Window-cleaning suction robots, speakers made out of clear acrylic glass, flying smart phone-controlled drones and smart beds that know your sleep patterns–the yearly International Consumer Electronics Show (CES®) in Las Vegas is certainly something to behold, and this year was no exception. Energy was high and show-goers seemed genuinely excited by the boggling array of technology on display. For those of you who didn’t make it, here are the exciting trends we saw in home technology.
#1: Gorgeous 4K dominates CES
Whether you call it 4K, Ultra HDTV or UHD, this technology was the un-debated star of the show. If you aren’t familiar with it, 4K is higher-than-high-def at 3840 x 2160 pixels–four times the resolution of HDTV. The picture quality on a good 4K can be mind-blowingly good with incredible color and detail. Last year, 4K technology was in its infancy; it was prohibitively expensive and content was limited. This year, there are at least five or six manufacturers displaying 50-inch 4K TVs for less than $1,000! This is definitely a good sign for you, the homeowner, as prices continue to fall. 4K TVs got bigger, too, with one manufacturer showing a whopping 110-inch model. Meanwhile, curved TV screens continue to be a big push for manufacturers, giving consumers a more immersive IMAX-like experience.
Aside from the TVs, there was plenty of buzz about 4K content. 4K streaming will be huge, with Netflix (which is shooting the Kevin Spacey hit “House of Cards” in 4K), Amazon and Comcast® pledging their allegiance to streaming 4K. Shortly after the show, the Blu-ray Disc Association reported that 4K Blu-ray discs™ could be a reality by the end of the year. Finally, if you want to make your own 4K content, a couple of major manufacturers announced Ultra High-def camcorders so you can! Get your 4K set now or call for a demo so you can see it for yourself.
#2: The Smart home frenzy
Never have we seen so many companies vying for position in the up-and-coming market of smart home technology. The proliferation of smart phones and tablets coupled with network-connected devices are the driving factors. While there were a couple of comprehensive solutions, the problem with the new wave of smart-home technology is that every system (lights, shades, temperature) has a separate app. This means you’d have to open and close several apps to perform a series of functions. While these solutions are not bad for the DIY-er, nothing beats the reliability of a comprehensive hard-wired control system installed by a professional.
Geofencing is not a product, but a technology, one that was ever-present at CES. Using your smart device, like an iPhone®, various other devices can sense when you approach your home and perform a series of tasks accordingly. For example, if you are within a two mile radius, your home can sense your smart device, and perform a series of tasks to welcome you home. For example, the door is unlocked, the temperature is adjusted and the lights go on, all without you even having to get out your keys. Very cool.
#4: Solutions-oriented, high-quality audio
While audio tended toward the portable Bluetooth® variety at this year’s CES, we saw a lot of speakers created to answer specific design challenges in the home. For example, that clear speaker we mentioned earlier looks great on a bookshelf, because it doesn’t obstruct the view of your art, artifacts or books. All-in-one units, like sound bars and sound bases (designed to go under your TV) were still a big hit, with a couple manufacturers showing a combination sound base/Blu-ray player. Growth in the multi-room wireless audio category continues, with announcements from several big-name consumer electronics companies.
We had a chance to check out some of the higher-end speakers and components at The Venetian® down the street from the main show, and there were some truly great-sounding floorstanding speaker systems, proving that true surround sound is not a thing of the past, and really, the only way to go for immersive home theater sound. Finally, a big thumbs up to the Hi-res audio format, which offers the highest quality digital sound for an experience that rivals your analog turntable. If quality matters to you, you need to demo this technology.
These were just a few of the hot trends at 2014 CES, in addition to others–like a resurgence in PC gaming, virtual reality, and wireless LED lighting. No matter if you are looking for the best possible picture with Ultra HD TV, the latest in design-oriented audio or true smart-home technology, 2014 promises to be an unbelievable year for home electronics. We’d love you to drop by or call to see some of the most exciting products we’ve seen out of CES in a long, long time.