Step aside, curved TVs and mini-tablets. You might look awesome and work like a dream, but it's the Connected Home concept that will really change how consumers move through their daily routines. A number of new product introductions at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas Jan. 7-10, will also have builders and remodelers considering new ways to design homes and solve problems for their clients. Here are seven new products and concepts to give your next designs a high-tech jump-start.
At the size of a hockey puck, this white disc may not seem to be a huge technological advancement, but what it houses is. From Bosch's Sensortec business unit comes the BME280, a tiny 2.5mm chip with big opportunities. Able to sense temperature, humidity, and air pressure, the sensor is a promising technology for applications in home automation, indoor navigation, personal weather stations, and fitness.
In the time of less than one second, the BME280 can detect temperatures from -40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees C with accuracy within 0.5 degrees, and 0 to 100% humidity within +/- 3%. This makes automation of HVAC systems more precise, and opens up possibilities for personal weather forecasting at home.
Home health monitoring can also benefit from the new technology. An aging-in-place home design could incorporate several sensors to help caregivers monitor their loved ones' well-being by identifying potential for dehydration or heat stroke based on temperature and humidity sensing.
Air pressure changes let the sensor identify which floor or room of a structure a person is using, and can assist with other indoor navigation uses. Imaging monitoring an elderly homeowner with a regular daily routine. If sensors indicate that the person hasn't moved from the bathroom or the bottom of the stairs for a period of time, a caregiver can check on their safety. On a larger scale, the sensors could monitor which floor of a building an elevator is on.
Bosch is making samples of BME280 available to developers now. Look for this advanced technology in smartphones, tablets, smart watches, electronic wristbands, and other devices in the not-too-distant future. Bosch | bosch-sensortec.com
Configurable keypads are just one element of Control4's effort to future-proof home technology, but they're an important one. "One of the complaints we heard from homeowners is that after they lived with their control systems for a while, they wanted to make changes by adding more lights, integrating shades, home entertainment, or other features," says Paul Williams, vice president of security and communications products. "Our new configurable key pads let them update their features and easily switch out the previous set of keys with new ones that work better for their current situation."
Control4 is also introducing an adaptive phase dimmer that will make it easier for homes to have multiple lighting types—incadescent, CFL, and LED—in the same home. Designers will be happy to know that the company's dimmers and keypads are available in a variety of finishes to suit their designs.
Beyond lighting and keypads, Control4 now has 60 manufacturers, including Harman, TiVo, and Dish Network, using its simple device discovery protocol (SDDP), which means the Control4 systems can auto-identify a variety of new devices without the need for complicated set-up or searching for device drivers. Remodelers and their tech integrator trades will certainly be able to make use of this handy feature. Control4 | 888.400.4070 | control4.com
CES showcased a number of exhibitors from overseas, including Current Cost, a U.K.-based manufacturer of energy monitors. Since its home country has mandated a roll-out of smart meters starting this year, every British home will have an energy monitor in the near future. "Smart metering and energy monitoring are each helpful and effective," says company founder Martin Dix, "but once you bring the two together, that's the sweet spot."
Adoption of smart meters and energy monitors is slower in the U.S. than in Europe, but early adopters can give the technology a try. The company's EnviR monitor takes a snapshot of a home's energy use every six seconds. Users can monitor energy cost per day and per month, and the unit stores up to seven years' worth of data for long-term analysis.
Coming soon, the Quel interface (pictured) will monitor utility use in real time and also offer users home control options for lighting, climate, security, weather data, and other devices. Check out the video on the company website for more information. Current Cost | currentcost.co.uk
In a connected world, daily routines and activities often revolve around our devices, whether it's the latest "smart" TV, tablet, or gaming console. In an effort to get family members to put down their individual screens and start connecting with each other again, a number of all-in-one PCs have "Intel Inside," allowing for creative, cooperative computing.
Like the Windows all-in-one shown here, the computers can have a standard flat screen and keyboard, be wall mounted, or lay flat and serve as a tabletop game screen (think Monopoly on a digital level). Multi-touch screens allow for up to 10 fingers on the screen at once, and some games and applications capitalize on voice-activated controls.
With this in mind, make room for more shared activity spaces in your next designs as families start gathering around the table again. Intel | intel.com
With so many gadgets around, home security is getting revamped. For homeowners who want to self-monitor their homes, rather than pay a monthly fee for a subscription monitoring service, the developers at iSmartAlarm have a variety of tools available. The product line comprises cameras, motion detectors, contact sensors for windows and doors, and other devices, all of which talk wirelessly to the Cube base unit, which further communicates with your smartphone for remote monitoring.
The iSmartAlarm system can accommodate dozens of sensors and requires no tools or wiring to set up, making it an easy add-on to a remodeling project. Self-monitoring means the system won't automatically call emergency services in case of a break-in or fire (thereby saving users the subscription fee), but iSmartAlarm does incorporate "panic" and "Call 911" buttons for those purposes. iSmartAlarm | 408.245.2551 | ismartalarm.com
It's great when appliances are at the top of their tech games for individual products—the latest and greatest for refrigerators, ranges, laundry, etc. But LG has introduced a full suite of appliances with HomeChat, a smart technology that not only lets the appliances communicate with the homeowner, but with each other as well.
Imagine this scenario: Saturday afternoon, you get home from the grocery store, load up the fridge, and use the Smart Manager software on the refrigerator's touchscreen to tell it that you bought a pork roast, carrots, onions, apples, mustard, milk, and a few other things. The program can help you keep track of what you have in stock, and can alert you when your groceries are about to spoil. When Sunday afternoon rolls around, the Smart Manager's recipe index will tell you how to put the roast, vegetables, and mustard together into a delicious Sunday dinner, and will even tell the oven to start pre-heating to the proper temp.
Even better, using HomeChat's "natural language processing" technology, you can text your appliances the way you would a human being and they'll respond in kind. Did you forget your list when you stopped at the store? Text your fridge with the message "do we have eggs?" and it'll let you know on the spot. Or if you don't have all the ingredients you need for your Sunday dinner, the refrigerator can text you a list of the missing ingredients for your next grocery trip.
The full suite of HomeChat-enabled appliances currently includes the refrigerator, range, laundry appliances, and a robotic vacuum. Besides the grocery, recipe, and texting features, the appliances can also alert homeowners when they need service and why. The refrigerator's touchscreen also includes "Family features" such as digital sticky-note reminders or photo slide shows. LG | 800.243.0000 | lg.com
Looking to install radiant floor heating in upcoming projects? Nuheat announced at CES 2014 the launch of North America's first Wi-Fi floor heating thermostat, the Nuheat Signature. With full access to thermostat settings wirelessly through their smartphones or a Web browser, users can operate the device or view energy use remotely.
"Extensive market research from homeowners and contractors alike confirmed that the market is expecting connectivity for remote access," says product manager Wally Lo. "A myriad of household products ranging from locks to lights to heating systems offer the ease of on-the-go control. Our new thermostat allows the user to activate the floor heat for vacation properties, or simply turn up the heat for a cozy return home."
Coming available in spring 2014 Nuheat Signature features a sleek 3.5-inch color touchscreen display that showcases floor warming operation features, energy use, outdoor weather information, and more. The app works across both iOS and Android platforms. Nuheat | 800.778.9276 | nuheat.com