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Shawn DuBravac, Chief Economist at the Consumer Electronics Association. (GeekWire Photo)

LAS VEGAS — Smart home devices — like connected lights, security, and appliances — may seem like they’re in their infancy but the high-tech products already comprise a $3.5 billion annual market.

A collection of Amazon Dash devices.

That’s according to estimates cited by Shawn DuBravac, Chief Economist at Consumer Electronics Association, in advance of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday. He compared the coming age of smart homes to the high-tech house where the Jetsons resided in the iconic 1960s cartoon.

Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, which powers its Echo devices, and the Dash replenishment service — two technologies expected to be all over CES this year — helped put the smart home on the market, DuBravac said.

Amazon Dash, which enables appliances to automatically order replacement supplies when they’re running low, is already integrated into Whirlpool washing machines. DuBravac believes this is just the beginning.

Here’s the future he laid out during his CES 2017 talk:

“One of the unique aspects of the Whirlpool set was that it connected to Amazon Dash so not only did it measure the number of loads you did but then it would preemptively, on your behalf, order detergent when you started to run low … if we’re allowing devices to order things on our behalf, detergent when we’re running low, other things when we’re in need, then you can imagine that what we’re buying over electronic platforms, whether its Amazon or anything else online, to easily be 40 to 50 percent of all that we buy. We’re allowing these decisions to be made on our behalf. Ultimately that starts to usher in this environment of a smarter home, a smarter environment, a smarter community, a smarter city and build out from there.”

Alexa is also making the smart home more accessible to consumers, he noted. Several open APIs called the Alexa Skills Set have enabled developers to build the personality into dozens of consumer products, like home entertainment systems, intercoms, and security systems. Alexa surpassed 3,000 skills in September.

The Amazon Echo smart speaker. (Amazon Photo)

Open technologies like Alexa have made it easier and cheaper to embed intelligence into consumer products, said DuBravac.

“Costs have come down; deployment has increased; and so now, the ability to infuse A.I. into small things at a relatively low cost is present,” he said. “Ten years ago, we would not want to buy a refrigerator that had A.I. in it because we would not have wanted to pay the premium that would have been required for the sensors or the analytics, for the intelligence, for the adjustments. Now, we’ve seen those things come in premium models and over time they’ll come standard.”

DuBravac spent much of his talk discussing voice technology in depth; he also touched on autonomous vehicles, wearables, and other tech trends that will be big at CES this year.

GeekWire will be covering each of those trends over the next few days here at CES, so stay tuned for coverage of the year’s biggest consumer technology convention.

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