CES 2011: Connected Homes and Energy Management Take Center Stage


Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch

Okay, so it's not as big a theme at CES as 3D TV or tablet devices, but relatively speaking, the connected home is getting far more attention this year than in years past. And this is great news. From the usually crowded home area network booths like Zigbee and Control4 that feature devices to turn houses into smart homes, to the new wave of innovation for homes that can act as their own power supplies, the theme of managing our own energy use was high up on the priority list. Check out what to expect with the next generation of smart homes. Perfecting Home Energy Management

The home area network protocol booths were buzzing as usual. This is a good sign since it's the companies at these booths that are creating the tools we need in our homes in order to monitor and manage our energy use. From smart plugs that control energy consumption for single appliances, to systems that can tell you after you leave the house what light was left on in which room and when to run your dishwasher, the innovation at these booths is more outstanding every year.

The booths also show the variety of options we have for what the smart grid will look like in the upcoming years. Zigbee, ZWave, Control4, HomePlug.... there are a lot of competitors and when it comes to survival of the fittest in the market place, that could be a good thing.

However, there was one booth in particular that stood out in showing how serious big companies are becoming in playing a role in the smart home, and that was GE's connected home booth. Here, all the components of what is possible were put together in one simple, easy-to-navigate place so consumers could see what a smart home might look like. Of course, this is just one company's take -- there were other major electronics companies at CES that also had their eye on home energy management.

Home As Power Generator

Another theme running throughout CES beyond the connected home zones were the areas dedicated to home energy at the major manufacturers' booths. For instance, Panasonic had a large display dedicated to how a home could be its own solar power generator. It featured the latest in the company's solar cells and battery technology, as well as what they'd come up with for a home energy monitoring system.

Toshiba had a similar display, highlighting what their solar cell technology and battery technology could do for homes once the smart grid is in place and energy can be generated by the home and even sold back to the grid.

Many manufacturers had ideas for intelligent dashboards for energy use -- such as Samsung's innovation pictured in the lead image. Built to be used on home computers and smart devices, a homeowner could monitor their home's energy use constantly and control it from afar.

It seems clear with the amount of innovation for energy management across the entire tradeshow that electronics companies expect the connected home to be big business for them, and very soon.

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Tags: Appliances | CES | Energy Efficiency | Gadgets | Utilities