First of all, the Consumer Electronics Show is a misnomer. Consumers aren’t allowed anywhere near all the displays or the keynoters. The country’s largest trade show is strictly for media, retailers, wholesalers and those actively selling to the trades. So what can a consumer learn from the show? Luckily, thousands of media types like myself were there and came away with all sorts of observations.

As an overall observation, I’ve begun to realize that the impossible is coming. It may be a couple years away, but it’s coming and it’s coming faster than most anyone expected.

Electricity without wires

I entered a suite in the Las Vegas Hilton with all sorts of electrical gadgets lighting and playing away. The only catch was, they had no cords, and they weren’t plugged in. With a new technology from WiTricity, devices can get their energy needs wirelessly.  If, for example, a countertop has the proper electrical source underneath, then, any device set on the countertop will start charging when placed there.

Lamps and reading lights can also come alive just by placing them on charged carpet squares. Imagine – no more core drilling for floor outlets.

And it’s totally safe. Touch anywhere you want without a shock – even between the countertop and the electrical device. And we aren’t just talking about small appliances.

In the suite’s living room there was a DVR and 32” flat screen TV, playing without a single cord visible anywhere.  The technology is so advanced that an entire electric car can be charged just by driving into an appropriately fitted garage.

The “cloud” will control everything

Better plan enough bandwidth for your buildings; because, people just continue to think up ways to use it.  Entire kitchens can now be programmed, controlled and monitored via the Internet using just your smartphone.  Internet appliances are on sale now.

Door monitors and door locks can now be controlled by your smartphone from around the world. Want to let a mechanic in to change your filters while you’re at the office? With the proper lock and app for your phone, a simple button press will let him in. Switch to another app and you can monitor what he’s doing, with live steaming video coming from throughout your home.

Changes in color

New LED lighting can not only be turned on and off by your building automation system, now the color temperature of the bulbs can be adjusted to more closely match the changing daylight outside. Also, LED lighting is now totally dimmable without the hums and hisses experienced before.

Node personal sensorReady to repaint? How many times have you gone to Home Depot to match a tenant’s wall color, only to find out that their $20,000 paint matching machine is down for repairs? Now, for under $200, you can get your own pocket-sized color matcher called the Node.  It not only reads the now faded color, it has a database of eight popular paint manufacturers built-in and will select the closest match – even if from a different manufacturer than the original.

With auxiliary heads on the Node, you can also do other tasks that previously required expensive individual tools. It would be ideal for an energy audit, in that it will do infrared scans and expose areas in the floors, walls or ceilings where cold air is infiltrating.

Using the Clima sensor, you can get remote temperature monitoring streamed directly to your tablet. Using the Therma sensor, you can measure surface temperatures of mechanical and electrical equipment. Yet other sensors enable you to check for gases in the environment. All this technology, in the size of a small flashlight.
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Yes, the future is going to be radically different, so the key for owners is to plan for flexibility. Think twice about expensive technology updates, as newer ones are just around the corner. If something doesn’t have a quick ROI, you might want to reconsider.

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