It’s no secret that we’ve all been trapped at home much more than usual over the past year. Because of this, making your home as smart as possible has been essential. We saw a ton of tech at the all-virtual CES 2021, but our roundup here of the best new smart home products might be the biggest deal for our home-bound readers.
Keep in mind that having a smart home at all is still a relatively new concept. We saw lots of very popular OEMs only launching their first-ever smart doorbells, lighting solutions, and smart speakers this year. However, smart lights and smart plugs are hardly exciting.
With this list, we wanted to focus on not only the best gear but also some of the most interesting. There are a couple of products here that are basically fancy prototypes, but give us a glimpse into what the smart home of the future might be like.
The idea of a smart security system is nothing new. However, there’s a whole lot new with a system called Hex from a company called Origin Wireless AI.
Hex uses Wi-Fi signal waves to detect motion throughout your home. Imagine if Wi-Fi was like water and your home was filled with it. If someone entered your home, their movements would cause ripples and waves through the liquid. Hex picks up on those “ripples” and then alerts you to them if you aren’t at home.
This is advantageous over other security systems in a few ways. First, it’s much easier to set up Hex than it would be a camera system. With Hex, you simply plug a node into an outlet, connect the hub to your home Wi-Fi and… that’s it. The app takes care of the rest.
Additionally, traditional motion sensors are very binary — they either detect motion or they don’t. Hex allows for you to have some nuance with your alerts. For example, if your robot vacuum is at work in your home, your motion detecting system might go off. With Hex, you can program it to ignore the vacuum’s specific “ripple” signature, thus preventing false alarms.
This is an approach to home security we’ve never seen before, and one of the best smart home gadgets at CES this year. Hex will be available to consumers this spring starting at $180. There will also be a 24/7 monitoring service, but that’s an optional purchase for those who don’t want the hassle of setting up their own self-monitoring.
This is one of the CES 2021 smart home products that takes a bit of imagination. Ohmni describes its flagship product as a “telepresence robot that transforms how people connect.” Our synopsis would be a lot simpler: it’s like a tablet on wheels.
Essentially, the Ohmni Robot can freely move throughout a space, not unlike a robot vacuum. The robot’s “face” is a tablet, one which a user can connect to from anywhere around the globe. In the video above, a father uses the Ohmni Robot to hang out with his family while he’s on a trip elsewhere in the world.
This might be the next logical step from what we’re already doing all the time: conducting dozens of video calls each week with our friends and family. With an Ohmni Robot though, you wouldn’t be restricted by where a caller’s laptop or phone happens to be. You can just move around and engage how you like.
In addition, the Ohmni Robot is great for telehealth visits, elderly and child care, and even education. You’d just need to get over the idea that there’s a kind-of-creepy tablet stick rolling around your living room. Still, this is easily one of the best smart home gadgets we saw this year.
LG Studio WashTower
Sometimes the best ideas don’t need to be as revolutionary as Wi-Fi wave detection or communication robots. Sometimes the best innovations are when someone takes something we do all the time and makes it a little bit better or a little more efficient.
Enter the LG Studio WashTower. On the outside, it seems like your usual washer/dryer tower — and it is — but there are a few things about it that elevate it above the fray.
First, there is one control panel for both systems. This keeps all the controls in one easily accessible place, rather than having the dryer controls on top and the washer controls in the middle. Now, everything’s in the middle.
With all the controls in one area, it allows the two systems to work better together. I know that sounds like an obvious thing because of course the washer and dryer should work together, but LG is one of the pioneers in this area. The washer uses AI to determine what kind of load you are washing and then communicates that information to the dryer. That makes it so when you load the damp clothes into the dryer, the dryer already knows how to most efficiently and safely dry them.
As with all LG products with the ThinQ branding, the Studio WashTower uses its AI smarts to learn your washing trends. The goal is for you to simply toss your clothes into the washer and hit one button and know that everything is going to come out perfect.
LG didn’t announce a price or release date for the new laundry system, but it will likely land in the $2,000 range.
Toto Wellness Toilet
Speaking of things we all do all the time — yeah, we’re going to talk about toilets. Toto is the world’s largest plumbing manufacturer and the undisputed leader in toilets. At CES 2021, the company announced a slew of bathroom-related smart gear, but the innovative Wellness Toilet really grabbed our attention.
So get this: every time you sit on this toilet, it scans your body and “key outputs” (Toto’s words, not ours, but I wish I came up with that). Using this data, Toto’s app will then alert the user if there are any health anomalies present. It can even make recommendations for what actions you might take to help alleviate any problems.
If this seems unsettling to you, keep in mind that all Toto is doing here is making your toilet into a health tracker. The only difference is that instead of monitoring your pulse and movements, it’s monitoring your — you know — “outputs.” For health-conscious people, that could bring valuable information that no fitness tracker could ever provide.
Unfortunately, this is one of those barely-out-of-prototype ideas. Toto says it hopes to bring the Wellness Toilet to consumers “in the next several years.” As such, we have no idea how much this would cost or when you’d be able to get it. It’s still one of the best smart home gadgets we saw at CES 2021, though. It might even be my favorite — or at least my number two.
Igloohome Smart Keybox 3
This is another one of those products that seem pretty benign at first glance. At its core, the Igloohome Smart Keybox 3 is a smart padlock. Using the touch screen interface, you can enter a PIN which opens up the lock to reveal the contents therein. Big whoop, right?
The real innovation here is how the owner can issue new codes to the lock without being anywhere near it — and without the lock being connected to Wi-Fi. Seriously!
Igloohome attempts to explain the process on its website, which honestly still left me confused. But, according to the website, you can give out unique codes that do specific things on your specific lock without the need to physically touch the lock at all. This would allow you to, for example, give out a code to a maintenance person so they could enter your home while you are away. But, as soon as they leave, that code would never work for them again.
This would be one of the best smart home products for a person who rents out an Airbnb, owns a vacation home, or has a housecleaner who regularly visits. It would allow you to have complete control over who gets access to the lock and for how long.
The Smart Keybox 3 is available now at a price of $189.
Alarm.com Flex IO
Finally, we have the Alarm.com Flex IO sensor system. The idea for the product is really straightforward. You attach the sensor system to a wall and the node to a door. When the door opens and the node separates from the sensor, you get an alert on your phone.
However, the kicker is that you can put this totally wireless device pretty much anywhere. You’re able to do that because it is battery-powered and relies on an LTE signal for its data connection, not Wi-Fi.
The battery inside should last for about two years, according to Alarm.com. When it starts running low, the Alarm.com companion app will notify you as such so you can replace it.
As for the LTE connection, you will need to connect it to either your Verizon or AT&T account. However, this is a great solution for folks who want to keep tabs on something like a barn where Wi-Fi and power access could be more of a hassle than just buying this one-time solution.
The Alarm.com Flex IO is available now for $250.
MyQ Pet Portal
If you’re a pet owner and a tech fiend, you likely already have something like a pet camera in your home. Now, though, MyQ is taking things one step further and introducing a smart pet door. This device will allow you to let your pet outside even when you’re not at home.
The MyQ Pet Portal comes pre-installed on a limited selection of Kolbe doors. Inside the door is an elevator-style panel that opens or closes. There are also two cameras: one on the inside and one on the outside.
Your dog wears a Bluetooth-enabled tracker while you are away. When the dog approaches the pet door, your phone alerts you to their presence. You can then check the camera and see that they are waiting to head outside. With a tap in the app, the door opens and your dog can head on outside. When they are ready to come back in, your phone will get another alert and you can re-open the door. No dog sitter needed!
If you trust your dog, you can even set it up in the app so the door will automatically open or close if the dog gets near it. This eliminates all the hassle on your end.
The downside to this nifty new product is the cost. Since the device comes pre-installed in a Kolbe door, the lowest price you’ll pay for one is $3,000. There’s even a $4,500 model. However, that price includes white-glove installation, so at least you don’t need to worry about that.
The best new smart home products at CES 2021
Those are six of the best smart home products from CES this year. Stay tuned for our full roundup where one of the items on this list will win our CES 2021 Top Picks award! In the meantime, check out some of our other specific roundups below.