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?
Yup, smart pillows. It's a thing. pic.twitter.com/GNWTxfQyOw
— Ray Maker (@dcrainmakerblog) January 5, 2017
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.
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?