format with hundreds of booths. Journalists and analysts wander the aisles recording video, audio, and snapping photos. I love these because it’s a chance to see an extensive amount of crazy, cool, and silly gear in a compact space and a short amount of time.
So what did I see? Lots of locks and leak detection monitoring systems. Seriously. Netatmo had a lock that used NFC keys to open it. Hampton’s Array brand showed off a new lock with a fingerprint reader and keypad. Somfy had a lock that also used a fob to open it, but instead of NFC the fob used Somfy’s proprietary tech. There were more locks that I skipped because the crowds were too heavy or I simply couldn’t face another lock.
The other big theme in connected home tech was leak detection. Phyn, a Belkin brand, was showing off its a consumer-grade leak detection device that fits under a sink and costs $299. Alarm.com introduced a forthcoming leak detection product that sits outside on the main water main and will require a professional plumber to install. At CES proper Phyn is also showing off a new, larger leak detection device designed for commercial buildings.
Other than some updates in lighting (cheap, connected filament bulbs from Sengled at $14.99), I didn’t see a lot of smart home gear worth writing about. Everyone, from name brands such as GE to startups such as Brilliant, has expanded their offerings and are now calling themselves platforms.
Nanoleaf is even taking that one step further by saying it will let people control other devices and take into account your behavior with those other devices to set up perfect lighting. For now, that’s all talk, but I did discover that people like me who have bought into the original triangle Nanoleaf panels and last year’s Canvas panels, may not be left out of these future innovations if we buy the newly announced gateway hub (no date or price has been set for that release). I also learned that despite all the talk about mixing and matching shapes, only new products will have that capability. Your older products are not going to be part of any cool tangram future.
In actual platforms, Amazon said that Ring will have a bunch of new products and a Control Center app that lets people control Ring devices as well as see and manage those made by other companies. The Control Center app will also let Ring users opt-out of incident requests from local police partners, and view and control privacy and security settings right from the Ring app. This last bit is a fairly tepid response to reporting about Ring using police departments as a marketing arm, but it will likely suffice for mainstream consumers.
I’ll close with two products that represent a trend I’m super excited about and a product that feels like a complete waste of resources, but could find a small audience. The trend (if I can call it that yet) is adaptive personalization.
I saw two products last night that felt truly futuristic. The first was a customizable skincare service shown off by L’Oreal. The makeup giant calls the system Perseo, and it won’t be in the market for at least another year (or maybe ever).
But the idea is awesome. There are three versions of the system; one for skincare, one for foundation and one for lipstick/blush. The dispensing canister has room for three capsules of product, which are then custom-mixed every day in response to the person’s skin tone, perceived skin needs, and the outside environment. This could be a load of hooey but it’s also technically feasible given how well we’ve adapted computer vision, a company’s improved ability to make a connected product and consumers’ willingness to try personalized products.
The other adaptive product I saw was a shoe sole from a company called e-Novia. This is a smart sole that adapts to the terrain and to the user. The prototype is as ugly as sin, but they have a deal to bring the tech to a large shoe company. I watched the company representative select hiking as the activity and watched the treads rise smoothly from the once-smooth sole. It’s like Heelys for a whole range of activities!
Those two products had me excited about the future. Meanwhile, a product from Langualess has me sad for the present. This Japanese company has taken heart rate variability data from a dog and uses that to figure out if it is happy, scared, interested or relaxed. By strapping your dog into a harness that measures its heart rate, you can understand how your dog feels. The testimonials were unintentionally hilarious as one woman wondered if her dog was enjoying its training class, only to find out that the dog did enjoy the training class. Whew! The device is available now in Japan and is coming to the U.S. in the third quarter of this year. It should cost around $400, but the price isn’t set.
That’s day one, and I’m excited to see what else is in store!