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9 scrappy smart home underdogs (pictures)

We traveled to the CEDIA tech expo in Denver, Colo., in pursuit of the next big thing. Here's what we found.

Ry Crist
Brian Bennett
1 of 10 Ry Crist/CNET

Little guys making big smart home plays

2014 has seen a lot of big players making big smart home moves, but the little guys are keeping just as busy. That much was evident as we prowled from booth to booth at CEDIA 2014 in Denver, in search of the next big thing. Click through to see what caught our attention.

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Billing itself as the world's most intelligent doorbell, Chui is a crowdfunded gadget that you'll bolt right outside your front door. Its built-in camera will stare down whoever it is that's ringing the bell, then use facial recognition to identify them. From there, you'll get a text alert on your smartphone telling you who's at the door. If you aren't there to answer, the built in two-way audio feature will let you tell them to buzz off all the same. Chui starts shipping out to backers in the next month or two -- we'll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

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No, that's not the evil Eye of Sauron -- that's the color-coded motion sensor from Fibaro, a European smart home manufacturer set to make its US debut by the end of 2014. With a variety of spacey-looking sensors and gadgets, this quirky setup might have what it takes to stand out from a more conservative crowd.

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iSmartAlarm iCamera Keep

We were big fans of iSmartAlarm's fee-free approach to DIY security when we reviewed their setup last year -- but we found the system's iCamera accessory to be a glitchy disappointment. Enter the new and improved iCamera Keep. Due to retail this November, the new camera will integrate with existing systems or function as a stand-alone device, and promises better across-the-board performance than the last model, with HD resolution, built-in motion and sound sensors, night vision, local video storage, and other key upgrades.

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Kwikset SmartCode 916 Deadbolt

Kwikset is hardly an underdog when it comes to locking up the deadbolt market, but they're facing plenty of new competition from rivals both large and small on the smart lock front. That's what makes the new SmartCode 916 Deadbolt such an *ahem* key offering. With a lovely looking touchscreen and wireless, Z-Wave powered smarts, this lock is built to compete with the Yale Real Living Touchscreen Deadbolt, as well as smaller upstarts. One nice feature -- you'll have to press two random digits before entering your code to get in, which prevents would-be burglars from studying your fingerprints to crack the lock. One downside -- unlike with other Kwikset deadbolts, you'll need to go through a licensed dealer to install the 916, and install it as part of a larger connected system. That's a bummer if you're more DIY-minded.

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There wasn't much mention of the smart home during Apple's big keynote earlier this week -- except for Lutron, which got a shoutout during the Apple Watch demonstration (yep, you'll be able to control your Lutron lights right from your wrist). If you aren't sold on the Apple Watch, or if you don't feel like waiting until 2015, Lutron offers a full line-up of design-oriented smart lighting products, as well as a handy bridge hub to control them.

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Raising and lowering the blinds by hand is so 2013. In 2014, why not do it with an app? That's what Somfy is offering with its new myLink wireless bridge device, compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

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Somfy wasn't alone at CEDIA -- we saw several smart shade setups. QMotion was another standout. With remote control blinds and window shades that you'll be able to automate, these great-looking shades look like a great fit for the high-end smart home.

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SimpliciKey's deadbolts have been around for a few years now, offering the same sort of remote, push-button entry as you probably use with your car. This year, though, they've finally added smartphone controls. Combined with the keychain fob and the option for coded entry, that's three clever ways in that have nothing to do with keys.

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If you like your smart home kits to come packed with plenty of gumption, then look no further than WigWag. Not only does the WigWag Relay aim at the heart of the competition with a promise to control popular third-party gadgets like Belkin WeMo Switches and the Nest Learning Thermostat, but the WigWag team built their own version of IFTTT to do the controlling, and claim that it's even smarter and more powerful. This year, they're even adding low-cost color-changing smart LEDs to the system to help it compete against the likes of LIFX and Philips Hue. There's room for skepticism with so many bold claims, but if this kit can execute on its potential, it might soon be a big smart home winner.

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