For now, the smart home is more about possibilities than practice. Many companies exhibiting at CES are laying the foundation for what a smart-home system will eventually do, hoping to entice consumers to start thinking about upgrading to smart gadgets. It's not always an easy sell.
Consider wearable devices that track fitness and other activities. In many cases, the novelty wears off quickly, and devices end up in drawers. But what if a wearable device that tracks sleep could tell the coffeemaker to start brewing as soon as you awoke? When the coffee's done, what if the sprinklers on the front lawn automatically turned off so you didn't get wet walking out the front door to work?
For example, Lucis Technologies will soon ship a smart-lighting device called NuBryte that can learn your behavior, such as what time you tend to come home. Sensors can turn on the night light if you wake up to use the bathroom but switch on brighter lights during the day. A coffeemaker from Smarter will soon use data from fitness trackers such as Fitbit. If you had a bad night of sleep, the coffeemaker will know to make the java stronger that morning. Other products focus on better notifications: a battery for a smoke detector to alert you on your phone when the alarm goes off, or a bracelet that vibrates when the baby cries in its crib. (Moms rejoice: the bracelet is even smart enough to alternate which parent it alerts to get up.)
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