January 25, 2019

Brave New Homes

Brave New Homes

Even if you’re not a techie, you’ve probably found “smart” devices creeping into your home – a Nest video doorbell, a “smart” electric meter, Amazon Echo, or Alexa, the newest family member in many households. Cisco is predicting we’ll average nearly 14 Internet-connected devices per person in the U.S. by 2022. I can see my home via my iPhone with my Nest cameras, raise or lower the heat with my Nest thermostats and turn the alarm system on or off on a simple app.

With the smart home trend picking up by the day and affecting the landscape for us all, I like to keep an eye on what’s coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas. Not to mention our household gets so busy that Tracy and I are always open to great new gadgets that’ll make life easier.

Some of the latest inventions at CES could really come in handy, if the manufacturers can find a way to price them for the mass market. For people with big families or kids who play sports, the FoldiMate laundry folder could be a real game changer. It can fold a load of laundry in five minutes.

And for those on the school bake sale circuit, the “Connected Hub Wall Oven” that Whirlpool showed could really catch on. This smart oven uses augmented reality to show you exactly where to position what you’re baking for the perfect results. Say goodbye to burned brownies.

What if you’re a pet parent? You can catch up on what your furry friends are doing while you’re at work on Pet Cube Bites 2 video camera, connecting to it via your mobile phone. You can even use it to dispense dog treats remotely.

Here in New York, where elbow-room is at a premium, I’m predicting there will be a lot of demand for one of the most talked-about products, LG’s 65″ Signature Series OLED TV R. When you settle down to watch Law & Order or Big Bang Theory, the screen emerges from a box on a sleek stand, then disappears back into it when you’re done watching, like something from The Jetsons.

Of course, some of the new technologies that come out every year are just plain wacky. Lovot, a tiny, teddy-bear-like robot focused on making you happy, follows you around the house and waves its arms so you pick it up and cuddle it. Then there’s The Ripple Maker, which lets users “print” decorative foam for lattes and other drinks. And, for air travelers, there’s the Forward X Robotics’ Ovis, a self-following suitcase. It could come in handy for people who can’t carry their own bags, but just imagine what it’ll be like to walk through LaGuardia if these really catch on!

And, as amusing as some of the new innovations are, they all come with a flip side. Remember that incident when Alexa recorded a couple’s private conversation and sent it to someone in their address book? With many new technologies still a work in progress, and privacy laws in flux, we’ll all have to be careful about which ones we let into our homes. Hackers will undoubtedly have a field day with some of these devices.

Plus, I’m not sure I like the idea of handing over all of our chores to robots and devices. How are parents going to teach kids responsibility if their bed makes itself someday and a robot cleans their room?

Then again, time marches on and so does the modern home. Soon our houses will be smarter than we are and we won’t remember what life was like back when we had to take out our own trash.

As I write this column in my hotel room in Las Vegas, it’s day 34 of the government shutdown. 800,000 are about to miss their second paycheck – people who generally live paycheck to paycheck. Without getting into the politics of the shutdown, one of the things that keeps going through my mind is how do you get away with ordering employees to work for now 35 days and not pay them? If we in the private sector even missed a day of paying people who work for us, there’d be lawyers lined up to represent them, not to mention the Department of Labor and a laundry list of other federal and state agencies. How does the government get away with it? Seems like a double standard to me.

Next week is another whirlwind for me with Long Island, New York City, Maryland and DC among the places I’ll be.