We arrived Monday, two full days before the CES show floor opens. For those of you familiar with CES, you know the veil is lifted early for press and analysts to get a sneak preview at some of the news. The first big chance to see actual products is at CES Unveiled, which happens two days before the show opens.
I spent a good couple hours walking the loop at Mandalay Bay, talking to startups and big companies alike. Keep in mind Unveiled only features those companies that want to actually show product (i.e. rent a table), but it usually gives a good idea of early trends we'll see and an early look at products.
I'll get to some brief mentions of some products I saw, but first some high-level trends I think are emerging at CES 2016 for smart home and, more broadly, consumer IoT:
Moving Beyond Four Sensors and A Hub In A Box. A few years ago, much of the smart home activity was around basic DIY hub and sensor offerings. SmartThings, Revolv, Wink and others were the big names we saw at the show. But walking around Unveiled, you can see that the smart home has moved beyond that as companies realize that the "consumer DIY smart home platform" is starting to coalesce around a few ecosystems (SmartThings, Nest, HomeKit)) and now companies creating new products are starting to focus in on....
Tailored Use-Cases and Verticals. It started with home security, but now we're seeing lots of focused smart home products in areas like kitchen, bedroom (sleep), eldercare, pet care and more. Bottom line, product companies have realized you have to create a product that solves an obvious need for consumers, not simply provide a bunch of sensors in a box.
TV and Smart Home: The Samsung TV integration with SmartThings is pretty big news. The company is providing an add-on radio module to connect with Z-Wave and Zigbee devices, but the move shows some commitment from Samsung to the space. I expect to see more news around smart TV integration with smart home at the show.
Commerce. Amazon is everywhere at CES, and Dash is probably the biggest and most interesting play. Whirlpool announced their new lineup of smart kitchen products with Dash integration, as well as other white goods. CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies like Coca Cola and Nestle are trying to figure out how to leverage IoT, and while they aren't showing on the show floor, they're talking with partners in suites about how to enable IoT commerce.
Alexa and Echo - Last year Nest and HomeKit integration was the new hotness. this year it's Alexa and Echo. Startups like Invoxia are integrating Alexa (as part of Alexa Fund) while bigger and more established companies like Vivint are integrating with Alexa and Echo. Everyone, or most everyone, wants to be in the Amazon Alexa business.
BeeWi Smart Water System
Less Lighting, More Water. Last year it seemed everyone had a smart light bulb. While there is still lots of companies like Sengled and BeeWi with smart lights that I've seen (and remember, it's only be one press event), it seems like maybe there's not going to be one thousand points of light(bulb) on the show floor map (old school George Bush 1 reference for those counting). What I am seeing is more water based smart products. BeeWi had a smart irrigation system and Parrot, yes, the drone company, had a smart pot.
Smart Kitchen is hot. I know, I created the Smart Kitchen Summit, but there is a lot of connected kitchen products here. There's a smart robotic mixologist called Somabar, a new line of smart pantry and smart refigerator retrofit products from Smarter (makers of the iKettle), and even a solar powered stove, not to mention mega companies like Whirlpool jumping into smart kitchen with both feet.
Smarter's Sound Learning System For the Kitchen
AI and Machine Learning Everywhere. Before Mark Zuckerberg went and made AI and smart home a national news story with his New Year's Resolution, AI and smart home was one of the big trends I identified last year and also one I felt would be big this year. And being here a few days early, already I've seen lots of examples of this. One is Netatmo's smart camera technology that recognizes whether a person, dog or car, and another is Smarter's sound-sensing technology that can change its reactions based on what it learns about specific sounds in a person's kitchen. Innit, which announced a strategic partnership with Pirch, is also working on some very interesting machine learning and image recognition technology for food.
I'll have more in depth thoughts on what I see tonight at Showstoppers and on the show floor, so stay tuned tomorrow.