Must-have smart home tech gadgets from ISE 2017

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By HMHAI / Published by HMHAI
Looking to make your home just a little smarter? While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control your appliances, lighting, window coverings, irrigation, entertainment systems and from your smartphone—is rapidly growing.

Our friends over at Harrison Home Systems just got back from the Integrated Systems Europe show in Amsterdam. This event showcases cutting-edge AV technology for residential applications. We asked them to share the most exciting products they saw.s Europe show in Amsterdam. This event showcases cutting-edge AV technology for residential applications. We asked them to share the most exciting products they saw.

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Sony Display Technology – OLED and Z-Series 

At ISE 2017 Sony continued to demonstrate why they have long been regarded as one of the top TV makers in the world. The company prominently featured their new flagship 4K LED TV known as the Z9D Series. These displays feature a cutting-edge technology called "Backlight Master Drive", which allows them to create amazingly deep black levels – a very important component of a high quality image – alongside the rich colors and bright levels their TV’s have long been known for. 

In addition to the Z9D series the company was also showing off their beautiful new OLED models. OLED is an exciting advance is display technology the holds the promise of even deeper blacks, richer colors, and more fluid motion handling than LED-based displays. A few manufacturers (namely LG) are currently shipping OLED displays, while most companies have steered clear because of the higher manufacturing costs. The entrance of Sony into the OLED category is an exciting development, although we’re still awaiting details on pricing and ship dates. The displays will be available in 55", 65", and 77" models.

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Voice Control for the Home 

Voice control in the smart home was one of the most dominant trends to emerge from ISE 2017. A technology that smart home enthusiasts have been tinkering with for years, voice control has officially turned the corner and is racing towards mainstream adoption. No more reaching for the nearest smart phone, tablet, or remote control; just tell your home what to do using only your voice. From raising the shades and turning off the lights, to adjusting the temperature and playing your favorite playlist, voice control in the home has officially arrived. 

Amazon is a clear front runner in this category with their Echo line of products. These countertop devices, which start as low $49, can be plugged in throughout the home. With very minimal setup, these devices can be programmed to control smart home technology from dozens of manufacturers. ISE 2017 saw everyone from lighting control and automated shade providers, to house audio and video manufacturers exhibiting their Echo integrations. No longer the stuff of imagination, voice control in the home is quickly gaining steam.

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Basalte – the Keypad Re-Imagined 

A company based in Belgium, Basalte deserves mention for taking the in-wall keypad, a traditionally mundane device, and making it into a conversation piece. Their distinctly European style they brings a flare that we just don’t see enough of in the category. The keypads are available in the US, come in a variety of layouts and finishes, and are compatible with many popular lighting, shade, and home automation solutions. The company also makes other products including iPad docks and their own multi-room audio solution.

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Lyngdorf MP-50 Surround Sound Processor 

 Most people are surprised to learn that over 50% of the sound you hear when listening to music or movies does not come directly from your speakers. Rather this reflected sound coming to you from the various walls, ceilings, and other surfaces of your room. In other words, the specific layout of your listening space has a large impact on the quality of the sound you hear, meaning proper calibration is hugely important. 

Lyngdorf, a company based in Denmark, was showing off their new MP-50 surround sound processor at the show, which comes with a built-in calibration feature called RoomPerfect designed to address this critical need for proper calibration. Boasting substantial patents behind this technology, the company claims it is the most sophisticated room calibration technology. If you’re looking for a hi-fidelity experience in your surround sound viewing room, the MP-50 should be on your short list.

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Immersive / 3D Audio 

More a general technology trend then a specific product, 3D audio (also known as immersive audio) was prominently displayed at ISE 2017. Surround sound rooms have traditionally created sound in a two dimensional manner – front to back, and left to right. As the name implies, 3D audio adds a third dimension in the form of a dedicated height channels.For a simple example of this effect consider watching a movie where a helicopter flies overhead. With traditional surround sound the audio effect of that helicopter’s flight is limited. Through the use of these dedicated height channels however, the effect becomes notably more immersive and realistic. Nearly every loudspeaker and AV receiver company on the show floor was touting their 3D audio solution. If you’re looking for ways to enhance your movie watching experience at home, this is definitely a technology worth considering.