The Innovation Custom Integrators Cared About At CES2019
New Products and Technologies To Keep an Eye On This Year
This year’s CES was, predictably, as big and glitzy as ever. CES says that 188,000 industry professionals – including 63,000 from outside the U.S. – attended this year. Of course, all those attendees jam up traffic, restaurants, and hotel space in Las Vegas, which can lead to a bit of sensory overload after a few days. But there’s no other show in the world which brings together so much consumer technology under one roof (well, many roofs) that you can see, hear, touch, and feel.
Since OneFirefly is a marketing agency working with the custom installation and integration channel, we did not spend much time looking at drones and robots. Not that those things may not become more important to you in the future, but smart home and AV technology are mainstays of CES and this year continued to bring exciting new products in those areas. Below we cover five of the most interesting ones we saw – out of way too many – that we think are going to be mainstream in the next few years.
Wireless Home Theater
We all know that wireless speakers are one of the areas seeing the greatest innovation in audio. Wireless home theater is an effort being pushed by the WISA Consortium (Wireless Speaker and Audio) which has more than 50 members from the audio and video industry. The premise is to make audio speaker placement, especially for surround sound, a plug-and-play no-wires exercise.
How does it work? First, there’s a low-latency wireless transmission protocol that is implemented in every WISA-certified speaker. The protocol has 1/10 the latency of Bluetooth, which means it can synchronize sound without delay for up to 7.2 speaker surround sound setups. It also handles high-resolution audio up to 24 bit/96khz, which covers the range of the majority of Dolby and DTS surround formats. Speakers contain information about themselves – such as usefulness as a left, right, center, or surround speaker, which devices like a smart TV can connect to easily to set up a surround system in just a few minutes. LG recently just joined the consortium, and their 2019 TVs will be updated to be able to wirelessly pipe surround sound with WISA capability.
WISA isn’t trying to replace the dedicated home theater or media room. But it will be something to watch in the coming years. It will be possible to have a 7.2 surround sound setup with just a smart TV and powered wireless speakers. For many people, that kind of minimalist approach will be very appealing.
The LG Rollable TV
Last year, LG showed off the prototype of its OLED TV that rolled into a case like a projector screen. This year, the TV is a reality and an impressive engineering feat. The 65-inch 4K OLED R will be available for purchase this spring. It's all managed by motorized braces that raise and lower the flexible screen at the press of a button. Because OLED pixels are self-lighting, the TV needs no backlighting like standard LCD screens. The flexible display is the culmination of years of work in nanotechnology and materials engineering to get to something like this in a consumer product. The OLED R also includes a powerful soundbar so it can be an all-in-one system for a minimalist setup. While this one will be costly when it debuts, expect the flexible display technology to come down the cost curve in the coming years. After all, at CES 2000 plasma flat panels were the newest thing and cost $20,000. We all know what happened since.
The Smarter Kitchen
A few years ago, Samsung debuted the smart refrigerator. It featured an LCD screen on the door that has a variety of functions, from playing music to being a digital version of photos and messages clipped to the door, to peering inside the fridge to see its contents through interior cameras. Samsung keeps upgrading the hardware and the software to add more features, calling it the Family Hub. Much like smart speakers with screens from Amazon and Google, Samsung refrigerators can do video calls and respond to voice commands. The cameras in the fridge can even detect when food may need to be thrown out and replaced. Of course, the companion smartphone app lets you post messages on the refrigerator, see inside it, post photos, and more.
Beyond the refrigerator, other appliances are getting smart too. GE's Profile line introduced a smart range hood, which it calls the Kitchen Hub. It is a 27-inch Android-powered tablet that has access to the broad range of Android apps. The hub can control other GE appliances, like turning on the oven to the correct temperature based on information from a recipe. Cooks can follow a recipe on the screen, and a camera in the hood can keep an eye on the cooktop, or you can share what you're cooking over a video chat – perhaps if you need help. The Kitchen Hub is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can bark voice commands to control your smart home.
Smart Technology Is Coming To…The Bathroom
Perhaps it was inevitable, but the bathroom is getting smart too. Kohler featured a large booth with its vision of the smart bathroom, which featured voice controlled showers, luxurious bidets and toilets, and smart mirrors. The intelligent toilets feature Amazon Alexa compatibility, and we're not entirely sure what to say about that. Let's just say that smart lighting, voice controlled functions, and music have made it even there. The Veil Lighted Bathroom collection features a smart toilet, lighted mirror, and illuminated three-piece vanity. The lighting effect is coordinated across all the pieces and is very customizable via the Kohler Connect app or Google or Amazon voice assistants. All these new products present more opportunities for integration with the rest of the smart home – imagination is the only limit.
Apple Wasn’t At CES – But Their Influence Was Felt
One of the more surprising announcements from CES started with Samsung. It was not about any radical new technology or product, but perhaps signaled a new era for Apple technology. Samsung announced that its 2019 TVs would integrate Apple’s Airplay 2 technology and the iTunes store. Sony, Vizio, and LG also announced that they were incorporating Airplay2 into their TV sets. Until now, Airplay was licensed only for audio in some speakers and AV receivers. With Airplay2 in smart TVs, any IOS user will be able to cast practically any image, audio, or video onto the large TV screen, a feature only available before on Apple TV.
The availability of Apple's vast iTunes content library on Samsung TVs is a significant plus for millions of people in the Apple ecosystem. With an estimated 588 million users worldwide, extending part of the Apple ecosystem outside of Apple hardware is a big step. It may portend more in that area, like the long-rumored Apple TV subscription service, which could be made available on other smart TVs.
As always, we’re here to help you grow your business in the new year. Give us a call today at (954) 477-8331 or contact us here.
Bonus Shot: We had to share this one from the floor. LG video walls get more spectacular every year. At CES2019, it's curved - talk about immersive!