If we've learned one thing from the CNET Smart Home this year, it's that there exists a wide chasm in usability between a single smart home device and a houseful of them. If this category is going to live up to its ambition to truly transform how we interact with our homes and with the world around us, the industry will need to figure out how to bridge that gap.
That's what we'll be talking about at this year's CNET Smart Home Panel at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. I'm not sure I can imagine a better line-up of panelists to tackle this particular topic than our guests this year.
We'll be following the same format as we have in our two previous smart home panels. Our own Lindsey Turrentine, editor in chief of CNET Reviews, will moderate a discussion between a group of industry luminaries. I'll sit on the panel, too, to provide the perspective of an informed consumer.
As to our panelists, they all come from companies who have invested deeply in smart-home products and technologies.
Eric Free, Vice President, Intel Corporation & GM Smart Home and Building, Internet of Things Group, Intel
A significant portion of Intel's smart-home strategy comes from its Internet of Things Group. While much of the focus for that group has to do with embedded processors, it is also the home of Intel's RealSense imaging technology. If you recall Intel CEO Brian Krzanich's CES 2015 keynote address, imaging has applications across technology categories, including the smart home. From facial recognition to presence detection, the more intelligent our devices can be about their surroundings, the more benefits they can offer that are specific to individuals.
Greg Hu, Product Marketing Apps, Services, Nest Developer Program, Nest
This will be the second year we've had a representative from Nest Labs on our smart-home panel. On our first panel back in January 2014, Nest was still just a maker of good-looking, connected thermostats and smoke detectors. It became a full-blown platform six months later when it launched the Works with Nest program that enables third-party device makers to tie automations between their own devices and Nest's products. Today, the Works with Nest program has ties to over 30 different connected products, from washing machines to luxury cars to universal remote controls.
Charlie Kindel, Director Amazon Echo and Alexa, Amazon
Amazon Echo broke through to mainstream consumer awareness shortly after its general availability launch this past June, largely due to the strength of Alexa, the voice-activated, virtual assistant embedded inside Amazon's cylindrical connected speaker. Thanks to an open development program, you'll now find a growing list of smart-home devices you can control simply by speaking a command to Alexa ("Alexa, turn on the lights"). If you aren't convinced that voice control will untether the smart-home interface from your smartphone, you haven't met Alexa.
Carey Smith, Founder and Chief Big Ass, Big Ass Fans
Who would have guessed an industrial fan maker would establish a name for itself so quickly in the smart-home market? A catchy name helps. Big Ass Fans debuted its Nest-connected Haiku ceiling fan in June 2014, followed by the Big Ass Light Shop LED that December. From its home in Lexington, Kentucky, Big Ass Fans proudly brings a perspective to the smart-home discussion that doesn't always jibe with that of Silicon Valley.
Yoon C. Lee, Vice President Insight Concept and Portfolio, Samsung
Few companies can match Samsung for the breadth of its manufacturing and research and development capabilities. Of the handful that can, none has moved as quickly as Samsung to use that muscle to bring smart-home products to consumers. From connected appliances to Wi-Fi cameras, to acquiring the SmartThings smart-home platform and integrating it across product lines, Samsung has moved quickly to establish itself as a smart-home leader. Expect it to continue that leadership into 2016.
Unlike our previous panels, this year we're on the paid track at CES. That means you'll need a ticket to attend. You can order them here. Mark your calendar for Thursday, January 7 at 2:15 p.m. PT in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. We hope you can make it.