AFB AccessWorld Magazine: CES 2017 Highlights


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Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the incomparable gathering of consumer electronics developers, distributors and enthusiasts, hit a milestone when it turned 50 years old in 2017. Perhaps it is fitting that attention at this year’s conference, held in Las Vegas, seemed to focus on how developments in technology can better serve people, especially as they age. The show prominently featured self-driving vehicles, home automation, and health and fitness products of all sorts, even a tech-infused walking cane and a personal airbag. Of course drones, virtual reality, 3D printing, and all manner of audio were also much in evidence.

“CES 2017 shifted to a new level as large and small companies from around the globe gathered to reveal solutions for many of our world’s most challenging problems,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Though some lamented the lack of new amazing gadgets and gizmos, CES 2017 set attendance records and did indeed show off the potential of connected technologies for vehicles, homes, health, fun, and everything in between. More than 3,800 companies, including over 600 start-ups, jammed into 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space. The throngs were there too, with more than 175,000 industry professionals, including 55,000 from outside the U.S. in attendance.

Thanks, once again, to CTA, the disability community was well represented, with Lee Huffman, AccessWorldEditor-in-Chief, joining me, an AFB-alumnus and the Founding Editor of AccessWorld, at the conference this year.

The Smart and “Responsive” Home

At the outset of CES, I set a goal to get a handle on the smart home. As it turns out, four days in Vegas may not be enough time to achieve that goal, particularly because there are oh-so-many distractions at CES, and that’s not even taking into account gambling. Nevertheless, here are observations from the show and some further study.

“Alexa,” turn on my home. Yes, Amazon’s Echo, powered by Alexa, was seemingly implemented in all manner of devices for the home. Holiday purchasing was terrific for Amazon’s Echo products, so perhaps we’re seeing a tipping point for home control. But, hold on, what about the cost and value of smart home devices?

Remote controlled lighting, thermostats, smoke alarms, and automatic locks have now been around for several years. The growth in usage of smart phones and apps connects more home devices and possibly brings about improvements in independent living for people with disabilities, to boot.

Besides the cost of devices that connect to smart phones or Alexa, there is also the question of which company or standard will serve as the brain and nerve center for all this connectivity.

At CES, I decided to spend some time learning about some perhaps lesser-known companies and platforms in the smart home sector. For example, I was surprised to learn about the breadth of devices supported by Nexia, a brand of Ingersoll Rand. The goal, according to George Land, General Manager of Nexia, is to “create a wise and intelligent home where everything works well together as a system.”

The Colorado-based company was showing off Amazon Echo-controlled devices, starting with lighting, thermostats, and plug-in wall modules. Nexia primarily uses secure Z-Wave and Wi-Fi technology for connectivity. The company said that Nexia bridges now control more than 500 different devices from more than 80 manufacturers, including Schlage, General Electric, Samsung, First Alert, Trane, American Standard, Heating and Air Conditioning, FIBARO, Andersen, and Pella.

I was impressed with how well controllers from FIBARO launched Nexia automations with a single tap of the button or a simple swipe gesture. The interface to Samsung’s Wi-Fi enabled smart appliances provided an alert when the laundry is complete, though full control over appliance settings is not yet included. A connected power strip from Aeotec allowed independent control of each outlet on the strip so you can manage multiple devices.

Read the full article here.