• Miller Finn

Consumer 'Smart Home' Technology Predictions For 2019

Posted and written by Mark N. Vena on Forbes

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the premier consumer electronics event, where companies big and small get a chance to showcase their new technologies. It always provides a strong glimpse of where the industry is going, and as such, is a must-attend for analysts like myself. On the eve of the show, here are my top 5 Nostradamus-inspired predictions for 2019.

#5: We will start to see practical robot solutions for the consumer that are “sociable” in design, capable of natural interaction with humans. The solutions we’ll see in 2019 will still be a far cry from the lovable robots in The Jetsons, Star Wars, or Lost in Space, but they will be an important step forward from the single usage model products (e.g. Roomba) that we have today.

Advances in digital assistant technology such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and (to a lesser extent) Apple Siri, have laid the groundwork for the human interface capabilities needed to make these solutions useful and intuitive to use. Companies like Boston Dynamics have done amazing work with robots that utilize high resolutions cameras to sense the environment and move with animal-like dexterity. Given the developments we’re already seeing in the AI and machine learning area that will allow robots to “mature” and become more useful over time, I suspect we’ll see products similar to Sony’s next generation Aibo (which was announced at last year’s CES). Genuine robotic pets may indeed have mainstream appeal, for uses such as giving comfort to the elderly or providing “roaming” home security surveillance in a way that a fixed camera cannot.

Mobile robot solutions like Temi, which performs a number of interesting entertainment, news dissemination, and video conferencing functions, point in the direction of where the market is headed. Roomba, look out.

The new 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard promises to be a game changer.IEEE WEBSITE.

#4: 802.11ax, otherwise known as Wi-Fi 6, is going to be the next “big thing” in wireless connectivity—particularly in the connected home. Both Qualcomm and Intel introduced new chipsets supporting this new specification, and new routers with 802.11ax-based radios will start to hit the market this year from all the major routers companies (including Netgear and Linksys).

Why is 802.11ax going to be such a game changer? The essential problem with today’s Wi-Fi is not purely speed—802.11ac provides sufficient amounts of bandwidth for most home users, with theoretical speeds over the Gigabit threshold. The much larger problem is Wi-Fi congestion in the typical home, with many devices (sometimes up to 15 or 20) competing for bandwidth. The 802.11ax standard takes its cue from how LTE cellular technology solves network overcrowding, with wider and multiple channels that significantly increase throughput.  Yes, 802.11ax will be anywhere from 5X to 10X faster than existing Wi-Fi technology, but more importantly, it will handle these competing client requests for bandwidth in a more organized, intelligent and robust manner. In addition, 802.11ax promises to improve battery life on devices, since the range will be (generally) further and the transmission of data will be faster.  In that manner, the clients will not need to work as hard.

As always, the downside to new wireless standard transitions is the proverbial “chicken and egg” phenomenon—the client device and the router must both have 802.11ax support to realize these benefits. Still, there is enough industry momentum behind 802.11ax to make me believe that the transition will begin in earnest this year. Consumers will benefit from the upgrade cycle.

On a tangential note, I’m also excited about what Plume and others have done in the “beyond wireless” area with OpenSync. OpenSync is an open source initiative focused on assisting service providers by opening up hardware ecosystems to enable an improved foundation of new smart home services and apps. This type of “outside the box” initiative has already garnered support by several major service providers and device manufacturers and I expect to see a lot of traction around this later this year.

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©2019 by Miller Finn.