The smart home market is still up for grabs. Unlike PCs or
phones, which, for the most part, are dominated by a few
well-known names, smart home gadgets can come from wherever and
whatever brand. As long as they perform functions you can’t get
from the big names, people will continue to flock to them.
You can stick with mainstream options like Philips Hue lights
or a Nest thermostat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But
the fun thing about building a smart home is that after
choosing an ecosystem (like Alexa, Google, or Apple’s HomeKit),
you can mix and match a ton of products. At CES 2019, the
variety only expands. Let’s get into some of our favorites and
why they stand out above the competition.
More helpful smart doorbells
The French company Netatmo debuted a smart video doorbell with
two very useful features to set it apart. It’s the first video
doorbell that’s compatible with Apple HomeKit, and it uses a
microSD card for video storage so that saving and recording
video doesn’t require you to pay for a subscription plan.
TP-Link made a Kasa doorbell that has a 2K HDR camera, which is
a step above most doorbell cameras that usually top out at
1080p. It uses facial recognition to differentiate family from
strangers. Unfortunately, it’s a wired doorbell, so setting it
up might be more of a hassle. It’s set to ship sometime this
year, and pricing is still unknown.
This doorbell actually goes over your peephole, which has been
pretty rare among smart doorbells. It opens Ring’s product
lineup to even more homeowners and renters. The camera can also
sense knocks on the door and send you a notification. It costs
the same as previous flagship Ring doorbells $199, and it will
ship sometime this year.
Maximus DualCam Video Doorbell
Maximus made one of the first dual-camera video doorbells. It
shows a top and bottom view of visitors to supposedly cover a
blind spot that other doorbells might have. It also works with
both Google Assistant and Alexa because “that’s what the
customers want,” Mark Honeycutt, CEO of Jiawei Technology,
which makes Maximus doorbells, told me. It should be available
later this year for around $179.
Most colorful smart light
Nanoleaf Hexagon Lights
These hexagon lights from Nanoleaf change colors (from up to
16.7 million colors) and have different modes that react to
sound or touch. Would I fill up my bedroom with these? Probably
not, but they’d look great on a wall behind an RGB gaming PC.
Nanoleaf told me that pricing was still being worked on, but we
can expect it to be similar to the company’s Canvas lights (15
tiles for roughly $400). They should be available by the end of
this year and will work with HomeKit.
The smart lock with the most features
Lockly’s Secure Pro smart lock has five different ways of
unlocking: fingerprint scanner, voice assistant command, the
app, a physical key, and a keypad. The big draw is the keypad,
which is able to conceal your passcode by having you press
multiple numbers at a time. (It’s almost like T9 texting, where
“5” represents J, K, and L). It’s set up so that even if
someone stands next to you, they likely couldn’t guess your
password. The lock supports Google Assistant and Alexa. It
costs $299.99 and should ship within the next two months.
Schlage Encode Wi-Fi Smart Lock
The Schlage Encode is notable for being one of the few locks
that works on Wi-Fi alone, so you’ll have the option of not
relying on any smart home app to use it. It supports Amazon
Key, so if you use this lock for your front door, you’ll be
able to let couriers in through the Key app. It’s available for
preorder now on Amazon for $249.99, and it should ship out in
Some of the coolest things that came to smart homes this year
simply didn’t fit into a category or were the only ones in
their category. Tellingly, the people who chose product names
for these devices often defaulted to calling them “hubs” or
some other ambiguous term.
Whirlpool made a smart oven concept that uses augmented reality
to show you where to place your food while it’s baking. It’s
called the Whirlpool Connected Hub Wall Oven, and it has a
27-inch transparent display that you can use to pull up
recipes. Unfortunately, the screen could use improvement when
it comes to colors and resolution. The oven is just a concept
for now, so it’ll likely see many more iterations before it
reaches market — if it ever does.
GE put a 27-inch tablet above the stove, and it actually kind
of works. It can stream Netflix and Spotify, and it works with
Google Assistant. It’ll probably survive your cooking, but we
haven’t tested out GE’s claims.
Amazon initially wanted to you to allow drivers to unlock your
front door through Amazon Key to make deliveries. It’s now
expanding into Key for Garage, which could be a way to allow
packages in while encroaching less on personal privacy. So far,
Key for Garage is launching in major cities, which is an odd
choice considering a lot of city-dwellers live in apartments
without any garages.
Lenovo’s smart clock is the first to work with Google
Assistant, so it obviously seems like a competitor to the
Amazon Echo Spot. Unlike the Spot, it looks like a traditional
alarm clock, so it’s got that going for it. It doesn’t have a
webcam, either. It ships this spring and costs $79.99.
Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet
Forget the foldable phones and 8K TVs, this is likely
the year’s clear winner at CES. Jokes aside, this smart
toilet is Alexa-enabled and is supposed to smoothly open up
remotely. On the side is an ever-changing smoky ombre light so
you can set the mood, while surround sound speakers play bird
noises to emulate being in the midst of nature while you take
Ridiculous as it may be, it’s a good reminder that smart home
products can truly come from all places, with companies old and
new, big and small, techy and not-so-techy jostling for a seat
at the table. That sense of healthy competition, especially
from old home companies that have been around for a century
trying on new ideas, means that the smart home space is
constantly evolving. Many of these new products aren’t
available yet and have shipping dates for later in the year.
But when and if they do arrive, they’ll offer a lot more
variety for our homes.
Photography by Shannon Liao / The Verge