The CES 2020 show floor doesn’t open until today and we’ll be running around the more than 2 million square feet of gadgets to find the latest smart products and trends. On Monday night, however, we saw a nice preview of what to expect at a mini show event called Digital Experience. This event helps the smaller exhibitors be found amongst the sea of vendors on the main show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center; they still have booths at the main show but can often be difficult to find.
Among those at Digital Experience was WiZ Connected, which was an independent lighting company founded in 2004 that was acquired by Signify, the same folks behind Philips Hue. We recently received a question about Wiz products on our IoT Podcast voicemail hotline and when researching the answer found that Wiz bulbs are relatively inexpensive and use Wi-Fi so they don’t need a hub. Full-color BR30 downlights cost roughly $17 each based on a two-pack, while the A19 variants cost $14 each when purchased in pairs.
New at the show this year is a $15 LED filament smart bulb that can add some ambiance to your home. It’s even dimmable if you prefer to stylize your surroundings with some accent lighting.
Wiz also debuted its $15 remote control which is intriguing. Aside from the standard on/off and brightness controls, there are programmable buttons for scenes. But the real icing on the cake is that this remote runs on a pair of AA batteries and uses Wi-Fi. Remotes like this typically use a lower-powered radio solution such as Bluetooth or infrared (like the older Wiz remote) but Wiz is all in with Wi-Fi and no hubs, so it developed a way to use 2.4GHz signals without draining batteries quickly.
Wiz says the remote should run for up to two years before replacing the batteries. And the company is using a proprietary method of communication as well. If your home network is down for any reason, the remote can still control your lights by broadcasting to all of them directly in a 50-foot radius. Look for the WiZmote to launch in April with a $20 battery-powered motion sensor to follow later.
We were inundated with smart locks on Sunday but still had to check out the new deadbolt from Level on Monday, mainly because it doesn’t look like a smart lock. Indeed, Level calls it an “invisible” smart lock because of the smarts are tucked inside a traditional-looking deadbolt. A battery inside the bolt supplies power to the Bluetooth radio within and the lock is HomeKit compatible with more integrations being considered in the future. You can use the Level lock with either an iOS or Android phone.
Aside from cramming in smarts to a small space, Level has also designed a simple installation method. You simply remove the screw shown above and the lock separates into two pieces. One piece slides into a door where your handle goes while the other fits into the bolt hole and the two pieces are reattached. Replace the screw, install your existing deadbolt covering and that’s it. The process should take just a few minutes and nobody will know you have a smart lock installed. You can even use your existing deadbolt keys. Level says the full retail price will be $249 once it starts shipping
later this month in the coming months, but if you hurry to reserve one, you can save $50 now.
On the home security front, ADT decided to shake things up at CES by introducing a new line of DIY products with completely optional monitoring fees. The new ADT Blue products looked so nice that I told them I wouldn’t have thought that ADT designed them. The company rep I spoke with wasn’t offended, instead saying, “that’s exactly what we wanted to hear.”
There’s a full range of security devices here, costing between $50 and $200. The cameras include 24 hours of video storage at no cost and have a microSD slot for local video but you can add 30 days of cloud footage for a small monthly fee. Unlike ADT’s traditional security products, you can choose not to pay for monthly security monitoring, meaning you’ll just get notifications and alerts through the ADT mobile app. That’s a complete change in the company’s business model which has long been built upon monthly service fees.
Outside of the Pepcom event, the smart home got some exciting news from Plume, which makes software that intelligently routes device traffic on Wi-Fi networks. Plume says that it has signed a partnership with Cognitive Systems, a company that uses disruptions in Wi-Fi signals to detect movement. The deal ensures that homes using Plume routers (Comcast offers them) can now add the ability to track motion in the home for security purposes. When someone moves in the home, it disrupts Wi-Fi signals, and Plume’s new app can let you know.
It can also detect who’s moving. The person-identification technology today depends on people having Wi-Fi-enabled devices on their bodies (like a phone), but in the future, it could use gait analysis to identify the person. Today it can track pets by physical form, so you don’t get too many notifications. I’ve been writing about this technology for a while and the potential it has in the smart home. Because there are no cameras, people may feel more secure. Because it’s possible to add this to routers, people won’t have to install a bunch of security gear and sensors.
There are privacy concerns associated with the tech, especially if you consider that it can technically see through walls, which means that police could use the tech to check for people in a home behind closed doors. But it also has so much potential, such as using for it for fall detection. Plume also released a report detailing what it has figured out about the homes of people using Plume’s routers. On average there are 18 connected devices in these homes, which feels low to me, but I know I’m an anomaly.
Also, I visited the Bluetooth event for a look at the biggest change to hit the audio world since Apple removed the headphone jack. The Bluetooth SIG announced a new audio codec that allows audio to work over Bluetooth LE with high-quality sound and little latency. This is a big deal that we’ll cover in more depth on the podcast, but it begs the question of what we need the classic Bluetooth standard for. It’s now a BLE world.
The update also lets manufacturers do some really cool things like split a BLE audio signal into two channels (great for left and right ears) and allows for sharing. This last feature could soon be everywhere as it would let one device beam a signal to many devices. Imagine listening to a TV in a sports bar and having the audio feed directly into your earbuds. Or being able to share a song from your phone to your friend’s earbuds while also listening on yours.
Stacey Higginbotham contributed to this story.
Updated 1/7/2019 at 1:51 pm PST to correct the availability of the Level lock.