There’s nothing like sitting at your desk starting at 5 am (if you’re on the West Coast) and strapping in for 10 hours of live-streamed and pre-recorded content from the largest consumer technology show in the world. But on Monday that’s what Kevin and I did (I slept in and had to catch up). I attended the relevant media day press conferences, stopped by a Food Tech event hosted by my friends at The Spoon, and stopped by Pepcom to see pre-recorded videos of companies that paid to attend that event. It was not as fun as the traditional CES but at least my feet don’t hurt and my chances of getting COVID are pretty much zero.
We saw several themes emerge around sustainability, wireless sensing, and machine learning at the edge, but today’s post is going to focus on the new products for the smart home that we saw. Let’s get to it.
Kohler launched the king of smart tubs: Giant bathtubs designed for soaking are all the rage at the moment, and now that I’m old and live in a cold, rainy climate I get it. I want a giant soaking tub too. Kohler’s innovation here is twofold.
The first has nothing to do with smarts: It’s a system by which the tub fills from the bottom, and if you have space and money you can create an infinity edge that lets the water spill over the top of the tub into a drain surrounding it. That will set you back $15,998.
The second aspect is where the smarts come in. You can fill the tub by telling your smart speaker to do it, and there are also different light settings that you can control via an app. The fixtures company also launched a smart toilet and a way to flush toilets by waving your hand next to it. It also launched a touchless bathroom faucet because in an era of COVID no one wants to touch anything in their own home or in public restrooms.
Kohler also announced a partnership with Phyn: Phyn makes a connected water meter that you install under your sink and will detect leaks. You can also buy a version that will automatically shut off your water if Phyn detects a leak. Now Phyn is working to tie its system to Kohler’s products and will also let Kohler resell its system. This is similar to a deal that Moen has with Flo, a similar leak monitoring system for the home. These deals make sense because if you’re installing new faucets, toilets and tubs, you’re going to have a plumber at home anyway, so why not add leak detection as part of the remodel. They are frustrating though because the idea that I’m going to choose my leak detection system based on my latest fixture purchase is ridiculous. Luckily both Flo and Phyn will provide their primary leak detection products directly no matter what type of fixtures you have.
Moen adds a smart kitchen faucet and sump pump monitor to its line up: I have a smart Delta faucet in my kitchen and love it. I also have a septic system that could use some smarts, so the launch of a new connected Moen faucet for the kitchen (which ranges from $600 to almost $1,000) and a sump pump monitor are both good things in my opinion. Flo also said it would offer a $5 per month “security plan” for customers using its water shut off valve. If you subscribe, Flo will monitor your home for leaks, and if one happens it will pay up to $5,000 of your homeowner insurance deductible.
Toto shows off a conceptual smart toilet that senses your health: I’ve actually done a lot of research into both smart toilets and the array of things you can determine from waste (like COVID-19 infections). Toto, the Japanese bathroom brand, showed off a conceptual smart toilet that would analyze your “outputs” and then tell you how to improve your health. It’s not real and it may never be real. but I loved the example Toto provides. It has a person receiving an app notification after an “output” tell them they should eat better and offering the user a recipe for a salmon/chicken and avocado salad. Just what we all want, a toilet that judges our poops and then shares a recipe.
Lutron Caséta launches an outdoor smart plug: In what feels like mere moments after GE Lighting (now a Savant company) announced an outdoor outlet, Lutron has dived in with its own weatherproof outlet. This one ties to Lutron’s Caseta system, which does require a hub and costs a whopping $79.95. It does work with all three of the big consumer digital assistants. Lutron also reminded us that it now has an integration with Ring so you can tie your Ring outdoor lights to your Lutron indoor lights. Lutron is also updating the motion sensor controls in its app so you can set schedules and different times for your Lutron motion sensors.
Samsung doesn’t want you to toss your old phone: Kevin already covered most of Samsung’s smart home news, but it also has a software update so you can avoid throwing out your old Galaxy phones. The update lets you turn those phones into a baby monitor or a light sensor that can detect the amount of light in your home and use that to trigger other connected devices. I’ve seen plenty of people repurposing their old phones but given the complexity of some projects and the many sensors already on phones, I love the formal approach Samsung is taking. Pushing software that can enable these sensors to work as part of a smart home is quite nice, even if it’s overkill. I’d like to see them used as local storage or computing devices.
The new TP-Link mesh router has Alexa built-in: Kevin is excited about the new TP-Link router that adds Madame A because he’s still against having so many connected boxes around his home. I’m with him, although I’d rather have a good speaker act as a router.
More TP-Link gear including outdoor cameras, doorbell: TP-Link’s Kasa brand (I like the Kasa outlets) will eventually have outdoor outlets, an outdoor camera, yet another light switch (with dimmer), a doorbell, and an indoor camera with remote pan and tilt functions. I’d be more excited if TP-Link shared pricing and timelines for the launch of this stuff.
Bosch is adding an air sensor that detects exhaled air: I was more excited by the edge learning that Bosch is putting into its sensors, but it also has a new sensor that can somehow detect “exhaled air”, which is helpful for all of us trying to learn everything about indoor air ventilation thanks to COVID-19. How does this work? I don’t know, but I asked, so we’ll see when Bosch gets back to me. Bosch plans to put this sensor into two of its smart home products, a smoke detector, and its Spexor mobile alarm.
This is a great device with a bad delivery model: Alarm.com launched a stand-alone sensor available now that uses a cellular connection (and subscription) to measure a variety of things. The Flex IO sensor is designed to solve problems we hear a lot about, such as monitoring the status of a shed door outside of Wi-Fi range or even detecting motion at a driveway that’s far from the home network. The device has a suggested price of $130 for the sensor with additional fees for the cellular connection, but you can only buy it through an Alarm.com distributor. You don’t have to have an Alarm.com system to buy it, but I still think most DIYers will pass on establishing a new relationship with their local distributor. Alarm.com also announced a touchless video doorbell because COVID.
Filtrete put an air quality sensor monitor in an air purifier: 3M’s Filtrete brand of filters aren’t just for HVAC anymore as the company launches a connected air purifier that combines the filters with an air quality sensor that will come in two sizes. After the fire season on the West Coast had last year, I’m sure buyers will be interested in the two models, which sell for $329 and $274. The more expensive tower purifier cleans a large room of up to 310 square feet while the console cleans up to 150 square feet.
Linksys updates its Aware in-home wireless sensing product: Last year Linksys introduced the concept of using disruptions in Wi-Fi signals from its routers to tell users if someone was moving about their home. This year it’s broadening the number of devices that can use this tech by adding Belkin’s switches, Wemo outlets, and other Wi-Fi-capable devices to the Aware network. Users will have to pay $2.99 for the monthly service and it will roll out in March or April of this year.
Wi-Fi sensing is a big trend this year, and Hex is on board with an innovative security system: This caught our eye because it’s a really simple, and relatively inexpensive home monitoring system that uses disruptions in the home RF environment to figure out if people are moving when and where they aren’t supposed to be. We have seen variations on this technology such as the Linksys Aware system mentioned above, and Cognitive System’s technology that is embedded into other routers. Same idea but Hex wants to create a dedicated security system made up of a hub and assorted plug-in devices. The entry system will cost $179.99. We’ve seen a dedicated home security system using this type of tech before with Cognitive’s Aura system about five years ago, but it wasn’t that great in practice. We’ll if Hex has cracked it.
Eufy has a new smart lock: Eufy, which is Anker’s smart home brand, announced a Wi-Fi lock with a fingerprint reader, keypad, and keyed entry options. You can also use your smartphone or Google or Alexa. The lock is fancy with a sensor that will detect if the door is actually closed and it has a rechargeable battery expected to deliver a year of service. At $249.99 it’s at the nicer end of locks and will hit the market in February.
Schneider Electric is taking on energy conservation for the smart home: Schneider Electric wants to build sustainable smart homes, and in line with its history as a maker of electrical boxes and gear, it will focus on a new electrical box, new light switches, outlets, and an application to tie all of this together. There are several companies pushing smarter versions of the electrical panel that sit outside your home, and I’m going to do a deep dive on this later in the month, so I’ll just note that Schneider’s entry here is welcome, but it’s going to be a slog to convince consumers that they need all this gear, and then to buy it from Schneider, which isn’t actually a consumer brand. We’ll come back to this.