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A new home for the smart home at CES 2015

The connected household will sit front and center at CES 2015. Here's what to expect.

This Haier air conditioner from CES 2014 held a huge clue for the smart home in 2014. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Smart-home products were on broad display at various venues across Las Vegas at CES 2014. At this coming show, the smart home gets its own dedicated exhibit space as part of a new convention area in the Sands Hotel dubbed Tech West. We'll still be running all over town to meet with various other smart-home vendors, but having an official, Consumer Electronics Association-sanctioned home at the show is at least one indicator of this smart-home category's proliferation this past year.

Scan the exhibitor list for the smart-home section at Tech West and some notable vendors stand out among the 62 listed currently. German-appliance maker Bosch is the chief sponsor. You'll also find Honeywell , ADT, Big Ass Fans , Kwikset Kevo tech-provider Unikey and First Alert showing off connected-household products.

While the companies on that list have put out some interesting devices and services over the last year or so, some larger names in the smart-home space are either showing their wares elsewhere, or they're not listed as official exhibitors at all.

Nest Labs and Chamberlain have smaller meeting spaces set up at the Venetian. Belkin and Philips are showing on the primary Las Vegas Convention Center floor. Quirky/Wink, August and recent Samsung acquisition SmartThings are all absent from the exhibitors list. I'm surprised that Quirky especially doesn't have a larger presence given that it just made an expansive smart-home product line announcement. All of those vendors could still make news, but the various display strategies suggests different readings into the value of joining the officially boxed-off smart-home product section.

The most conspicuous absence from the Consumer Electronics Show is always Apple, of course, although this year Apple may have the largest indirect impact on the smart-home category. Back in June, the company announced its plans to embed a smart-home interface directly into its mobile iOS operating system via a software protocol dubbed HomeKit. Per an announcement from Bluetooth kitchen thermometer-maker iDevices , we'll see the first official HomeKit-enabled device on Monday, January 5, at the company's 11:30 a.m. PT press session (PDF). Expect other vendors to join iDevices in finally bringing HomeKit to consumers.

Any connected-home discussion must also address the larger kitchen appliances which, until Samsung integrated SmartThings support into its appliance line, has been siloed off from the greater, small device-focused smart-home universe. Samsung, LG and others have made connected-appliance news at CES in the past, although last year no one really broke new ground here. Connected appliances from Bosch seem likely given that it's spearheading the official smart-home booth. The company announced some grand smart-appliance plans back in September, so we'll be looking for it to continue along that theme here.

Will Whirlpool show off more than just a concept at this year's show? Whirlpool

For other manufacturers, GE won't have a large appliance booth at this year's show, and Electrolux has told us it won't be attending. Whirlpool usually goes long on concept ideas, but given that it has expanded its partnerships this year to include Nest, we may see some more real-world product announcements. One company we'll also be watching is Haier. The Chinese manufacturer sneaked under the radar last year with an announcement that hinted at Apple's larger smart-home plans. Now that HomeKit is out in the open, I wouldn't be surprised to see even more large appliance manufacturers embrace it.