Walking the halls at the annual CES show in Las Vegas, it doesn’t take long to realize just how prominent smart home solutions have become and the impact that they continue to have on the residential security market. What was originally seen as niche offering for the wealthy, has become a product easily attainable for the American masses.
Of course, none of this would be possible were it not for the development of standardized communications protocols like Z-Wave, which have facilitated seamless interoperability between various smart home and security products. I sat down with Mitchell Klein, Executive Director of the Z-Wave Alliance, at CES this week to discuss the key trends currently taking place in the smart home market and within the alliance itself.
Rothman: What smart home trends are you seeing from the Z-Wave perspective at this year’s show?
Klein: We're seeing more products entering the marketplace with our 700 (Series) chip. That's an amazing trend and for those that don't know what that means, it means, number one, with a 700 chip that the devices themselves can be physically smaller. It's really been geared towards the concept of multi-sensors in the home that can now be operated on a coin cell battery for a life of about 10 years because the current costs are low. It also gives you extra distance on it… so we’re pretty excited about that.
How many products do you see coming out utilizing this chip in the next couple of years? Is that going to be what everyone standardizes on?
That's going to be the benefit of Z-Wave is that there's one standard. The current model, the 500 Series, is where we came out with Z-Wave Plus that had a whole bunch of advantages with it… and the new 700 Series actually layers on top of that and maintains the security that we have and adds in what we call SmartStart, which is something that will enable dealers to increase their efficiency by giving them the ability to include products into the system just by scanning a QR code, instead of going through the laborious process of doing one device at a time, unboxing it, powering it, and getting into the include mode. We have sold more 700 developers’ kits since it has been out than we ever had with the 500 Series. Part of that might be because the cost of that kit is roughly a tenth of what the 500 was so clearly companies can buy multiples, but the adoption rate we see is quite significant.
From a general smart home technology perspective, we’ve definitely seen some cool stuff in the Z-Wave booth itself but what kind of stuff are you seeing out there that's really caught your eye?
What I'm seeing rather than hot, new, never heard of product is 'm seeing products that really improve the experience for installers and I'll give you a couple of examples. First, we're seeing companies develop lighting dimmers and switches that do not require a neutral. That's a really huge opportunity for any dealer that's doing business in retrofitting existing homes, which is we know is a bigger market than new construction. Secondly, we're seeing taking product and making it easier to install. So, we’re seeing things that the typical consumer media would not be interested in or pick up on, but for dealers this stuff is time saving, life-saving and it's really pretty cool.
Anything else caught your eye out here?
I love what we're seeing Hogar do, for example. It's another company when you talk about being able to go more designer-oriented and luxury-oriented, they have these really cool glass plate touchscreen light dimmers and switches. So, again, it's not that we're saying what's hot and new from a first page of USA Today, we're saying what's really hot and a good tool for your dealers to put in their tool belts that will really improve the experience for your customers, and also for the installers out the field, a lot of really good stuff.
The Z-Wave Alliance has been here for years at CES and you kind of have a unique perspective on how it has evolved over the years. How are things different in 2020, moving into a new decade at CES?
We're like proud parents and we're seeing our members move up from having a pod in this really cool and exciting pavilion to having, you know, 50 x 50 booths. Also, and so what I like to joke about is here we've got about 40 of our members participating – this is our community – all around us are members that have their own booths which I call our neighborhood, so that's really kind of cool to see that.
We're also seeing an increased attention to security and I don't mean from a theft perspective but from a hacking perspective. There’s a lot of attention being paid to that finally. Some companies are really going beyond and requiring things like two-factor authentication for their user experiences. There’s also a lot of conversation about privacy as well. These have not been issues for Z-Wave, but we simply layered on additionally capacity.