Over the last several years I have flirted with going to the Consumer Electronics Show. It’s one of the biggest shows of its kind in the world, and a mecca for any person or company serious about electronics. Plus, it’s in Vegas. Long story short, when Bosch recently invited me to the show to bear witness to their first ever foray into the crazy world of CES, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Our full coverage of CES in general will post shortly on HF, and in the meantime, you can check out over 60 tweets and photos we posted covering the show live). Since a lot of our time was focused on Bosch, we’re kicking off our CES coverage with them. A lot of people just think of power tools, wiper blades and maybe dishwashers when it comes to Bosch. My visit to the Bosch virtual “house” at CES opened my eyes to the multitude of industries Bosch is involved with, many of which have some application in the home. CES isn’t known for power tools, so what exactly was Bosch showing off at CES? Read on for all the details.
Bosch Press Event
My week at CES kicked off with a Bosch press conference bright and early Monday morning, thankfully before most of the late-night socializing activities had gone into full swing. This was Bosch’s first all-in visit to CES, but you wouldn’t know it from their very CES-appropriate and techy mood lighting. Judging from the parade of various executives from all over the globe, it quickly became clear Bosch isn’t just about power tools. While consumer goods and building technology brought in $18 billion for Bosch, Automotive Technology accounted for $42 billion. That’s a lot of wiper blades and spark plugs! Automotive tech is occupying more and more floor space at CES as the lines between electronics, technology and cars become increasingly obliterated. Bosch makes sensors, components and tech that can be found in an astounding number of cars, motorcycles, electric bicycles and even smart phones. About half of Bosch’s robust $5+ billion in annual research and development goes to environmental protection and energy efficiency. The morning press event began to open my eyes to just how much more there is to Bosch than power tools.
Bosch focused on several key areas at CES:
Bosch was showing off their ground source heat pump along with a solar thermal panel. Two of their solar thermal panels can save around 80% of the cost vs conventional natural gas and electric water heating. Bosch is also well known for their tankless water heaters, some of which are designed to work in conjunction with solar thermal panels. Bosch also has tankless models available which can integrate with radiant floor heating.
Based in San Diego, I have to admit that I knew little about heat pumps. According to Wikipedia, “A ground source heat pump extracts ground heat in the winter (for heating) and transfers heat back into the ground in the summer (for cooling).” The EPA also deemed them to be, “the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available.” In my neighborhood, yard space is at a premium, so if I needed to bury pipes underground, I think I’d have to move my house first to make room for them. Elsewhere in the world people actually have properties big enough to dig them up without undermining their home’s foundation. In those areas, taking advantage of the stable temperatures below ground with a ground source heat pump can make a lot of sense.
Bosch had their fourth generation of photovoltaic solar panels on display as well. The solar business worldwide has seen its share of turmoil in recent years. The Chinese brought on massive new supply of cheaper PV panels as they got into the game, government & private investment has ebbed and flowed drastically, and the natural gas boom, despite some serious environmental concerns, has taken off the edge of desperation for cheap energy for the US. Despite advances, solar is still seen as an expensive alternative relative to many fossil fuel energy sources. Especially so when you look at up-front costs, which often involve significant capital and installation costs. Not surprisingly, Bosch’s talk about solar touched heavily upon numerous financing options including loans, leases and PPA’s (power purchase agreements) to help make the plunge into solar more appealing to consumers. Bosch was also showcasing new tech to provide substantial power storage using Lithium Ion battery technology. With panel lifespans now measured in decades and one of the most green footprints of any sustainable energy, we’re big fans of solar here at Home Fixated, and we’re happy to see Bosch in the game.
I did a little research after the show, as I felt the Bosch name lacked visibility in the residential solar market. Fair warning Bosch, some tough love follows. While some basic solar information is available online, I unfortunately found their online presence for solar to be lacking. Their dealer locator for residential solar appears to only have two entries for all the US, both of which are Bosch sites and not local dealers. Even when running the broadest 200 km search for San Diego, Los Angeles and Phoenix, I was greeted with, “Sorry, No Supplier Found.” The only pricing info I found was for having your roof surveyed, which they estimated in Euros. While they may have exceptional panels, great relationships with local dealers and enticing financing options, you wouldn’t know it from their website. If Bosch is serious about expanding their footprint in the US Solar market, we’d love to see them launch an initiative to provide clear options, attractive pricing / financing details, and local points of contact online. With companies like Solar City acquiring new residential solar customers by the minute, there’s stiff competition but also some great strategic partnership opportunities. Bosch could at the very least benefit from a greatly improved online presence and more visibility in this marketplace.
Serenbe Net Zero Home
While we’re on the topic of sustainability, Bosch at CES also introduced their work in the sustainable community of Serenbe, Georgia. Serenbe is a 1000 acre community that sounds like a tree-hugger’s fantasyland. And aren’t we all tree-huggers these days? Once you read about its open spaces, thoughtful design, eclectic neighbors, and clean living, you might just want to pack up your bags and move. Bosch is showcasing their green tech in a Net Zero Home and in their stand-alone Bosch Experience Center:
The first-of-its-kind, the Bosch Experience Center at Serenbe, will be powered and fully equipped with products comprising the Bosch Home ‘Net Zero’ solution suite. Our complete system approach simplifies sustainable living decisions and makes ‘Net Zero’ homes more affordable for North American consumers. Both an education and interaction hub, the center will offer consumers, trade professionals and governments the opportunity to learn about Bosch solutions while serving as a world-class gathering spot for discussions on sustainability research and education. The end goal is to show how the combinations of energy efficient Bosch products are helping produce a new generation of affordable, sustainable homes that greatly reduce demand on fossil fuels and have the potential to supply energy back to the grid.
We were happy to hear that Bosch Power Tools are also on display there. So, if you’re in the Serenbe ‘hood, just a little southwest of Atlanta, drop by and see what they’re up to. You can take a look at the 2012 HGTV green home down the street while you’re at it.
Last year, we wrote about installing a surveillance camera system on your home, and more oddly, how to camouflage the video cameras so your house doesn’t look like a maximum security penitentiary. Bosch has been working hard at building their presence in security, and anecdotally, I have seen a substantial increase in their visibility just in the last year.
We were a little disappointed to see that the desktop version of their software is PC only, but very happy to learn that their free security camera software is readily available for Apple iOS products. Granted it was a controlled demo, but what I saw at the Bosch booth was impressive. While demonstrating the cameras’ PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) capabilities, they were able to zoom in on a woman reading something in print, with much of the type clearly legible on the video feed. I would guess that picking up facial details or a license plate would be no problem for Bosch’s high definition cameras in most typical conditions. Bosch also talked about their tech to deliver high quality video at very low data speeds, including cellular (non wifi) data connections. We’re curious to see how the tech performs in the real world and hope to report back on that soon.
Aside from the security camera solutions, Bosch also talked about their home security systems, complete with a sprinkling of home automation. Like the security camera solutions, Bosch is incorporating control and interaction with the system via an iOS application. Yup, there’s an app for that! The systems can operate with conventional sensors and motion detectors (Bosch has a sexy blue LED curved line that lights up when it detects something amiss). If you’re interested in checking out Bosch security options for your home, their dealer locator served up a laundry list of options in several local areas we tested.
As part of the Bosch virtual house at CES, they also had a kitchen setup, complete with functional oven that was actively backing cookies nonstop. Their appliance pro told me it was to show how their exceptionally efficient convection element evenly baked, but I think it was to lure the masses into their booth. While I was there huffing cookie aroma, I received a run-down on several appliances:
The days of refrigerators being just an insulated cold box are long gone. Bosch was showing off a french door model with sexy LED lighting that reportedly dims on and off again when you close the door. I guess the dimming off is nice if you happen to be trapped inside the fridge. Their stainless finish fridge sported a very flexible layout, highly accessible interior, no-frills controls and cool-to-the-touch interior finishes including real glass shelves and stainless steel trim. Integrated units fit flush with your cabinetry thanks to a beefy pivoting hinge that lets the doors pivot out and away. Freestanding units are available as well. Pricing varies from less than two thousand to close to $7000 for the model we saw on display. We did find a fair number of negative reviews on Amazon for Bosch’s more affordable models. So, as always, we suggest researching whatever model appliance you’re looking at before taking the plunge. All Bosch appliances sold in North America are Energy Star certified, so high-end doesn’t have to be wasteful.
According to Bosch, they sell the quietest dishwasher in North America (39 dBA) and I don’t doubt it. We have friends with a Bosch dishwasher and I remember being shocked that it didn’t sound like a small jet turbine firing up in a defunct car wash (like our non-Bosch model does). They’re also rumored to clean very effectively with technology that detects how dirty the dishes actually are and adjusts cleaning intensity accordingly. The 800 Series unit on display showed off a cavernous, stainless interior and flexible configuration racks with adjustable tines that fold up and down as needed to accommodate typical dishes or large pots and pans. Controls for the dishwasher were tucked away at the top edge of the door, which resulted in a sexy, clean look sure to please Germans and non-Germans alike.
Induction cooking can be pretty amazing, and Bosch had one of their ultra sleek models on display. If you’re not familiar with induction cooking, it’s a system that uses magnets below a glass or glass-like surface to heat the actual cookware you’re using. It won’t function with non-magnetic cookware like aluminum, but works incredibly efficiently with pots and pans that can hold a magnet. Induction not only can cook your food faster and more efficiently, it also results in less heat dissipated to the kitchen. So, that old saying, “If you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen” becomes, “If you can’t take the heat, you can still cook with induction.” Catchy, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure that’s going to be Bosch’s new marketing slogan for induction now. The other nice thing is that the cook surface on Bosch’s induction model doesn’t get hot. According to Bosch, you can have a pot on full boil, take it off and then put your hand on the induction “burner” and you won’t get burned. Our lawyers say, “Don’t try anything you read about on Home Fixated with any stove.” The flat surface also is very easy to clean and won’t burn spilled items, unless of course you like to cook with ferrous metals mixed into your food.
Bosch also had a sleek-looking vent hood, cookie-tastic dual oven, in-wall coffee unit that did everything from grind the beans to dispense the perfect quantity of caffeine-infused goodness, and a stacked washer and dryer. I thought about test-washing and drying some of my convention clothes there, but ultimately decided that might be a little awkward. Functional, clean lines, clever yet accessible features, and a decidedly modern aesthetic permeated the entire Bosch appliance line-up.
Bosch Power Tools
Last but most certainly not least, the CES Bosch house also had what many Home Fixated readers would consider the most vital area of the home: the garage. This garage had more Bosch tools than the CES had druken convention-goers, and that’s saying something.
We were also able to confirm some breaking news on new Bosch tools coming soon. A 12v version of their existing Bosch Power Box Jobsite Radio is scheduled to hit the market in February (2013). And, for those of you that just can’t get enough Oscillating Multi Tool action, Bosch confirmed that an 18v cordless version, not unlike the corded Bosch MX30 we reviewed, is on its way to market this summer. As always, Bosch has other tools and broader initiatives up its sleeves, but despite several attempts at blatant interrogation and more subversive fact-finding missions, that’s all we have to report at this time.
Bosch tools were focused on their new 18v Brushless Rotary Hammer along with their Bosch GSL 2 Surface Laser for floor leveling and preparation. Despite CES being gadget focused, we spotted numerous people lovingly inspecting the 18v Hammer, including members of the Bosch team. Nothing says high tech like lasers, and the GSL 2 Surface Laser was a hot item at the Bosch display as well.
Bosch also talked about the continued trend to brushless motors along with some of their innovations when it comes to squeezing the maximum benefits out of Lithium Ion battery technology. Keep your eyes open for their new 4.0 AH batteries too. Bosch also had their L-Boxx product line on display, and a few other tools we covered after their media event last summer.
Naturally, there was a lot more to CES than just Bosch (props to Bosch for being the only company we found that was showing off power tools there). Stay tuned for a complete wrap-up of our CES experience, complete with several racy photos too spicy for our Bosch coverage, posting to HomeFixated VERY soon!