Post-CES 2016 Report: Emerging Trends in Home Automation

Mobile IoT, network security and IoT device discovery, energy harvesting and professional security monitoring emerged as key emerging trends in the smart home at CES 2016.


It’s a pity more CE Pros don’t attend CES. Sure, it’s punishing to navigate the giant venues, endure interminable cab lines, huff perfume and cigarette smoke, wade through so many trinket peddlers, visit booths where nobody knows your name, and sniffle your way home with no good swag to show for it.

But this is the show where future trends are revealed. You start seeing a few innovations in an emerging category and you just know: This new thing is gonna be big.

In researching exhibitors and new products prior CES – an exhausting effort that culminated in our Ultimate Guide to Home Automation at CES (embedded below) – not only did I discover some real gems, I also started to piece together some themes that likely will inform – or transform — our businesses starting this year. Some of these I kinda knew about. Others really hit me for the first time.

Mobile IoT (mIOT)

Just after CES 2011, I wrote a piece called, “How 4G LTE Will Change Home Control,” after seeing a consumer video camera with a cellular connection that would tap the Internet without the need for broadband service. Now that type of solution has a name — mobile IoT (Internet of Things) – referring to devices that communicate to the cloud directly through cellular networks, no traditional Internet connection required. Some call it M2M.

Panasonic now has the Nubo camera with 2G/3G/4G LTE roaming service. Nortek Security & Control recently acquired Numera, a mobile PERS (personal emergency reporting system) that lets users roam anywhere. ADT has a similar product. And the list goes on.

I believe CES 2016 will be the show where Mobile IoT takes off. Major cellular carriers are working on special channels for IoT devices, and two specialty service providers, Sigfox and Qowisio, demonstrated their mIOT networks at CES. Meanwhile, chip-makers are building the silicon and manufacturers are creating low-power devices for the mobile revolution.

IoT Network Security

Smart-home hacking is, well, bad for business. CE Pros have learned many best practices for traditional IP networks, but what about for smart devices – from the RF signals they emit, to the networks that carry those signals, and to the cloud itself?

Big CE companies, IoT protocol developers (Z-Wave just announced its new S2 security framework), device manufacturers and network operators are all over this threat. But at CES 2016 we saw a new category of consumer products designed specifically to sniff out hanky panky in the smart home.

Start-ups like Domotz, Krika (not at CES), Cujo, BitCircle, Luma, Dojo Labs, Daplie and PFP are deploying “home cloud” devices that look for anomalies in signals from connected devices – not just Wi-Fi, but ZigBee, Z-Wave, the AC powerline and others — alerting homeowners to potential threats from both inside and outside the premises.

Device Discovery

Not unrelated to these IoT security technologies is a new category of products that don’t just look for network anomalies, but also identify the devices on the network to provide an extra layer of security and functionality. Domotz, Krika, Smappee and Ecoisme all have databases of signal activity from a wide range of consumer devices. The have identified unique communications signatures of countless smart devices from Z-Wave switches to Bluetooth light bulbs to Wi-Fi cameras. But some go a step further to identify dumb devices as well – in the case of Smappee and Ecoisme using activity on the powerline in a process known as disaggretation.

From there, it’s an easy step to learning the behaviors of the devices themselves and the consumers using them.


  • Energy harvesting: Battery-free devices powered by kinetic energy (pressing a button), ambient light, ambient movements such as temperature swings or water flowing through pipes. Enocean, the leading developer and protocol for this category just inked an agreement with ZigBee for wider implementation of energy-harvesting technology.
  • Bluetooth Mesh Networking: Definitely gaining steam as a home automation protocol, with the ability to extend Bluetooth signals throughout the house and control devices directly via smartphones, without the need for a gateway device.
  • Professional security monitoring: The major CE companies are catching on, adding professional security monitoring – usually with pay-as-you-go plans – to their DIY devices. Samsung SmartThings and Wink Iris now have it. ADT launched a major campaign called Canopy to offer its professional monitoring service to third-party product and service providers. 

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