Home automation and energy management had a big presence at CES, and Nexia Home Intelligence came to the Show to show off some recent additions to the growing portfolio of Z-Wave-enabled devices that are compatible with the Nexia ecosystem. Primary among those were: the new Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt that provides keyless entry and built-in alarm technology that will notify you if someone tampers with the lock or tries to break into the home while you’re away; the new eMonitor Trane Energy Management Solution that monitors energy usage data 24/7 and provides overall energy usage reports, as well as real-time alerts and notifications of situations such as circuit overloads – or even if a freezer door has been left open; and new zoning capabilities with the Trane ComforLink II Control command center/thermostat that uses zone temperature sensors to figure out which areas of your home need additional heated or cooled air. (Unfortunately, the zoning features aren’t compatible with all HVAC systems – including mine…) While indoor/outdoor cameras, networked appliance and lighting control AC modules, wireless deadbolts, heating/cooling control, energy management, and web/smartphone control of the system are all features within the Nexia architecture, home AV control is not.
In what can only be described as the single most tedious press conference in the history of CES (just beating out the i’m Watch press conference that, interestingly enough, also took place this year), 40-year-old Chinese company (and self-proclaimed “world’s fifth-largest TV manufacturer), Hisense, announced plans to grow from a regionally known to a globally dominant CE manufacturer making everything from smartphones to smart-home appliances.
Despite the lackluster presentation, Hisense had some exciting things to announce, including two models (84- and 110 inches) in the company’s flagship XT900 series of 2160p Ultra HD U-LED flat-panel Smart TVs (with Google TV). Also unveiled was the XT880 series of 4K Ultra High Definition 3D and Wi-Fi-enabled Smart TVs in 50-, 58-, and 65-inch screen sizes. As with the XT900 TVs, the XT880-series sets incorporate a detachable USB-camera mounted on the top bezel of the TV while the TV’s remote control features a built-in microphone. Hisense also presented a concept prototype of the GF60XT980 glasses-free 3D TV that uses a facial tracking system that “discretely tweaks each sweet spot to give viewers the best experience possible.” No pricing, expected availability, or distribution details were announced.
IN2UIT’s very stylish, very portable Filo sound system is light (about 1.7 pounds), less than 2.5-inches thick, includes Bluetooth connectivity and has a li-polymer battery that’s good for up to ten hours of operation. But it’s not just another pretty desktop speaker. The Filo incorporates IN2UIT’s unique electrostatic loudspeaker (ESL) technology the company calls “Electrostatz”. Like larger, more expensive ESL’s on the market, IN2UIT’s Electrostatz speakers are super-slim – in fact, the company claims its speakers are “the world’s slimmest, paper-thin speaker technology in the market”. Electrostatz speakers, however, include a proprietary self-biased (SBESL) nano-diaphragm design, so they don’t require high-voltage bias or transformers, which helps to keep the cost and power consumption low.
The Filo is available in three colors, Vogue red, Mod blue and Urbane grey. Each Filo also comes with a power adapter/charger and a wall mount bracket. Even on the noisy, open show floor, I was highly impressed with the sound quality of the many $299 Filo speaker systems IN2UIT had mounted on the walls of the company’s booth. In my opinion, it outclassed any other Bluetooth-enabled, portable speaker costing under $300 that I’ve ever heard. IN2UIT’s Filo is expected to be available in the US in the next several months.
As a general rule, home automation is pricey. When you add motorization into the mix, it can get even pricier. SABAJ, a vertically integrated, extremely automated manufacturer located in Poland, showed off a motorized TV lift mechanism designed to raise flat-panel TVs up out of hidden cabinets that is surprisingly affordable. The company’s various lift mechanisms include an RJ45 socket for use with home automation systems, power guard circuitry to prevent the mechanism to lower the TV if it is still on, an active safety system that stops the downward movement and raises the screen slightly if something gets in the way, a three-button programming sequence for programming a preset viewing-position, and comes flat-packed so shipping costs are low. The TV-LIFT K-LINE ECO and K-LINE PREMIUM models are designed for flat-panel TVs up to 60 inches and up to 155 pounds (depending upon the K-LINE model). Product will be available in the US market very soon, and pricing will likely start at well under $1,000 for the lift mechanism.