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July 24, 2016

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Thin television and smart homes among early features at CES

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Christopher DeVargas

Vivint shows off their smart home products during CES, Wed. Jan. 6, 2016.

2016 CES: Smart Home Technology

Nucleus, a smart intercom system, is seen during CES, Wed. Jan 6, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Traffic encircled the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday. CES was back in town.

The technology expo that brings about 170,000 people to Las Vegas kicked off with the debuts of a 2.5-millimeter-thick TV from LG, FitBit’s answer to Apple Watch and a pregnancy test that connects to an iPhone. It’s only a small sampling of items for a convention that far exceeds the convention center’s 3.2 million-square-foot capacity. CES pours over into space across the Strip, including at the Sands Expo, the Aria and Wynn.

The idea that nearly every physical product can be connected to a network, known as the Internet of Things, was one of the most evident trends here. Out of 3,000 exhibitors at CES, 1,000 are unveiling technology related to the Internet of Things, according to CES’s organizer, the Consumer Technology Association.

Many of those exhibitors came to CES hoping to showcase how they are automating the home.

Smart homes:

“Nucleus, turn up the temperature.”

That’s what a representative said into a screen embedded in an exhibit wall for Nucleus, a voice-activated control panel for houses. It offers all-in-one access to the phone, intercom, video chat and home security. Nucleus recently partnered with Lowe’s, another business looking to capitalize on the smart-home trend with a system that allows users to control homes — lights, locks and temperature — with a mobile device.

Another company, Sengled, offered a different twist on the Internet of Things in homes: smart lighting.

One product it showcased is a voice-activated lightbulb that allows users to note appointments. The Wi-Fi-enabled bulb detects and notifies homeowners of sounds such as smoke detectors or crying babies. That same company is marketing lightbulbs, with JBL Bluetooth speakers, that can be controlled from an app.

Exhibitors at security firm Vivint said demand in smart homes is shifting toward automatic controls. This could mean automatic locks or efficiency measures, such as homes that know to turn off the lights.

Some see integrating technology with homes as having value that extends beyond safety and convenience.

Real-estate firm Coldwell Banker, which sponsored the smart home hall and had a stage there, said in a media release that buyers often see the technology as an added-value when looking to purchase homes.

A smart barista:

At the edge of the smart-home section, a group huddled around a robotic arm that the home-appliance company Bosch was showcasing. The watchers were waiting for cups of coffee. In the demonstration, the arm would pick up a cup with its three-finger gripper and then move the cup to a coffee machine.

The arm was not meant to replace baristas but to assist them. Bosch said it was demonstrating a safety feature for robots that could assist workers with routine tasks — in this case, pouring coffee. What makes the arm unique is that, in addition to performing its rote work, it has 120 sensors that are monitoring its surroundings. When a human nears the robotic arm, it slows and eventually stops work as a precaution.

Netflix goes global:

At a keynote this morning, Netflix's chief executive announced that the streaming company would extend its service almost worldwide. During the speech, the company went live in 130 countries. Nine years since the company’s launch, the only places where it does not stream are China, North Korea, Syria and Crimea.

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