So the Consumer and Electronics show for 2013 is history! (Where the heck is January going?) And while there were the usual jaw droppers, (Panasonic's massive 20" tablet), and show stoppers (Razers Edge game console), after reviewing a large number of reviews, there was one underlying theme which really impressed me as being the most significant in terms of it's relevance to the future of consumer electronics. And that theme is simply "connectivity".
The idea of the wirelessly connected "smart home", filled with "smart appliances" and devices which are controlled through a central hub has been around for decades, (anybody remember The Jetsons?) but at this year's CES it was obvious just how much momentum the demand for whole home connectivity is gathering.
Wireless security systems have already been in widespread use in the home. Now the emphasis is to incorporate appliances, utilities and anything else that can be operated electronically into a fully integrated, whole home system.
Samsung showed off it's internet ready T9000 smart fridge with it's 10 inch touchscreen monitor option which can display such useful apps as Epicurious, when you need a little help with a recipe and Evernote to help catalog and keep those recipes, just as easily as it can adjust the temperature inside it's four door, triple cooled interior.
LG's line of new fridges and stoves which utilize near field technology (NFC), can be programmed using a smart device and will be able to communicate with each other as well as the user. Imagine your refrigerator coming up with the night's dinner menu based on the contents it has inside. Or what about a note on the front display that has an up to date list of grocery items that need to be restocked. Pretty cool right? And that's just the beginning.
The time of the smart home is here and it is going to change, in ways both subtle and huge, the way that we interact with our living spaces.
Now some might say that there is a lively debate going on as to just how necessary all of this is. But I think that convenience is every bit as much invention's mother as necessity ever was.
And the industry obviously agrees. It's clear that total "connectivity" is where the consumer electronics industry is going in the creation of these new smart products and services for the home.Which is why we are bound to see a plethora of start-ups, all trying to grab their piece of the pie.
And with the continuing development of “smart metering” and Home Area Networks (HANS), these companies will bring to life a virtual interface between owner and home that has never before existed.
The Universal Plug and Play Forum (UPnP), an organization which consists of over 800 manufacturers involved in everything from consumer electronics to network computing, realized several years ago that by making products that were compatible with all brands of hardware across the board, they would not only be making such products a snap to use, literally "plug and play", but they would be blowing open the market for computer accessories, allowing companies large and small to create and sell products that would work just as well on an HP brand computer as they would on a ACER model, or as well on a laptop as a PC.
The UPnP protocol has been responsible for the seamless connectivity of over a billion devices, and at the 2013 CES the Forum held a forum and made their position very clear. They want the same type of universal inter-operability to be central to the development of the products and services which will fuel this smart home revolution.
It is estimated that 20 million energy smart homes will be on the grid by the end of this year. By standardizing the way homes are connected, that number is sure to grow in leas and bounds over the next few years.
Jetsons here we come!