New gadgets take smart homes to the next level
If you have ever wanted to experience zero gravity but can't afford a trip to the moon, the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas may have a solution. A new bathtub gives the feeling of weightlessness while users bathe by mimicking the natural position of astronauts when they float in low-gravity conditions.
If weightlessness isn't for you, there are plenty of other smart-home gadgets that can bring your living spaces to the cutting edge of home design.
Many of this year's products demonstrate that smart-home technology is no longer restricted to performing one isolated task.
There's a door alert system that not only provides LED nightlights but also extends the range of your home's Wi-Fi. A voice-activated smart mirror can change the lighting to preset options, tell you today's weather and traffic, and play music from your favorite internet stations.
Jesse Lemel, senior product manager at Kohler, explained why manufacturers are designing products that fulfill more than one function.
"We know from our market research you don't have enough counter space today [and] you don't have enough outlets today," Lemel said. "Do you really want to take up that countertop space and that outlet so you can add this feature? Or would you rather seamlessly integrate it?"
Fully integrated home security systems are another prominent trend in the smart-home space, with one brand incorporating security features even though it isn't traditionally considered a home security company.
The automatic lighting system has a button that allows homeowners to quickly turn on preselected lights if they hear an intruder.
In designing the new gadgets, Lemel said, tech firms are trying to devise "how do you take known, little, everyday things to make that experience a little bit better?"
Here are some of the new home devices introduced at the CES:
• ADT Security Services introduced its Video Doorbell that will integrate with the rest of the home security products under the ADT Pulse brand. Locking or unlocking doors and activating the whole-house alarm system can be controlled via the mobile app.
• A new conversion kit from Kwikset lets you turn traditional door locks into smart locks you can control from any Internet-connected device. The Z-Wave technology is compatible with several major lock brands, not just Kwikset, and allows users to monitor which doors are locked as well as provide remote entry to their home for visitors.
• The Caséta lighting system by Lutron combines making life easier with several security features. In addition to customizing lighting preferences and schedules, the device has an All On bedside button option that turns all the preselected lights in the house to ward off intruders. It also can turn lights on and off randomly to make it appear that someone is home. The lighting system also integrates with Nest Thermostat and smoke alarms. If the alarm is triggered, blinds will open and lights will turn on automatically so people can see their way to escape.
• Ring, the home security company once known only for its line of video doorbells, has unveiled a full suite of monitoring devices that integrate with their new app. This includes a set of battery-powered and motion-activated outdoor lights that integrate with the alarm and cameras to send alerts to the user's mobile device. It also includes motion-activated cameras (some of which can be battery powered), flood and freeze detectors, smoke and carbon monoxide sensors and a discreet control hub that integrates all the systems.
• The home security system Vivent previewed its Streety that lets neighbors upload recordings from their security cameras to share with other approved users (they must live within a 300-yard radius). Users can attach messages to the recordings to start a conversation about the recorded event as well as request footage from other users for specific dates and times. The app will debut this spring.
• Beam, one of several home-monitoring devices showcased by Zmodo, sends alerts to a mobile device when doors are open (including interior doors), extends a home's Wi-Fi range and provides LED night lighting in three color options.
Carrier introduced a ductless air conditioner with the highest efficiency rating on the market. The 9,000 BTUh single-zone air conditioner can also provide heat during winter and manage humidity levels using an integrated humidity sensor. It comes with a connected Wi-Fi feature so users can control the device via the mobile app and a motion detector to reduce energy use when no one is in the room.
Verdera, the Alexa-enabled smart mirror by Kohler, can adjust to preset lighting customizations, play music and podcasts from sites such as Pandora and Spotify, and provide a motion-activated night light. Verdera was named a CES Innovation Awards honoree at this year's conference. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, which makes Alexa, also owns The Washington Post.)
Part of the Neorest collection by luxury plumbing company Toto includes a bathtub that lets users mimic the natural position of astronauts. Referred to as Zero Dimension technology, the Flotation Tub adds gentle water jets so you can achieve a feeling of weightlessness while here on earth.
Another honoree of this year's CES Innovation Awards is the Over-the-Range Microwave. Home cooks can send cooking instructions (for frozen food) to their microwaves via a mobile device, including multistep directions if the recipe requires a change in temperature or settings partway through cooking.