We spent last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, and what a week it was. 2016 was clearly dominated by voice control. Here are or some thoughts on that and other observations from Skip Ashton, Silicon Labs' VP of software engineering.
The usual crazy crowd at CES to start 2017. The transformation of Sands Expo into the center of the Smart Home brought most of the smart home market out to show off what they are working on. This means the Alliances – zigbee, Thread, ZWave, and OCF all had their booths. Large companies, equipment suppliers and even service providers active in the space like Comcast were there to show existing and new products off.
The overall theme had to be the dominance of voice control for everything. The wild success of Amazon Echo means you cannot have a connected product without having an Alexa skill. As I look today, there are now over 8,200 skills Alexa has and more than 4,000 of these were added in the last 90 days. This means smart home systems like Lutron, Crestron, Control 4, SmartThings, or IRIS are enabled; but so are lighting products from Philips, OSRAM and others. Somfy launched a new system from myFox and it is already integrated. We once saw a focus on touchscreen controllers for device control. These products, and their associated mobile apps seem to be focused on voice as the primary interface. Obviously beyond Alexa there is Siri and the Google Assistant also wanting to be your voice control.
The other notable event was the announcement of dotdot and demonstration of it running over Thread in the zigbee and Thread booths. This is a major step forward for the industry in use of an agnostic application layer that can be used across different physical layers to control devices. Dotdot seemed to be really well received by the market and by the press.
This seemed like one of the busiest CES shows I’ve attended. This was due to the large number of meetings. This is not why people come to CES, they want to see what is on display. So what did the booths have this year?
zigbee – I think the best looking zigbee booth ever. There was the wall with more than 100 zigbee products, plus the normal company pod displays. The wall of devices drew a lot of interest and really showed the wide range of products. The dotdot demo looked excellent and also drew a lot of questions and interest. The booth was constantly busy and there was a full set of press and analyst briefings on the state of zigbee plus what dotdot means moving forward.
The zigbee Wall of Devices
Thread – The Thread booth also looked excellent and had a large wall with a demonstration of dotdot, Weave, and OCF running over Thread plus the individual company displays. The Thread booth was also very busy with new companies, press, and analysts asking questions. The market knowledge of Thread and its potential continues to grow and the announcement of dotdot starts to put the pieces together for those looking to develop product.
Demonstration of dotdot devices running on Thread
The OCF booth was also full of a wide variety of companies from the OCF ecosystem.
For device makers – in addition to having to talk about their voice control capabilities people really wanted to show the wide range of technologies they support. Here’s an example from Leedarson.
For the large appliance manufacturers, the approach to the smart home at this CES was not devices but instead high-end smart appliances and their OS. Below is the Samsung and Haier booths and their appliances. Note this is a small portion of the Samsung booth, which was rather large but did not include the SmartThings devices (included last year) or any Artik devices.
I also had to put in a picture of the WNC section (of the ZWave booth) which had industrial IoT showing a smart meter and communications hub (and that is enabled by Silicon Labs).
Below is ZWave's main CES booth