While we are still far from the kind of hyper-connected homes we see in science fiction movies, 2018 has been generous in giving us a preview of what the future may bring. Though smart home devices
have been in the spotlight before, only recently has the technology really been ready for primetime. A recurring technology in consumer trade shows and tech events, it is evident that the fulfilment of the home automation dream is near. Brands all over the world continue to contribute to the automated lifestyle, and it’s only going to increase. This year, both CES and IFA served as a launchpad for these innovations. Other brands, meanwhile, created buzz through launches of their own. If you missed all the announcements, here’s a look at the latest gadgets and gear from leading brands you could get to create a smart, or as some would prefer, a sci-fi movie-esque home.
Google is one of the first names in smart assistants, with its AI voice software Google Assistant at the center of its ecosystem. Announced at this year’s Google IO, the Assistant has been updated to be smarter than ever. It can now make fairly complex calls, and with the introduction of Google Duplex, can recognize your voice more accurately to carry out your commands. Integrated in their smart speakers, Assistant can enable, control, and monitor compatible smart home devices. You can command it to do menial tasks such as turning on a smart fan or dimming a smart bulb, the Google Assistant is at your beck and call.
Google also announced the local availability of its mesh network system, Google Wifi, earlier this year. This compact device comes with a promise to end internet dead zones in homes larger than 100 square meters, but is beneficial all the same when used in a studio apartment. Sold in packs of three or singly, Google Wifi has varied features for providing optimal internet to connected devices, and works with an intuitive Google Wifi app to give users total control over their Wi-Fi networks. Users can allocate bandwidth to a device, limit Wi-Fi time for kids, monitor speeds, and more. And by being Bluetooth Smart Ready, the Google Wifi can be an ideal addition to any smart home. Beyond providing a speedy, steady internet connection, it can double as a hub for controlling connected devices via the Google Wifi app. PLDT is bundling three Google Wifi units, unlimited 50 Mbps Fibr, and home assistance for PHP 3,799, among other options.
Lenovo’s strong push with AI was evident in its product showcases on this year’s CES and IFA. Earlier this year, the PC giant introduced the Lenovo Smart Display. This device made clear Lenovo’s intention to transform the home experience and empower users with intelligent devices. Lenovo’s Smart Display is essentially a tablet combined with a smart speaker. It does have a very attractive design and an elegant kickstand that makes it a perfect countertop addition. Thanks to Google Assistant, the device is able to do a lot of things including searching recipes, playing music and videos, informing you about the day’s weather and more without having to touch the screen. This allows users freedom to multitask and move about.
And at this year’s IFA, the Lenovo Smart Display has become more functional with the reveal of the brand’s Smart Home Essentials. As of its introduction, the line includes a smart bulb, a smart plug, and a smart camera, all of which are integrated with a Wi-Fi radio and can be controlled via the Lenovo Link app. This may entail a complicated set up to the everyday man, but this is where the Lenovo Smart Display comes into play. Lenovo aims to make setting up a non-hassle with the Display serving as a visually-appealing control hub for these devices. Users get to tilt the smart camera in the direction needed and keep an eye on things that matter, remotely change the brightness or schedule when the smart bulb turns on or off, and monitor power usage of devices connected to the smart plug all in one display.
Lenovo Smart Home Essentials will begin to rollout in November this year, but there is no word as to when it is going to hit Asian markets.
Sony has been in the game far too long to know what consumers want, and they always deliver. This 2018, the Japanese brand opened the tech floodgates with a string of product releases. But what’s in it for smart homes? A lot.
Entertainment devices is where Sony excels. The new AF9 OLED TV series is a testament to this. Branded a Master Series, the AF9 series is the textbook example of a premium home centerpiece. It employs various technologies to render the best picture and sound. Key to its outstanding performance is Sony’s next-gen Picture Processor X1 Ultimate along with the new Object-based Super Resolution which together intelligently detects and analyzes objects resulting to more realistic picture. The panel is based on Android TV, so users get a slew of smart functions, has Chromecast built-in, and extensively utilizes Google Assistant through inbuilt microphones for effortless control.
To complete the audiovisual experience, Sony also introduced the HT-ZF9, a Dolby-Atmos soundbar that takes ground-shaking theater sound in to your living room. We won’t go into the specifics, but there’s no doubting the high-resolution audio this device promises. Beyond sound, the HT-ZF9 is Wi-Fi enabled, has Chromecast built-in, as well as supports Google Assistant for smooth music operation even with the user sitting comfortably on the couch with the soundbar across the room. And while we still don’t have the official pricing for these innovations, we’re quite sure they don’t come cheap given their impressive specifications.
Among the brands we mentioned, LG probably has the widest smart home portfolio. From intelligent washers, refrigerators, to robots, the Korean tech giant has it all. And it’s no surprise to see them coming out with some of the biggest, most innovative consumer tech this year.
The ThinQ brand represents all of LG’s intelligent solutions. The software, unveiled just recently, introduced a slew of products with this tag: the LG InstaView ThinkQ refrigerator which is fitted with a large display that turns transparent with a quick knock; LG ThinQ speaker which is a smart home hub and a speaker in one; and LG Top Load Washer and Dryer Pair featuring LG SideKick with SmartThinQ. These devices utilize machine learning to adapt user behavior and adjust accordingly. As the ThinQ devices run on a single AI platform, they can all be seamlessly connected and managed through the supplementary SmartThinQ app available for iOS and Android devices. But the smart parade doesn’t end with ThinQ branded devices. The brand also introduced LG Signature OLED TVs with voice control, LG HU80KA Laser 4K Home Theater Projector with Smart TV, and cute CLOi robot assistants that can bring you meals, help you shop, keep surfaces free of dirt, mow your lawn, and accomplish more tasks to make life more easy. We can’t guarantee if these devices will ever hit our humble shores, but it sure is nice to know these exist.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE October 2018 Issue.
Words by Mia Carisse Barrientos
Art by Ronel Bautista