By Todd Bernhard updated on 11/30/2014
I've attended dozens of CES (and COMDEX) tradeshows and every time I return, people ask me "what was the big thing this year?" Usually it's something straightforward like larger televisions, 3DTV, Blu-Ray, tablets, or smartphones. But this year, the big thing was "THINGS" itself! The phrase "The Internet of Things" refers to the increasing connectivity and intelligence of ordinary tools and appliances. Thanks to technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, and IPv6, we have reached a tipping point where everyday devices like light bulbs, door locks, and thermostats can be connected to each other and to the Internet.
Even toys are getting smart! Ozobot is a clever "smartbot" that follows a path you draw on paper. But you can also use their iPad app to create paths that Ozobot follows. Ozobot is even able to move around on your iPad, then onto paper, and then back onto another iPad. There is a lot of room for creativity; and instead of needing a bigger racetrack or train track as traditional toys would require, you just need more paper! It's no wonder Ozobot won one of iPhone Life's Best of Show awards. Ozobot will be availble on Kickstarter any day now for $45, which is discounted off the already reasonable list price of $60. UPDATE: Their Kickstarter campaign just launched, here!
Other "THINGS" that have become intelligent include light bulbs, doorlocks, thermostats, watches, and thermometers. In addition, we have intelligent Beacons and "Finders" that help us find our keys and other valuables using an app. Even battery chargers from vendors like myCharge have become smart, with the ability to sense what kind of device is plugged in to them, so it can offer the right amount of power for a tablet, for example, versus a lower powered phone.
CES saw announcements from Pebble and Martian Watches, Gelo's low-cost Beacons for location-aware apps, PhoneHalo's TrackR (which I've previously written about) along with iDevices and their iGrill 2 and iGrill mini (which won one of our Best of Show Awards!)
The challenge with all of this connectivity is compatibility, management, and standards, so early adopters might want to select a single vendor for such devices. There are "suites" of home automation solutions from brands like Staples, Lowes, ADT, SmartThings, and Ingersoll Rand (makers of Schlage locks and Trane air conditioners.)
Another approach is to buy the 'best of breed' home automation solution for each need. For example, the Nest thermostat and smoke alarm are considered the best in their category, leading to Nest's $3.2 billion acquisition by Google! But managing a variety of devices from multiple vendors requires a "universal remote control." That's where Revolv and ivee come in.
Revolv acts similarly to Logitech's Harmony Remote systems which can control almost any infrared home entertainment device through a growing, Internet-based library of codes. Revolv includes a dedicated receiver/transmitter that can "learn" the codes for the more popular home automation systems like StaplesConnect and Lowe's Iris. Hold your iPhone's screen on top of the Revolv unit, and via flashing lights, the devices pair. Then you can use their elegant app to control your environment without concern for what technology or platform each device uses. It's a great concept, and earned Revolv one of our "Best of Show'" Awards at CES.
On the other hand, ivee is a compact, alarm-clock-sized voice-activated universal remote for home automation. Instead of using your iPhone, you use your voice. This brings us closer to a future like Star Trek or HAL9000. Speaking of the future, we plan to test solutions from iDevices, Pebble, Martian, myCharge, Gelo, PhoneHalo, Lowe's, ivee, Revolv, and others, so stay tuned for more "CES of THINGS" follow-up articles!