Bosch pushes sensor tech, green building, and automated driving at CES 2014

Bosch aims to innovate in the smart home and automated car tech.

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
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Rich Brown
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Bosch CEO Werner Struth on stage at CES 2014.
Bosch Chairman Werner Struth on stage at CES 2014. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Embedded technology was a major focus of Bosch's CES press conference, where Chairman Werner Struth presented the various use cases for the company's tech in, among other things, smart home products, eco-friendly building design, and automated cars.

Cars, bikes, homes: Bosch wiggles its way into the smart life at CES 2014 (pictures)

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At the core of its push in the smart home is a new embedded sensor, the Bosch SensorTec BME280, and a new business division, Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions, headed by CEO Thorsten Mueller).

A descendant of Bosch's MEMS sensors, the BME280 combines temperature, humidity, and pressure into a single package. Bosch says this is the first of its kind to incorporate all three types of sensors into one component, the benefit of which is a more efficient way to package indoor proximity tracking, home automation, and even home health functionality into smart phone and smart home products.

Proximity tracking in particular could provide an immediate benefit for smart home products. Right now, the Nest Learning Thermostat and other products need companion devices to provide room-to-room tracking. With a BME280 sensor, your smartphone could transmit your location, along with ambient temperature and other data to the Nest in real time, and thus adjust the temperature more accurately.

Bosch's new BME280 sensor. Colin West McDonald/CNET

On the environmental front, Bosch highlighted a home in Concord, NH built in partnership with the Turner Group architecture firm to showcase Bosch's home heating and cooling technology. Equipped with solar panels and two different ground source heat pumps powering various elements from radiant floor heating to towel warmers, Struth offered up the net-zero energy consumption house, dubbed ROSE (Renewable energy production, Occupant-driven spatial design, Sustainable building practices, Energy-efficient construction) as an example of the company's green tech interests.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Alongside sensors and green tech, Bosch's real strength is in the automotive sector. Struth said during the Q&A session that two-thirds of its business comes from developing automotive technologies (though it hopes to move than number to fifty-percent in favor of green tech and other categories).

Struth entered into the automotive portion by affirming his belief that driverless cars will be a reality, although they will arrive gradually, with various driver-assistance features coming out bit-by-bit. He then walked step-by-step through the experience of driving a car equipped with Bosch automotive tech.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

From using natural language voice processing to enter driving directions and make hands-free phone calls, to an automated engine Start/Stop system, to various sensors that assist with parking and staying in your lane on the highway, Struth demonstrated a wide assortment of systems where automated tech might move into your car. The highlight might have been the app-based parking system, where you arrive at a parking spot, get out, and then guide your car into position by swiping a virtual representation on your smartphone.

As concept-y as app-driven parking sounds, Struth said that and other automated car technologies will be on display at a demonstration area here at the show. It will also have a smart home showcase on the show floor demonstrating the potential of Bosch's sensor tech. Stay tuned as we seek out hands-on time in both areas.