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A Roundup of CES Home Automation and Apple Accessory Announcements

CES is a big, messy spectacle that has everything from vaporware and products you didn’t know you needed – and probably don’t – to truly cool new gadgets. We’ve been following the announcements this week and have rounded up a collection of the most interesting and promising gear we’ve seen so far. Many of these products have not shipped yet, so we haven’t had an opportunity to try them, but these are gadgets we will be watching closely throughout 2018 and that are likely to turn up again on MacStories later this year. CES doesn't end until Friday, so be sure to check back for updates on any additional announcements that catch our eyes.

Home Automation

Canary View

John: Canary has come a long way from its origins as an Indiegogo project in 2013. A leader in the home security camera category, Canary debuted a more affordable $99 indoor surveillance camera at CES called the Canary View. The camera’s lens features a 147-degree viewing angle that shoots video in 1080p.

As with the original Canary camera, the View supports Google Assistant and Wink. However, Canary is also rolling out support for Amazon Alexa to its entire line of products to take advantage of the screens on the Echo Spot and Show, and compatible Fire TVs. The main differences between the Canary View and the original model is that the View does not have environmental sensors to measure temperature and humidity, nor does it include a siren.

Last month, Canary announced that it was adding person detection to its video monitoring service. At CES, Canary revealed that it is also adding package detection support, which will enhance the utility of its outdoor Flex camera. The Canary View is already available for purchase from the company’s online store and will be available from other retailers later this month. For now, the Canary View is US-only, but the company says it will be shipping internationally in the spring.

iDevices Instinct, Ceiling Fan Switch, and EV Charger

Ryan: iDevices introduced a trio of new smart home products at CES with appeal for users across several device ecosystems.

The Instinct is a smart light switch, but that's not all it is: it's also a full-fledged Amazon Alexa device. No, I don't mean that it's Alexa-compatible (though it is) – I mean Alexa lives inside the switch, ready for your commands. When you use the trigger word, a blue Echo-like ring will light up on the Instinct to show that it's listening, and you'll be able to have the device do anything a normal Alexa device can. Add in the Instinct's motion detecting and ambient light sensing capabilities, and this is easily the most impressive smart light switch I've ever seen. The Instinct will be available sometime in 2018; pricing is unknown.

iDevices' other big smart home announcements included a Ceiling Fan Switch and EV Charger. The former is powered by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, is compatible with not only HomeKit but also Alexa and Google Assistant, and it works with most existing ceiling fans for turning your fan on or off, or adjusting its speed. The latter enables remotely controlling, monitoring, and scheduling your electric vehicle's charge. Like the Instinct, iDevices didn't disclose pricing information for its Ceiling Fan Switch or EV Charger, but both will ship later this year.

Google Assistant Smart Displays

Ryan: In lieu of announcing its own screen-equipped Google Home device, Google this week revealed it has four partners working on what the company calls 'smart displays' – essentially, Amazon Echo Show-like smart speakers that include built-in displays. And of course, these devices all come with the smarts of the Google Assistant baked in.

Harman, Lenovo, LG, and Sony are Google's four smart display partners, though Sony doesn't yet have any details to share on its device. Harman's product is called the JBL Link View, a natural addition to the company's existing Google Assistant-equipped Link lineup. The Lenovo Smart Display will be available this summer in 8-inch and 10-inch configurations for $199 and $249, respectively. Finally, there's the LG ThinQ View WK9, which by the looks of it may offer a compelling stereo sound experience. Besides the Lenovo Smart Display, none of these devices have current release dates or prices, but they're expected to arrive during the course of 2018.

Belkin WeMo Bridge

John: Belkin is adding HomeKit support to its line of home automation products for the first time with the WeMo Bridge. The Bridge, which is available for $39.99 directly from Belkin and should be in stock on Amazon January 16th, connects to your Internet router allowing you to control WeMo light switches and smart plugs from Apple’s Home app on an iOS device or Apple Watch, or with Siri. Belkin’s WeMo products also work with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

Apple Watch Control for Whirlpool Washers, Dryers, and Ovens

Ryan: One of most common uses of standalone smart speakers is controlling smart home devices by voice. With the continued delay of Apple's entry into the market via HomePod, perhaps the best current alternative for Apple users is the Apple Watch. The device is great not just as a Siri receptacle, but also as a digital remote control that never gets lost.

Whirlpool seems to have recognized the Watch's usefulness in this role, as it's announced that more than 20 connected appliances rolling out in 2018 will be able to be controlled by an Apple Watch. These devices span three different appliance categories: ovens, washers, and dryers. With ovens, Watch users can both view and control their oven's current status from their wrist. Washers and dryers will also show their current status on the Watch, and can have their settings adjusted mid-cycle without needing to enter the laundry room.

It has started becoming common for voice assistants to be built into home appliances, but connectivity with smart watches is something new. It will be interesting to see which approach becomes more widespread in the long run.

Elgato Eve Room and Button

John: Elgato announced two HomeKit devices at CES: the Eve Room and Button. The Eve Room is an indoor environmental sensor that measures temperature, humidity, and air quality. The battery-powered device is square with a handsome aluminum frame and e-ink display, which minimizes its power use. According to 9to5Mac, the Eve Room will be available for $99 in March.

Following in the footsteps of companies like Logitech, Elgato also announced the release of the Eve Button that uses Bluetooth Low Energy to trigger HomeKit Scenes and other automation routines. The Eve Button is available for pre-order from Amazon for $50 and is shipping later in January.

Ryan: The cleverly named Safe & Sound is a hybrid product we haven't seen before: a smart speaker built into a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. Many retail buildings, and even some homes, have speakers built into the ceiling alongside devices like smoke alarms. With Onelink's new product, those two devices are now one, and they're supercharged with a voice assistant. The Safe & Sound will be available in three separate configurations: one with HomeKit and future AirPlay 2 support, another with Alexa, and a third with Google Assistant. While it would be nice if a single SKU could include all three voice assistants, no matter which smart device ecosystem you're committed to, there's a Safe & Sound that will work for you. Onelink has yet to announce pricing or a release date for the device.

Orbit B-hyve Smart Sprinkler Timer and Hose Faucet Timer

Ryan: Orbit's B-hyve products aren't new to the market, but HomeKit compatibility for those products is. Sprinklers and faucets are the newest categories of smart accessories introduced in HomeKit, launching last year in iOS 11, and Orbit's wasting no time making its product line play well with Apple's ecosystem. With all future smart Sprinkler Timers and the new Hose Faucet Timer, users will be able to use Siri or the Home app to set schedules for their watering system, manually turn sprinklers on or off, and more. The Hose Faucet Timer will launch at $69 and its release is imminent; the HomeKit-compatible outdoor Sprinkler Timer will be available later this month starting at $99; and finally, the new indoor Sprinkler Timer launches this spring at $59.

The Button by Fibaro and Nanoleaf Remote

Ryan: Manual controls for smart products are a growing category of device, and new to that category for HomeKit buyers are Fibaro's The Button and the Nanoleaf Remote.

The Button has been available previously, but it has only been compatible with a small selection of smart products until now; HomeKit support will greatly expand the device's usefulness. Available in multiple different colors, The Button is a small, simple button you can press to activate a pre-set home automation scene or action. The existing device retails for $49, and the HomeKit-compatible version will be available later this year.

The Nanoleaf Remote is a new product belonging to a similar device category, except that rather than being a single button, it's a 12-sided controller that resembles a large die. Each side of the controller can be programmed for different functions, such as activating a pre-configured HomeKit scene, adjusting light dimmers, or whatever else you might dream up. The biggest drawback – besides the device's market being limited to those with a wide array of smart home products – is that you and everyone in your household will have to remember what each of the Remote's twelve functions are, as each side of the device is labeled only with a simple number. Pricing and release date are unknown, other than that it should arrive in 2018.

Philips Hue Software Updates and Outdoor Lighting

John: Philips revealed updates to its V2 Bridge and iOS app that enable new entertainment options and other functionality. The update will allow the company to synchronize its lighting system with video games, movies, and music. A partnership with video game accessory-maker Razer will be the first to take advantage of the new features.

In addition to updating its iOS app, Philips said it is introducing an all-new Mac app in Q2 2018 that will run in the background and allow its lighting system to synchronize with what you’re doing on your computer. There aren’t many details yet, but Philips will also introduce a line of outdoor Hue lights this summer.

Accessories

Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Stand, Dual Wireless Charging Pad, Bold, and Car Mount

John: Belkin signaled that it’s all-in with Qi wireless chargers with four additions to its Boost Up line coming later this year. The one that I’m most interested in is the Wireless Charging Stand that can charge an iPhone in portrait or landscape positions. The stand promises to be an excellent addition to desktops and nightstands where the viewing angle looks like it will be useful for monitoring notifications and watching video, among other uses.

Another interesting addition to the Boost Up lineup is the Dual Wireless Charging Stand, a Qi charger with two charging pads. Unlike the AirPower mat, which Apple announced is coming in 2018 and consists of a single pad, the Belkin charger is two separate Qi chargers joined in one oval case. Although not as technically interesting as AirPower, Belkin’s Dual Charger should make wireless charging more convenient for multiple-device households.

Belkin also announced the wireless charging Car Mount, which promises to make fiddling with Lightning cables in the car a thing of the past, and the Bold, a slimmed down version of the company’s current Boost Up Qi charging pad. All four chargers are rated to charge at up to 10W charging speeds, though iPhone charging rates currently top out at 7.5W. The Bold and Stand are slated to be released in spring/summer, and the Car Mount and Dual Charger are scheduled for the summer.

HyperDrive USB-C Hub + 7.5W Qi Wireless Charger iPhone Stand

John: Sanho Corporation, the company behind the successfully crowdfunded HyperDrive, a MacBook Pro USB-C hub, is back with a campaign to combine a USB-C hub with a Qi charger. The Kickstarter campaign, which doesn’t launch until January 12th but can be viewed on its Kickstarter preview page, features a USB-C hub with gigabit ethernet, 4K HDMI at 30Hz, a microSD/SD card reader, USB 3.1, USB-C Power Delivery input, and USB power output. On the top of the device is a Qi charging pad that can charge compatible devices in a horizontal orientation or tilted up to operate as a charging stand. Although it remains to be seen if Sanho can raise the $100,000 it wants, the HyperDrive raised $1.8 million, so I expect we’ll see the new device produced too.

Incase IconConnected Power Sleeve

Ryan: A laptop carrying case with built-in charging capabilities seems like a no-brainer, and that's exactly what Incase has just announced with its new IconConnected Power Sleeve. The sleeve, which will be available in sizes for both 13-inch and 15-inch laptops, packs a whopping 14,000mAh battery and includes both USB-C and USB-A ports, making it the perfect accessory not just for charging your MacBook Pro on the go, but also an iPhone or iPad along with it. Cost will be a hefty $199 when it releases later this year, but for the frequent traveler or someone who regularly works on the go, that may be worth it for the convenience it provides.

DJI Osmo Mobile 2

John: DJI has announced the Osmo Mobile 2, a successor to the original Osmo, a handheld smartphone gimbal for recording stabilized video. The original Osmo was a big hit with YouTubers but was expensive. The Mobile 2 features a more accessible price at $129 as well as the ability to record video with a phone in portrait orientation.

The Mobile 2 is battery-operated. DJI says it will last for 15 hours on a charge, which is a significant improvement over the original model’s 3-4.5 hours, and it can charge your phone. Pre-orders for the Mobile 2 will start on January 23rd on Apple.com and the device will ship in February, when availability will expand to other DJI retailers, including Apple’s retail stores.

Catalyst Waterproof Case for AirPods

John: Sometimes the smallest announcements are also some of the most interesting. Catalyst’s new $25 waterproof case for AirPods immediately caught my attention, having drowned my AirPods in our washing machine last fall. The rubber case comes in a variety of colors and even glows in the dark, because why not? The top portion of the case rolls back when you want to access your AirPods, and there’s access to the Lightning connector on the bottom through the case. For expanded carrying options, the case also features a removable carabiner. Catalyst’s case is already available on Amazon and the company’s website.

Matias Wired Mac Keyboards

John: Last year when it introduced the extended wireless version of its Magic Keyboard, Apple stopped making wired keyboards. Matias has stepped into the gap with a wired Mac keyboard that looks almost identical to Apple’s wireless version and, according to The Verge, feels almost identical too.

Matias’ keyboard is available in silver and space gray aluminum finishes with the choice of US, EU, and Asian layouts. Unlike Apple’s keyboards, Matias has included backlighting and a USB port for connecting peripherals. The color of the backlighting can be adjusted with a dial on the keyboard. The brightness of the backlight can be modified too. Matias is taking pre-orders for the new $99 keyboard on its website.

Tile Tracking Technology Coming to Bose Devices and More

Ryan: As computers get smaller, and thus devices like headphones grow smarter and more costly, losing those small devices becomes a bigger problem. Apple has the Find My iPhone app for those occasions you lose an AirPod, but competing earbud makers are now turning to a third-party company for their solution: Tile.

Well known for its keychain-sized tracking devices perfect for slipping in your wallet or, well, on your keychain, Tile will now be deploying its technology in the products of various partner companies: the Bose SoundSport Wireless and QuietControl 30 will benefit, as well as luggage from Samsonite, inhalers from Propeller Health, and more.


There remain plenty of unknowns regarding release dates and prices for many of the products on this list, but if these devices come to market in a reasonable timeframe and perform as advertised, it's going to be an exciting year for home automation and new accessories.

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