The Consumer Electronics Show 2018 is my re-introduction to the electronic industry’s show of all shows – the last time I was here was about 15 years ago! The reason I didn’t attended CES during that time is because I haven’t been working in the consumer electronics industry. Now I know that not attending was probably a mistake on my part. This is clearly a show much broader than consumer electronics, and in many cases, there are variants of consumer electronics and commercial electronics. I found the profusion of ‘smart’ and ‘connected’ devices truly amazing as well as the fledgling industries they are creating.

There are several companies demonstrating smart lighting solutions pitching a reduction in operational and maintenance costs while improving safety. Similarly, there are multiple indoor and outdoor environmental sensor solutions.

I also saw smart yard solutions and smart agriculture solutions to monitor soil conditions and control water delivery. The example was repeated with weather stations, environmental sensors, EV charging stations and access controls. There were products that were clearly two sides of the same coin – one side consumer and the other commercial.

There were examples of commercial building and multi-family access controls like door locks, fingerprint readers, face recognition and more products for the home/consumer. There was even a smart pet entry door, which only allows your pet (wearing an RFID TAG) to open the pet door. It communicates this to an app that can be used to monitor the event or lock the door preventing the pet from leaving or entering. What a great product! I need one to keep the neighborhood cats and raccoons out of my house.

So where am I going with this rambling? Simply stated, I believe there is great opportunity here for both the consumer and commercial spaces. The wireless communication used for these devices is all over the board – Proprietary, IEEE 802.15.4, LoRa, ZWave, Bluetooth, IP500 (6LowPAN), Thread, LTE, NB-IoT, etc.  Additionally, the applications are everything from stand alone to cloud-based on Azure, AWS, Google, etc.

When I asked the companies making these devices why they chose a particular wireless technology, and if they thought that it was where their value-add was, the answer I received was, “We did what we had to do at the time” or “It was a means to an end.”  In short, nearly all were open to using a different communication technology that solved their needs as it would allow them to focus on their value-add in devices and software/analytics.

There are many communications problems in the commercial space, and perhaps some in the consumer space, that can be addressed with a Neighborhood Area Network and Itron® Riva technology.

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David Howard
David Howard has been involved in electronic communications hardware and software for nearly 40 years – that’s before ‘.com’ existed! He initially started at the age of nine by obtaining an Amateur ‘Ham’ radio license in 1974. After building several shortwave radios, he built his first computer (H19 terminal, H89 computer) around 1980 before graduating to an IBM PC around 1982. In the mid 80’s David formed a company with his uncle, and designed and built an IBM PC compatible co-processor board, which implemented the then fledgling ANSI X9.9 Financial Institution Message Authentication and X9.17 Key Management Services standards --- precursors to cyber security systems used today. He was a major contributor to video compression development for a US DoD video terminal that docked to secure telephone units for battlefield communications.
David authored more than six patents on signal processing and antenna systems for wireless communications, and was a significant contributor to IEEE standards for wireless networks 802.15.4g, as well as 802.15.4k. More recently David has been involved with applying wireless technologies to city infrastructure projects such as streetlight management and control, and the Internet of Things.