Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
January 12, 2016

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5 Smart-Home Innovations on Show at CES 2016

sensorsphereA a robotic barman, a Bluetooth-activated pregnancy test, a games console for pets, a gamified electric toothbrush (if boredom sparks creativity then it augurs ill that kids must be entertained even when brushing their teeth!)…

The mostly internet-connected devices on show at CES 2016 were as bizarre as they were varied. And based on previous editions it’s safe to say that their time in the Las Vegas limelight is as good as it’s going to get for many of them.

The ‘smart home’ concept, which has actually been in germination for many years, still feels new and no one – neither the developers, nor tech journalists nor futurologists – seem to have the faintest idea about where the connected home is headed. Deploying the ‘throwing of mud against a wall’ principle, manufacturers have seemingly decided to put a computer chip in just about everything imaginable.

The rather more sober business of security provided a counterpoint to the wow factor and, on occasion, silliness on display. Hoovering up personal data and sharing it with other devices the internet of things is a treasure trove for the would-be hacker.

And, from cameras to sensors, there were plenty of security products too.

Recognising the growing overlap between the consumer and business-to-business worlds IFSEC International 2016 will feature an area dedicated to home automation/smart homes for the first time. As for CES 2016, here are five innovations that stood out from the hundreds on show.

Samsung’s ‘intelligent’ Family Hub refrigerator

A fridge is cold, it has shelves and draws, it has a light that switches on when the door opens (who said smart technology was a recent phenomenon?)  and, if you’re lucky, it dispenses ice. A tried and trusted formula that has sated the masses for decades.

But Samsung wants the fridge to do more. It wants you to want your fridge to do more.

Step forward the Family Hub Refrigerator: a “sophisticated multitasker that reconnects families, organises groceries and home tasks, and provides entertainment,” in the hyperbolic words of its manufacturer.

AT CES the Family Hub was the source of both fascination and ridicule, the latter for having four doors and IP cameras allowing you to view its contents without the not-very-taxing act of opening its door.

Will Samsung’s fridge go the same way as Electrolux’s ‘smart’ Screenfridge from all the way back to 1999 (again, the smart home concept is older than you might think), few of which were sold?

Much hinges on Samsung persuading consumers that the fridge can solve problems they didn’t know they had.

Perhaps the most obvious utilitarian benefit is the taking of selfies (bear with me, where the fridge snaps a pic of its contents, allowing the householder to identify which goods are in need of replenishment on their way home.

The price, which has yet to be announced, will also be important to its prospects with several add-on devices for conventional fridges also featured at CES 2016.

Sensorsphere

A camera – and more besides – in a ball, the SensorSphere is a curious thing.

The camera, which moves by shifting its centre of gravity, can be rolled around the house remotely via smartphone. Though you might expect such a novel design to cost more than regular cameras – although the company insists it will be competitively priced – its mobility negates the need for having a camera in every room.

You may, of course, need two or more SensorSpheres unless you live in a bungalow, afflicted as it unavoidably is by the same problem that hindered Dr Who’s arch enemies, the Daleks.

Users can customise their SensorSphere with exterior modules such as a HD camera with a 90-degree wide-angle lens, thermal imaging and night vision cameras, a microphone, a speaker and sensors for temperature, humidity, smoke and gas. It’s easy to see why the manufacturer believes the product is potentially appealing to first responders, insofar as it could provide useful situational awareness before they enter buildings.

The SensorSphere can also automatically locate a charging station and dock itself for remote recharging.

Tyco and Qolsys showcase their wireless smart home solution

Long-time IFSEC exhibitor Tyco Security Products made its debut at CES 2016, a consequence of the growing overlap between the traditional security industry and consumer electronics.

The fire protection and security company invested in California-based home automation innovator Qolsys in 2014. The fruits of this partnership appeared at CES in the form of a wireless smart home solution.

Combined with Alarm.com’s interactive service the IQ panel enables householders to remotely arm and disarm their security systems, view camera feeds and receive event notifications and system status updates. They can also control lights, locks, thermostats and other digital devices.

Tyco and Qolsys featured a number of security-grade home automation/smart home sensors at the show.

Tyco has been a major player in ongoing efforts to harmonise open IoT standards, serving on the Board of Directors and sponsoring the Thread Group, the not-for-profit consortium responsible for educating the market about the Thread networking protocol, which connects products in the home.

Tyco’s technologies also support ZigBee, Zwave, WiFi and PowerG and the company has partnered or collaborated with Alarm.com, iControl, ADT (Global), Nest, Telguard, SmartThings and IFTTT.

tyco iq panel

Netatmo’s outdoor security camera

Netatmo’s outdoor camera tracks and distinguishes between the motion of both sentient objects — humans and animals – and non-sentient – like cars – when they enter programmable zones outside your house. Naturally – and this is such a standard feature with smart home products that it’s almost not worth mentioning – these views can be viewed remotely.

After testing the device at CES 2016 the Verge contended that the French company had “ built paranoia into a smart home gadget.”

A little unfair, as the camera can be set to only send alerts when it spots a person, thus avoiding a steady stream of intrusive, anxiety-inducing notifications. A deep learning algorithm called Smart Sight can differentiate between objects based on shape, size and motion.

Users can adjust the perimeter for the security camera’s field of view and set specific zones to monitor. The device also doubles as a light for the front drive, but if that’s off then an infrared setting means night vision is possible too.

netatmo surveillance ces

The NEEO-Thinking Remote

It was the holy grail of household electronic entertainment long before the internet of things intruded on the cultural consciousnesses: a single remote to control everything.

In the connected home this problem grows ever more pressing as the number of devices and associated apps proliferate. The ‘fiddle factor’ has long been a major barrier to mainstream adoption of home automation.

The Neeo thinking remote, which was an honouree in the CES Smart Home category in its Innovation Awards, apparently supports more than 50,000 devices, with more being added all the time. This ‘master’ remote to control all IoT gadgets connects with other devices via ZigBee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a number of other standards.

It has s a one-month battery life and can be recharged in its own charging dock.

The Thinking Remote from NEEO on Vimeo.

IFSEC International 2016 will launch the Smart Zone, featuring a replica ‘smart home’ showcasing how the latest, most innovative smart technologies and security products operate and interact, and featuring presentations on home automation, building automation and smart cities.

Keep up with the wireless access control market

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