/ Technology

CES 2017: Has technology reached ‘peak smart’?

Smart fridge

How did you sleep last night? Did you give your pearly whites the best possible clean this morning? Did you splash a drop of milk into your morning brew without realising it had turned? And will you remember to pick up some more from the shops later today?

From wi-fi-connected pillows and beds designed to adjust your position while you’re sleeping to toothbrushes with artificial intelligence, at CES 2017 in Las Vegas – the biggest consumer tech show in the world – it seemed that everything was prefixed by the same five-letter word: ‘smart’. But is it all too much?

Innovative or inane inventions?

From the genius to the completely bizarre, it’s difficult to know which ideas will make the leap from the show floor into our everyday lives. And it would be easy to be disparaging of most – the cynical side of me certainly wants to be.

Take GeniCan – said to be the first ever smart rubbish bin, which scans your rubbish as you throw it away and adds it to a shopping list. Years from now will you really be relying on it to help you remember which things you’ve run out of so you don’t forget to buy them when you’re at the shops?

Or Kerastase – the first smart hairbrush that can supposedly improve your hair health. Will there come a time when we’ll ask ourselves how we ever lived without it?

Admittedly, these are some of the more out-there ideas we’ve seen at the show this year, with a far less obvious consumer need for these sorts of products. And, in my opinion, it’s likely they’ll fall into obscurity over time and be remembered like a bad dream.

But some of the biggest advances in consumer technology over the past half century have debuted at this show, which is now celebrating its 50th year.

Take smart thermostats, for example. While the company Nest was still in its infancy in 2012, it exhibited its first product here in Las Vegas.

It’s now become a multi-billion-dollar company, bought out by Google in 2014, with smart thermostats from a host of companies helping people save money through more energy-efficient heating of their homes.

So who knows whether GeniCan or Kerastase will emulate the smart thermostat’s success.

Voice-control tech

Also on display was a plethora of products that show the proliferation of voice-control technology, with many incorporating Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant technology first seen in the Echo.

LG and Lenovo have both launched Echo rivals and LG has even incorporated Alexa into its 2017 flagship smart fridge, the Smart InstaView (which also has a touchscreen that can warn when products are near their expiration date).

For disabled people or the elderly, voice control has the potential to revolutionise their lives, granting them a newfound independence. Plus, with a new generation growing up around voice control, as the technology continues to improve, it’s likely to become something we expect rather than a novelty.

But the same concerns arise time and time again when it comes to smart products. With more products out there collecting our data, companies know more about us than ever before. Privacy is something many worry about and the need to aware of our own digital footprints will become of utmost importance.

So, do you think we’ve reached peak smart? Or is there anything you think should be smarter?


Its not reached its peak as you will find if you read up on Globalisation all the action comes via the US government and the massive US corporations / conglomerates who fully intend to cover the Western world with their latest innovation the “glorious ” Internet of Things , don’t take this lightly this is deadly serious and as time goes on the public will be gradually “eased into ” this way of thinking by–thats right you have guessed it ! –massive media advertising and ,as usual the public will welcome it gladly with open arms like they do most advertising , The Problem ? there is another branch of the public that will be thanking that “Digital god ” on a SSD with prayers of gladness and joy- that ever increasing digital religious group —the “Church of the Hackers , prayers will be given, incense burned and we will all settle down in the years to come to a massive increase in traffic heading towards the Which website for help . As a certain Irish comedian said at the end of his TV show- may your god go with you -all the best-Dave Allen.


The CES has been notable in past years for creating ideas that became essential. Vast fortunes have been built in that way, and so creative individuals have never been more inspired to get creative.

However, new ideas tend to go in one of two directions: the ‘That’s a great idea!’ pile or the ‘Okay; what’s that for again?’ heap. I suspect it’s never been any different, and the image of Victor Borge with his infamous telephone call by Sir Walter Raleigh to the Queen attempting to explain what a potato was comes to mind.

But advanced as the home is becoming, the holy grails of Smart devices remain tantalisingly out of reach. The autonomous robot, the stuff of SciFi and Asimov, will almost certainly sell in billions if an affordable and stable device ever comes to market. VR might well be supplanted by ER – Enhanced Reality – which, if a way could be found of projecting directly onto retinas, could be another multi-trillion market. True holographic TV – first mooted in the late 1950s – remains as far away as ever, with the issues surrounding the reproduction of stable, moving fully-formed three dimensional imagery being way beyond out current technology.

But with all the seemingly magical advances in iThings (generic, not Apple) come the associated issues of privacy and safety. All iThings communicate with the outside world and all iThings send back information to that world. Although you might not think it matters, sadly the ne’re do wells working for some companies will seize on the golden opportunities offered by threatening to create havoc unless paid not to do so.

The ransomware virus, which currently affects only data, could assume a far more menacing visage, it it were to tell your iFridge to ignore poultry going off, or even contaminate the milk. If we move towards total reliance on this sort of technology, how long before we stop checking for possible smells and other signs of danger?

A future for we all have to remain on guard .


CES 2017? I thought Which? Conversation had been requested by a recent contributor to spell out abbreviations on first appearance. The initials “CES” stand for “Consumer Electronics Show” which sounds dreadfully old-fashioned nowadays so it’s not surprising that it’s been air-brushed out to an unpronounceable acronym. However, one might have expected a leading consumer representative organisation to try to hold onto the name for a moment at least.


All fears of outside interference are fully justified and these are eloquently described in the posts above. For me, the test of a good automation is whether I am happy with the way I do things at present… if it ain’t broke… or whether I can see a genuine improvement in efficiency, labour saving or enjoyment by accessing the new technology. To an extent, this has to be invented and presented to us to give an opportunity to decide on its merits and then market forces take over. Sitting here at the moment I’m hard pressed to think of much that I want to change. I certainly don’t want everything connected up. Life is generally compartmentalised -work -shopping – domestic chores – leisure activities etc and I see no reason to combine any of these using smart devices. Being in control of what happens is important to me and, currently, if I want reminding I’ll write it down somewhere and leave it in an obvious place. I’ll make a decision whether to replace an item and I’ll soon know if I forget. All my domestic appliances work well and separately. Why should they need to talk to each other? There is a dubious advantage in letting the phone control heating and lighting and security from afar, especially if someone else can do the same by a hack or two, and I can’t think of many times when I might find this of much use. Keep things simple and there’s less to go wrong. I’m not quite on the fence but more this side of it than that at present.


As I have commented many times before, the only thing we need on the fridge is the day’s date or a small calendar. I think we can manage the rest from there so long as we have our faculties.

As for the GeniCan [the intelligent pedal bin], what I want is one that opens the lid as I approach it and closes it with a “thank you”. How can it tell whether we need a replacement for a discarded item or are throwing it away because we don’t like it and certainly won’t buy it again? In any case, the packaging goes in the recycling bin not the rubbish bin, so if the GeniCan scans the old light bulbs, eggshells, broken shoelaces, dolls eyes, fly-paper, buttons, and bows the shopping list is going to read like something out of the Sound of Music. Breaks the ice in Sainsbury’s I suppose.

Recent messages to enrich and extend our lives are to keep the brain active; I doubt we have reached ‘peak smart’ yet but I think we should be a bit wary of it. Evolution can work both ways.


According to Which? Pedal Bin magazine:

“All the bins in smart homes have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.”


Derek P -that is until you use your foot on the pedal wearing an old pair of socks –then a light will flash and the Internet will be warned that you are wearing smelly socks. expect spam from *odor eaters ” and abroad from -malodour of Paris.


I don’t think Douglas Adams was at CES 2017. 🙁


“I don’t think Douglas Adams was at CES 2017.”

Sadly true. As an early commentator on the very first digital watches (those that required two handed use) he would have had a field day.

He did, of course, predict the ultimate demise of unduly materialistic societies and the formation of distinctive archaeological remains from them, i.e. “the shoe event horizon”.

Given his views on cybernetic doors and drinks machines, I bet he would have enjoyed making fun of IoT devices and their advocates.


In his absence, we will have to make the fun for him. Our unduly materialistic society is still under development, but the marketing team is working on it.

bishbut says:
9 January 2017

Smart tech will go on and on as long as there are lazy people and those with more money than sense to buy it The companies will keep coming up with ideas to take some peoples ,money from them even if the things they try to sell are not needed at all and probably never get used maybe just once


John: our new IKEA kitchen has a bin drawer below the sink that opens with just a nudge of the knee. I do have a motion sensor which I could fit but that could cause issues if it did it all the time.