This year, the year that Marty McFly crash lands into in Back to the Future Part II, holds a lot of water for technologists, since it gave the world a peek at then-fictional innovations like food hydrators, indoor gardens, and video calling. And while some of those home technologies have actually come to pass (hydrators, you have to Oct. 21 until Marty’s flux capacitor shorts out!) these six inventions—currently exhibiting at the International CES in Las Vegas—are ready to bring the future to your door, right now. For more on the smarter, more connected home of the future, check out Time's cover package.
Even though CES is packed with tech titans showing off their latest wares, entrenched services like cable and home security systems are often the target of upstart technologies at the event. This year, ADT strikes back with a setup that connects a wide range of sensors together through an intuitive smart phone app. Powered by IFTTT, a wide-ranging web service that already links everything from the Android operating system to Yahoo Fantasy Football (with other technologies ranging from Dropbox to text messaging to weather alerts in between), the company's Pulse app gives ADT home security subscribers the ability to turn on lights, monitor for carbon monoxide, arm alarms, and even control the heating, with their voice, alone. And with voice passwords, the app itself is locked down as tight as the home's security system.
Move over, Rosie, here comes something better. Alright, maybe this robot, built by Five Elements Robotics, can’t eclipse the Jetson’s legendary robo-maid, but it can serve as an able assistant, carrying up to 50 pounds indoors and out, over sidewalks and up ramps—basically most places you go. Designed to follow a transmitter that the owner (or is it master?) wears, the $1,399 droid can zip along up to 2.4 miles per hour. With a battery life of up to 10 hours, he can run about as long as most people, and when not needed, he can be folded up for easy storage—only weighing about 20 pounds and able to fit into the trunk of a car. When was the last time you stuffed your assistant in the trunk of your car? (Actually, don’t answer that.)
Dacor Discovery IQ
What’s better than one wall oven? If you said a wall oven with the Android operating system baked into it, you’re right. (But "two wall ovens” would also also be acceptable.) Sporting solo and dual doors, Dacor’s Discovery convection ovens are Wi-Fi connected and have a graphic user interface to get your brownies baking like no other. With a Samsung one gigahertz processor and 512 megabytes of RAM, this setup isn’t just tech for tech’s sake. It’s designed to power the Discovery IQ cooking app, which guides users through all sorts of dishes and family recipes. And with the ability to download from Google Play store, there’s many more apps—and appetizers, I hope—to come.
Finally, some gear the whole family can enjoy. A kitchen communication appliance, Triby is first and foremost a Bluetooth speaker, able to take calls and stream music from your smart phone. But the magnetic-backed, rubber-edged device takes utility a step further by linking two a pair of phones (Mom's and Dad’s, perhaps) via the Triby app, so people can call them at the push of a button. The app also lets mobile users send hand written notes back to Triby, displaying them on the Wi-Fi connected device’s e-Ink display. And in addition to being able to play FM radio signals, the fridge phone also has a pair of “radio” buttons that lets users pre-program their favorite streaming radio stations. Toss in a battery that lasts a month and a $199 price tag, and you’ve got some smart tech, indeed.
Some people are put off by web security cameras in the home, but with a facial recognition feature that can identify the members of your household, Netatmo Welcome does something truly helpful. Notifying smartphone users when family members arrive home, this HD, night vision-capable camera is a must-have for connected latch key kids. And, paired with Netatmo Tags, the system can alert you when doors, windows, mailboxes or even drawers are opened. But perhaps the smartest thing about this camera is that it can store data on an onboard SD card, keeping your video recordings off the internet (and free from subscription services).
Named as one of Time's Best Gadgets of 2014, SmartThings is not content to rest on its laurels, rolling out new hardware and premium services that may make it the most clever smart home setup, yet. Available in the summer, a new SmartThings hub will sport a better processor and backup battery power, making this a connected home system that stays in sync even when the power is out. In addition, the company's motion and multi-sensors are slimming down, providing more subtle home monitoring. But the smart home is all about being inter compatible with other products and services, something this system does better than anyone. For instance, the SmartThings hub will now play nice with everything from August locks to Racchio’s lawn irrigation controller. Beat that, McFly!