5 Little Home Automation Ideas and Insights from CES 2016

Why not strap a Z-Wave, ZigBee or Wi-Fi radio on the back of a Roomba to map the RF signals in a space?


You’ve seen the big home automation news from CES 2016, but here are some little ideas and from the show that could have a major impact on IoT and the smart home.

Flipping through my CES 2016 show notes and photos, I’m finding some excellent little home automation nuggets that don’t quite fit anywhere except for a round-up of interesting little nuggets. Here are 5 of them.

1. The giant German appliance maker Bosch introduced its new subsidiary Robert Bosch Smart Home GmbH at CES. Most of the line is me-too kind of stuff, but I like Bosch’s idea of de-coupling the siren from the smoke detector. In this way, the siren can be used in the case of a break-in or other alarm event.

2. RF interference at CES is a perennial problem when you’re trying to demonstrated sensors, apps and other wireless technologies. This year CentraLite, which provides ZigBee and other connected technologies to major home-automation providers like Lowe’s, built a Faraday cage on the show floor to escape all that interference.

Jason Whatley, director of marketing notes:

CES is an RF interference nightmare! There are thousands of devices in our same exhibit hall, all blasting at 2.4GHz. No matter how “good” anyone's devices are, it's nearly impossible to demo products reliably with all that interference. Sooo…we built a conference room on the show floor, BUT we lined every square inch of it with fine copper mesh. This reduces the amount of RF waves that can make it into our room. The tricky part is that there can be no holes or seams anywhere or it won't work. We put a spectrum analyzer on the room before and after we applied the copper and ended up with a 25-30dB drop (which is huge!).

3. ADT launched its Canopy API at CES, enabling third-party devices to tap ADT’s professional security monitoring services. That begs the question: Will people selling Canopy-enabled IoT smoke detectors from Kidde or locks from August go knocking on doors representing themselves as ADT?

It won’t be a problem, said ADT chief innovation officer Arthur Orduna, during a Smart Home panel discussion. ADT has been dealing with false representation forever, and they’re equipped to handle it.

But with so many partnerships in the home IoT space, manufacturers will have to police the way their brands are used … moreso than ever before.

4. During the same Smart Home panel, Letha McLaren, CMO of leading SHaaS (smart home as a service) provider Icontrol, revealed an interesting lesson about user experience. When Icontrol used the term “rules” for user-generated scenes like “goodnight” and “home,” the company found that customers rarely engaged with the feature.

Rules are seen as a bad thing, she explained, not as a liberating tool for smart-home living.

5. You’ll always get some interesting tidbits out of SmartThings founder Dan Lieberman. We chatted during CES about room-mapping with sensors and robots. Robotic floor cleaners like Roomba can be perfect vehicles for generating 3D maps of a room.

But here’s another idea: Why not hitch ZigBee, Z-Wave or other wireless modules on the back of a Roomba to map out signal strength in any given space?

Download: Ultimate Guide to Home Automation at CES 2016

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson