CES Roundup Part 1 of 3 - The Smart Home

By Ayal Shmilovich

The competition for the smart home is being headed by four of the major tech names that you would imagine, but many smaller players have skin in the game as well. In 2014, Amazon introduced us to it’s Echo product, and what was many felt was a gimmick at first, is now transforming how people interact in daily life. Any phrase starting with the word, “Alexa,” has become so commonplace now that it is may actually interfere with those people with the same name. According to CNET, people have had unwanted activation of Echo because of the name and the users were forced to change the settings of the voice assistant (CNET).

Around the same time Amazon sent out their first speakers, Google made an acquisition of the smart thermostat company Nest to join the smart home wars. Then, in 2016, Google launched their own smart speaker: Google Home. Now the phrase, “Hey, Google” is also becoming ubiquitous. Google was, by far, the most present company in the smart home space. Advertisements for their voice assistant were plastered all over Las Vegas in a marketing blitz to overwhelm the competition.

Samsung has joined the mix with their smart speaker and their smart TVs using the voice activated assistant Bixby; and, as of this week, Apple is selling their HomePod speaker to compete. So, most of the tech battles that occur within the tech behemoths, as expected. However, some unlikely, smaller companies have some great technologies as well.

Control 4 was one of the stars at CES. Despite not having an active booth, they made their presence felt, winning the Home Automation, Audio, and Education Products of the Year. That is pretty remarkable, considering the small company from Utah was up against some of the stiffest competition in the world. Their unique home automation system, interface, and integration with the major smart home players makes them very valuable asset

Ring, a local Santa Monica company, has been successful with their smart doorbell and showed off some more connected cameras; however, Ring does face some competition from Amazon’s recently acquired Blink, which essentially does all that Ring does, and more. Blink already comes pre-integrated with the Amazon’s Echo so, in essence, they can cut out the middleman: Ring.

ADP showed that security, home automation and and smart appliances can all be thrown into the mix together. With their all-in-one solution, they were actually a pretty impressive showman and presented itself as a unique challenger to the tech titans.

A plethora of other companies brought smart switches, appliances, and other services as a standalone business, seemingly creating an oversaturated market of “smart things” but not showing and long-term value proposition for longevity.

With all the major players in the space, there is one thing that is clear: the tech giants that we know and love (or love to hate, or hate to love) will benefit greatly from the smart home revolution. It is another way for them to get their already long tentacles into our daily lives. Amazon is the currently the biggest kid on the playground right now, but Google is the new kid that has the power to challenge them. Samsung has a host of appliances that will likely get them in the thick of the fight as well, and owing many of the screens that you watch will go a long way for them. Finally, Apple, although late as usual to the party, has the most loyal fan base of all, the most vertically integrated ecosystem, and the deepest pockets. Surely, the Apple fanboys and fangirls will come out in force to bolster Apple’s smart home products.

While some smaller companies appear to be making inroads into the smart home, I expect to see more acquisitions by the tech titans in a further consolidation of power. As we have seen so often, Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung hold the keys to the kingdom.

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