The Future of the Smart Home Industry

Insights from #CES2017

Our colleagues Mathias and Petr went to the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Read about what Mathias took away from it in regards to the smart home industry:

Safe and sound back from Vegas, I have finally had the time to sit down and elaborate on all the inspiring impressions.

Smart Home is huge, generic, and is probably not going to succeed like this

There was a dedicated venue for smart home which was filled to the brim with companies and pretty vacant for people. By far the most products in this category were the same: white plastic boxes with the usual suspects: sensor types.

ces lights shade

They vary in which radio protocol they use and whether they function in battery or fixed installation. They all focus primarily on security and rely on AC relays to actually make something happen based on the sensors. Herein lies the obvious problem with the present products: lack of actuation, and thus of meaning to the user. So, I can see on my smartphone that I just opened a door? Well, I knew that. The toaster can turn on when I come home. Toasting what? Dry bread I laid on it in the morning?


Smart light still equals connected bulb, connected switches, and relays

And everybody’s got one. Seriously, everybody. I must have seen 50 different bulbs, all more or less copied from either Hue, Ilumi or LIFX. The sales pitch is usually based on price or on connection protocol: It works without a gateway, its z-wave, etc.

bulbs ces shade blog

I attended a conference with smart light on the agenda, which ended up in talks about switches and a desire to standardise the bulbs. There were no talks about which light we actually want, and no talk about any radical innovation in switches or bulbs. We ended up with a vision about smart light that I know Philips Hue solved back in 2013.

There is a lot of work to do in order to get more companies to understand what should be smart in smart light; it is actually the light.


It is slowly dawning on the industry that IoT is not a value point in itself

Connected shoes and sunglasses raise the important question of “why”. I heard some who had come to this understanding and a lot who had not. Connectivity is not a value proposition in itself, but merely a technical solution. In order to make a product meaningful you may need connectivity, or you don’t. I saw many products without connectivity that were vastly better products because they were good at what they were supposed to do.


Alexa is everywhere

bulbs ces shade blog 2

They won, at least for now. They won because it works - plain and simple – and people love that. I heard both, good and bad, of the voice activation system, and I personally still have my doubts. We will have to see if the user will buy it, or if a simple switch is more appealing in the long-run.



CES is unlike any other exhibition I have been to. The difference is that people come as both, professionals and consumers. This creates different interactions where more is at stake in relation to products and brands. Don’t exhibit unless you actually have the money to back it up and think deeply before you nail 40 products to a white poster wall that don’t really work. Engagement is about engagement and I am not engaged if things don’t even show what they can do. I left with many impressions and inspiration and it will be interesting to see the further development of the industry.