The fight for your life at CES

In addition to all the home automation systems I saw battling it out at CES last week, there were the home health monitoring systems.  They generally use the same communications layer as the home automation systems (some combination of WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and/or Z-Wave).  The differences seem to be:

  • a focus on monitoring (sleep patterns, heart rate, etc.) rather than actions
  • supposedly a higher bar in terms of information security

Here are the home health systems I saw at CES:

  • Honeywell Seymour (not to be confused with the Honeywell Lyric system for home automation!)
  • OnKöl (Their angle: made to be completely remotely administered by caregivers, rather than Granny; just ship it to Granny’s house and you can set it up remotely.  Also uses cell networks for its cloud connection, rather than assuming high-speed internet.)
  • Qualcomm 2net

It seems odd to need a completely parallel infrastructure to deliver packets to/from these wireless devices, separate from the one used for home automation… but it may be that HIPAA privacy rules (and the like) mandate this.

The fight for your home at CES

I toured CES last week, and one of the themes I was struck by was how many companies are duking it out to “run the show” for your networked home devices (by providing the hub that all the devices communicate through).

Most of them use the same underlying wireless protocols (some combination of WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and/or Z-Wave) to connect to the devices, but as far as I can tell, devices marketed as working with one company’s hub will generally NOT interoperate with the other companies’ hubs.  I have personally set up a GE Link lightbulb to be controlled by a SmartThings hub, so interoperability is certainly POSSIBLE, at least in some cases… but it seems like that will not be the general case.

It looks like this industry will be littered with dead bodies (and orphaned customers) over the next two years, while we wait for 2-3 of these systems to defeat the rest of them.

Here are the home-automation connectivity hubs I saw at CES, in alphabetical order:

Looming over all those home automation systems at CES was a system not on display: Nest.  Various systems purported to work with Nest, either now or in the future.

I also saw the Allseen Alliance mentioned at some of these booths… this organization / set of guidelines will supposedly allow devices from different manufacturers to interoperate, but I’m not sure how that will work in practice.