If you’re reading this, KBIS is right around the corner. And if you think this column is going to be a style and trends report, I’ll warn you ahead of time: It’s not. I’m not trendy, I leave that to my friend (and KBDN seminar co-host) Richard Anuskiewicz. What I am going to tell you about is some of the cool tech that you might be seeing at KBIS.
I’ve got a pretty good idea about what you’re going to see because most of it was just announced and shown at CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show. This is one of the world’s biggest electronics shows.
The news is all still fresh, and there was certainly a lot announced and shown off. I’ll save my next column for a deep dive into particular products I think are important and noteworthy. For now, what I’d like to do is prepare you to go to KBIS and come back informed about what new technology is there, and how it can impact your future design plans.
As I’ve said in the past, smart homes are coming. People are expecting their homes and kitchens to work more like their phones. As designers, we need to be prepared to configure these devices and make recommendations for what would be the best choices to incorporate into our clients’ homes.
There will likely be a lot of different smart home devices on the show floor. Some are going to be great, some won’t be around next year. While it’s important to take a look at the individual devices, it’s also important to understand the types of product categories so you can get an idea of what consumers want.
SMART PRODUCT CATEGORIES
Let’s take a look at what types of products are trending in smart technology right now.
- Lights: Smart lights are really popular. They’re easy to set up, cheap to buy and you get instant gratification from them. We all know the value of good lighting.
- Security: There are a lot of new entrants into the smart home space that will offer security solutions for your client’s home. Cameras are now commonplace. You can get good security cameras for as low as 30 bucks each. Many of them don’t even require any wiring to install. And in addition to that, there’s a dizzying array of smart locks to choose from now that can further enhance home security.
- Health & Wellness: This is a really interesting and pretty broad category that actually overlaps with the aforementioned categories quite a bit. You can consider mood lighting to be a wellness product; a security product that could let an elderly person live independently longer could also be considered a wellness product. Smart appliances that help you cook healthier fall into this category as well.
- Entertainment: This one is the easiest and most fun. Check out smart speakers and TVs. We’re even seeing waterproof speakers that can go in your client’s shower, and in some cases even TVs!
- Efficiency and monitoring: There are a variety of smart home products out there that let your clients more easily monitor their home and make it more efficient. There are devices that can track their electrical usage right down to the individual light bulb. There are gadgets that can track their water usage and solar electricity that they’re generating if they have solar panels. People like to know what’s going on in their homes and what they can do to save money, and there are myriad solutions for tracking these.
Think about these categories for a moment…this is all stuff that consumers have wanted in their homes for a very long time. Of course we all want our homes to be safe, efficient and fun. I’m not breaking any new ground here with these categories. What I want you to do is think about how a particular device or service could better serve a particular category. Even if you see a product that isn’t all that great, or doesn’t totally meet your (or your clients’) needs, consider how that product fits into a particular category.
If you can spot the trends and what the industry is moving toward, you’ll be much smarter about predicting where things are going with smart home tech, and how to recommend this to your clients.
The last and most important thing to look at is the platform that these products run on. All of these products will have an app or a website that you can operate them from. But to truly make these devices ‘talk’ to each other, and work holistically as part of a true smart home, they need a common platform to talk to. There are three big ones: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home/Assistant.
Apple’s system is very proprietary to Apple products, so you need an iPhone, iPad or other Apple device to run your smart home. Alexa’s main point of interaction with your smart home is its voice activated speakers. You can get these speakers right from Amazon, or in many cases, they’re baked right into the devices themselves. You might see an Alexa-powered light switch that you can say “Hey Alexa, open the garage door” to.
Google Home/Assistant is also quite popular. Assistant can be used from your phone, or from one of Google’s many smart speakers.
So as you see these different devices in action, start brainstorming how they will work together, and how they can best serve your typical clientele. Do you serve older clients who value safety and security? Perhaps you need to see if a smart alarm paired with some smart lights could be used to call medics, turn on the lights and unlock the house should an emergency arise. Ask if you can do that on Amazon Alexa or one of the other platforms.
Maybe your client base is entertaining more often and is really interested in music and mood lighting. In my experience, some of these platforms are better than others for their ability to control lighting.
Even if you’re new to the entire smart home space, I hope that this puts some clarity around the categories and where things are going. This way you can start to brainstorm and be ahead of your clients as they dream about and work with you to design their new, tech-focused spaces in 2019 and beyond. ▪