Interoperability was a hot topic for connected devices, arguably because a smart home cannot really be smart unless devices can talk to each other. Many device makers are beginning to realized this, touting at CES the number of third-part devices they work with. However, with a number of open standards on the market, such as Z-Wave, ZigBee and Bluetooth, consumers are essentially choosing between different open, but incompatible, ecosystems.
Another problem is that most of these devices require users to download an app to control each of them. This is essentially the 21st century’s take on the remote control basket. Users did not enjoy the remote control basket; likewise, controlling one’s homes via a dozen individual apps is an issue that needs resolving.
While an army of Internet-connected devices can enrich a user’s life, it does not necessarily make a home smart. For the smart home movement to reach its full potential, devices need to be able to talk to each other. There is hope, however. Smart hubs, or gateways, like Revolv, SmartThings and Staples Connect attempt to unify different standards and devices through a single user interface.
The smart home market seems to be taking off, but there is still a bit of work to do before it can “really” take off. This year’s CES was primarily about picking low-hanging fruit, with device makers adding Internet connectivity and smartphone operation to “dumb” objects in the home that can clearly benefit from them. The coming year will, hopefully, see different industries work together to continue to educate the market and help consumers understand scenarios in which their lives can be improved by a smarter home. Many people at the show were excited about recent developments in smart home devices, but admitted that the market is still in its early stages–there are still countless scenarios and applications to explore.