retail watch | Jan 20, 2022 |
The home of tomorrow gets a little closer at this year’s CES

There’s still a long way to go before we realize the technologies that powered the home of George and Jane Jetson, but every year, the new home products introduced at CES in Las Vegas inch us ever closer to that futuristic vision for American households.

And even if this year’s CES (which used to stand for Consumer Electronics Show; now that its purview has expanded far beyond TVs and cell phones it sticks with just the initials) earlier this month was somewhat tainted by the omicron variant, which caused a dip in attendance and a bit less revelry, there was still plenty of new tech to feast your senses on.

As usual, much of the debuts on show were in the prototype stage—meaning that a good percentage of them will never reach the marketplace, and the products that do make it onto shelves may not be exactly the same as originally advertised.

No matter. If even a fraction of them come to fruition, George and Jane will still have plenty of new household gadgets to play around with. Among the thousands of new products shown, here are some of the ones that especially caught our attention.

Wash Those Microfibers Away
Outdoors and apparel retailer Patagonia and electronics giant Samsung collaborated on a prototype washing machine that addresses the issue of microfiber waste. We don’t pretend to know exactly how it works, but the aim is to reduce the water pollution caused by microplastics that are shed by garments and home textiles made of synthetics. Talk about clean!

Smart Bulbs
We all know about lighting systems controlled by remotes and smartphones, but Sengled took the concept to a whole new level with its Smart Health Monitoring Light, which measures sleep quality, heart rates and all kinds of other body functions using radar technology. The company also says the light can detect when someone has fallen and notify the proper authorities, potentially eliminating the need for those less-than-fashionable fall-alert necklaces.

Fill ’er Up
Kohler introduced its PerfectFill technology, which allows users to fill a bathtub (or seemingly any household receptacle) to a pre-set level and temperature with a simple voice command. A bubble bath is extra, we assume.

Ding Dong
Ever since the Ring doorbell brought high-tech surveillance to the average, low-tech front door, we’ve seen countless variations on the theme. This year’s CES was all about further integrating cameras, video monitors and security devices into our daily lives. Brands like Eufy and Belkin debuted doorbell cameras—the former available next month, the latter ready to ship now—while others like Arlo and Bosch showed integrated home security systems. Ring, for its part, was previewing a glass break sensor that comes out in February. Perhaps a robot barking dog to keep the bad guys (not to mention Amazon package thieves) away isn’t far off?

Windows in Motion
The next step for automatic window treatments comes from a company called Eve, which uses a new technology called Thread to allow for all kinds of functionality, starting with smart roller shades. Unlike most of the products shown at the show, these are available for purchase now.

Clean Machines
Robot vacuums were some of the first automated products to hit the market, so it stands to reason the newest iterations would up the playing field. Two companies, Roborock and Ecovacs, both showed floor-cleaning machines that do more than you ever imagined your home needed—and at prices in the $1,500 range, they’d better.

Kitchen Confidential
Several big kitchen appliance makers—Samsung and Whirlpool among them—had new variations on refrigerators, ranges and other majors with an endless offering of new doodads and add-ons. Did you know you needed an air fryer built into your oven? You do now.

Home Hub Hullabaloo
When technology moved into households, the big-picture vision was a single integrated system that controlled everything—and we mean everything—from a single device, be it a freestanding remote or your smartphone. A generation later, we’re still not there, but once again there were new hub systems that promised they are the answer—of tomorrow. The problem is that it’s still today.

CES remains the industry’s top spot to find new technology for the home. If you’re a tech freak, it’s beyond just a candy store: It’s a candy shopping mall, factory and distribution center all rolled up into one giant Las Vegas convention center. There’s enough inspiration there that even if most of the products never actually make it to retail, there’s plenty that will. Omicron or no omicron, this year was no exception.

Homepage photo: Kohler’s PerfectFill technology allows users to customize water depth and temperature, then fill the tub with a voice command. | Courtesy of Kohler


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.

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