January 26, 2012
Might 2012 be the year the smart home goes mainstream?
The smart home—which involves Wi-Fi-connected appliances and home owners using their computing devices to manage their utilities and energy consumption—was one of the hot topics at this year’s CES (as it was last year as well). People are getting used to controlling their lives from their smartphones and tablets, and Samsung, LG and various other appliance brands are hoping the home will be the next frontier.
Among the more promising developments at CES was Lowe’s Iris smart home management system: A partnership with U.K. company AlertMe, Iris will allow people to manage their homes from anywhere, via any smartphone or computer. We’ll see if Iris is as user-friendly as Lowe’s is claiming when it launches midyear. Another encouraging entry, already on the market, is the smart thermostat Nest, which learns your behaviors and regulates heating and cooling accordingly. It’s garnering as much praise for its design as for its functionality—co-founder Tony Fadell is an ex-Apple executive who helped bring about the iPod, and if Apple has taught us anything, it’s that design is key in winning over consumers.
Google is looking to get in on the smart home as well, via its open source Android operating system, which it sees as a platform for connecting people to their appliances. At a CES panel, executive chairman Eric Schmidt explained the goal is that “when you walk into your house with an Android device, you have all these things with computers that adjust as necessary.”
That scenario isn’t in the immediate future, however. The New York Times this week took a skeptical look at the smart home goods showcased at CES, questioning the point of most of them—at least for now.