Home Automation Moving Closer to Reality

2014 Consumer Electronics Show
A scene from a previous year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

The recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas offered a dizzying array of ridiculous new products for the home (unless, of course, you see real innovation in a Wi-Fi-enabled Crock-Pot or “smart” washing machines).

But behind the gadget one-upmanship were signs that real smart-home technology is advancing rapidly and may become an integral part of our daily lives in as soon as five years. Heating and air conditioning, lighting, security, and entertainment systems will be managed in ways that will save time, money, and environmental resources.

The missing component, so far, has been compatibility.

“With both applications and technology, most of the things that we need already exist,” Sanjay Sarma, director of digital learning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told NBC News. “The challenge now is making them work together seamlessly, in a way that the user finds intuitive and convenient.”

Several companies, including Lowe’s and Staples, showed off home-automation controllers that enable smart-home devices from different manufacturers to link up and work together.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is reportedly interested in developing its Xbox gaming console as a home systems manager, and Google made headlines earlier this week with a blockbuster $3.2 billion deal to buy Nest Labs, a maker of smart thermostats and smoke alarms.

Homebuilders are wiring new homes for the latest technologies, but existing homes will also take advantage of smart-home automation through upgraded electrical outlets, home Wi-Fi networks, and smartphones doubling as controllers.

(Image: Flickr/Brian Bilek)


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