CES 2017 Highlights: Friday 6 January

Our Picks from the Las Vegas Technology Show

Today’s picks include a summary of the many smartwatches and 360-degree cameras on show, and an innovative approach to the smart home from EDF. We also highlight a growing problem in VR.

Deluge of Smartwatches and 360-Degree Cameras

As expected there was a wide range of new wearable devices revealed at CES. The usual avalanche of Shenzhen-manufactured smartwatches appeared, although enthusiasm seems to be waning for this type of product.

In the full-touch smartwatch market, notable highlights included Casio’s new Pro Trek smartwatch with built-in GPS and the Misfit Vapor, which uses a proprietary operating system and has a touch-sensitive metal bezel.


Casio Pro Trek


Misfit Vapor

We predicted that CES 2017 would see more smart analogue smartwatches unveiled, and this was proved correct as Fossil continued its charge into the area with a new line of smart Armani Exchange watches. They were showcased alongside Fossil’s growing range of hybrid smartwatches, and we expect more to emerge at Baselworld, which CCS Insight will attend in March.

The common theme of Alexa integration also manifested itself in smartwatches, showing up in the mVoice smartwatch from Martian and a similar approach by Guess with its Connect line of watches.


Martian mVoice


Guess Connect

There was also a wide range of 360-degree cameras at the show. Highlights included Giroptic’s attachable camera and Kodak’s Orbit 360 4K dual-lens camera which will go head-to-head with Nikon’s KeyMission 360. There were also several lower-cost competitors, such as Detu’s Twin camera, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Ricoh’s Theta and the $200 Insta360, which works as a stand-alone and clip-on 360-degree solution.


Giroptic iO


Kodak Orbit 360 4K

Virtual Reality Fragments

There’s no doubt that VR is rife at CES 2017. However, we’re concerned by the sheer number of headsets and accessories on show. This might seem odd, as they’re evidence of growing interest in and — seemingly — momentum behind the technology.

Yet the problem is that VR is becoming highly fragmented for developers, and far more so than mobile ever was. The growing number of incompatible input mechanisms used by a plethora of accessories creates a nightmare for developers. It risks slowing the development of content at a crucial stage in the technology’s development.

Put simply, investment in hardware is in danger of rapidly outpacing application development tools and platforms. Standard APIs such as WebVR aim to address the problem of fragmentation, but this year’s CES suggests it’ll get worse before it gets better.

EDF Moves into Smart Home Energy Management

French utility company EDF has created a sub-brand, Sowee, which launched a smart home heating control system in mid-December 2016. The product was shown for the first time at CES 2017.

The system is sold as a kit for €379 up front or €99 with further payments spread monthly if customers take a bundle including a gas supply contract. It consists of an in-home connected station, a gateway, a thermostat, sensors to use on non-smart electricity and gas meters, and — of course — an app.

The connected station is custom hardware built on the MicroEJ operating system, and provides EDF with a branded presence on a central device in the home. The device offers touch control of heating levels and functions; predicted spending for the month; adjustments that prioritise either comfort or budget; information on air quality, CO2 levels, humidity, noise and temperature; a user selection of four localised services configured from a longer list of options including weather, traffic, temperature and rainfall; control of Philips Hue lighting; and simple emoji-based messaging to family members using the app.

This is an early step for EDF to gain a presence in the smart home. It is the first step of a bigger strategy for the utility company, and may be followed by significant expansion of the system features, through software updates, as well as broader scope of connected devices controlled. If the system is successful it is likely to be rolled out across the firm’s international subsidiaries.

In our view, EDF has conceived its system very differently from those offered by most smart home manufacturers, whose systems are viewed as increasingly homogeneous in the scope of what they offer.

EDF Sowee connected home product

Our full report from CES 2017 will be published next week.