As the frenzy winds down, we roam the floors at CES 2016 to scout out products and demos in our final day of coverage.
The frenzy is winding down as CES 2016 wraps up Saturday. We’ll roam the floors Friday to scout out products and demos for a final day of coverage.
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of highlights from Thursday:
- As Rachel Lerman reported, it’s hard to go far at CES this year without seeing someone wearing a virtual reality headset strapped to their face. The technology has been one of the main attractions.
- Manufacturers in China are often the source of products with U.S. brands at the show, but increasingly major Chinese manufacturers are selling products they make under their own brands to compete in U.S. markets. Hisense is one such brand.
- Our reporters’ string of tweets and retweets continues, giving thoughts and impressions from the floor. Jump to feed of CES tweets from Times staff.
Is the Internet of things facing a Tower of Babel?
The Internet of things, the term for the growing universe of Internet-and-sensor-equipped devices, from door sensors to home appliances, raises the spectre of chaos.
What if light bulbs made by different manufacturers couldn’t be controlled by the same remote? Or your Internet provider built an app that could only interact with a few of the devices in your home?
Industry groups are trying to keep that from happening, working on common language to ensure that devices are able to communicate with each other and convey basic sets of commands.
They’re not all working together, though.
AllSeen, whose major members include Qualcomm, Sony and Microsoft, is plugging away at one set of standards. The Open Interconnect Consortium, an Intel-led group that split off in 2014 and includes Samsung and Cisco, is working on another. Other industry-specific groups have their own initiatives.
At CES this week, a Samsung engineer displayed the theory behind working together. From his smartphone, he was able to control with the push of a single button a thermostat from Honeywell, a GE lightbulb, and Samsung TV, using a demo application built by the OIC.
Later, he showed how Samsung’s SmartThings Internet of things platform, which uses its own software language, could tap into the OIC’s protocols to translate its commands to other devices.
The OIC is courting the likes of AT&T and Verizon in the hope that the participation of the telecommunications industry gives their initiative a stronger push.
But for now, the far flung components of the internet of things struggle to speak the same language.
— Matt Day
Here come the robots — right into the home
Humanoid robots are getting ready to come into our homes.
UBTech, a Chinese company, has created a small robot that can speak and dance, and is designed to become a mechanical member of the family. UBTech also has a couple of other robots, both of which are designed to help kids and teenagers learn science and technology skills. Using an easy app, kids can program the robots to play soccer or dance or do many other things.
UBTech’s newest robot, Alpha 2, has a cute face and has so many joints that it moves almost like a human. The robot has a built-in function to act like a personal assistant for the home — similar to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Echo. You can tell it to turn off the lights in a certain room or to call for a Uber ride.
The robot also has advanced language skills and can tutor children or translate languages.
Alpha 2 is still in its prototype form, though UBTech hopes it can start selling to consumers in early summer.
— Rachel Lerman
Smart devices are securing a place in the home
A huge section in the Sands Expo Center at CES wants to make sure you never have that tingling feeling in the back of your mind that you left the door unlocked when you left home.
The smarthome industry has come out in full force this year with self-warming thermostats, security systems that will talk to you and lightbulbs that might know more about your habits than your mother.
Honeywell, a long time home manufacturer, introduced its new security system, Lyric Security, this week. The system lets you create “scenes,” such as Bedtime, and perform several actions — turning off lights, shutting the blinds and locking the door, all with a quick tap on the device’s screen. Honeywell also announced a water leak detection unit that comes with a sensor rope that can extend around the perimeter of the room.
The smarthome trend is starting to catch on with the mainstream. A recent study from Coldwell Banker found that 28 percent of U.S. adults own smarthome products, a number that reaches 47 percent among millennial adults.
“I think we are seeing people’s initial skepticism start to dissipate a little bit,”said Mike Bruce, product manager at Honeywell. Many houses are headed full-steam toward a “Jetsons-type” future, Bruce said.
The next challenge will be connecting all the various smarthome devices to each other. Mike Soucie, product strategy leader at smarthome company Nest, said that companies are starting to pair their devices and make devices with dual uses.
For example, we soon may see connected lightbulbs that also have a camera.
Honeywell is working toward more unity between devices. The newest version of its Lyric Thermostat connects with Apple’s HomeKit, which can bring together devices from different manufacturers and let you control them with a single click.
— Rachel Lerman
Time for a little dance break
U.S. trade rep tries to sell TPP to tech industry
Michael Froman is trying to rally the technology industry behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The U.S. government’s top trade official stopped by the CES on Friday, hosting a morning roundtable with a half dozen small- and medium-sized U.S.technology exporters. Later, he visited with representatives of Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a 12-nation trade deal of Pacific Rim nations designed to establish a common set of trade and business standards and erase tariffs designed to protect local industry at the expense of importers. Negotiators settled on a treaty October and, in the U.S., it awaits a vote in Congress.
“Our sense is that it’s pretty broadly supported” by the technology industry, Froman said in an interview. “I think we’ve come up with a very good outcome.”
The Business Software Alliance, which represents companies including Microsoft, Apple and Adobe, threw its support behind the agreement on Friday. They join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two other trade groups, representing much of American big business, which voiced support for the deal this week.
For Seattle’s two cloud-computing giants, Amazon.com and Microsoft, TPP provisions designed to safeguard an open Internet are important, Froman said. Both companies’ networks of Web-accessed data storage and software rely on distributing those products across borders from big, centralized hubs. Some countries have required Internet companies to locate specific services in-country, rather than host them from the U.S. or another jurisdiction, raising concerns about a fragmentation of the Internet.
“You see more and more countries engaging in digital protectionism,” Froman said. “It’s not just Russia or Brazil or China,” he said. “It’s sometimes in the European Union. It’s very important for TPP to put a stake in the ground and say this is an important issue. As the economy enters the 21st century, the trade system needs to catch up.”
Some interest groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation digital rights organization, raise concerns that the intellectual property and other provisions favor big companies at the expense of the public and the technology startup community.
“We try to strike the appropriate balance between protecting (intellectual property) and encouraging innovation and ensuring access to the products of that innovation,” Froman said.
Meanwhile, the agreement doesn’t include China, a growing technology powerhouse and a frustrating market for foreign technology firms to operate in. U.S. and Chinese negotiators, Froman said, are working toward a separate, bilateral deal that would include provisions similar to the TPP’s rules governing investment by foreign companies.
“We’re now engaged with China directly,” he said. “They’ve been tracking TPP very closely, they understand this will have an impact on them as investment shifts to other countries. We channel that into our negotiations (with them) on a bilateral investment treaty.”
— Matt Day
Drones fly in to the show in droves
The FAA must be having a field day watching all the drones fly around the convention center at CES.
Many of them stick to the quadcopter design, with four small rotors powering the device. But one company is showcasing a line of sleek, fixed-wing drones set to hit the market sometime this year.
Parrot, a French company perhaps best known for creating a smart flower pot that tells you when your plant needs water, developed the fixed wing drone over the course of two years, said designer Mael Donnard.
The fixed wing model better mimics the traditional flying feeling for pilots and has a smoother feel than flying quadcopters, he said. The Disco drone can fly with speeds up to 50 mph and can fly for 45 minutes at a time.
It’s also the first drone, Parrot believes, with a built-in auto pilot function, another feature to help it mimic the experience of flying a plane.
Parrot has not yet released the pricing of the drone, and has said it hopes it will be available to buy sometime in 2016.
— Rachel Lerman