Odds are you or someone you know received an Amazon Alexa-related present over the holidays.

A few weeks later at Design and Construction Week — the KBIS and IBIS co-hosted tradeshow held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida — it was like Christmas all over again.

Numerous manufacturers in the PHCP space highlighted new products tied into remote connectivity throughout the house with the Amazon Alexa platform being front and center on more than one occasion.

For example, Rinnai’s Sensei tankless water heater, on display at the show, has Alexa voice activation, allowing the unit’s circulator to be turned on or off remotely. And as Rinnai Senior Director of Business and Product Development Joe Holliday pointed out, the remote connectivity can be a game-changer for contractors who he noted can offer remote monitoring of a customer’s water heater as a value-added long-term service.

“The contractor knows what’s wrong with the customer’s water heater, what parts and tools to bring and who to send before they even step out the door,” Holliday said.

Kohler also is all-in on the Alexa connection. The kitchen and bath giant’s Verdera voice-lighted mirror acts as the centerpiece of Kohler’s Konnect portfolio of smart products, giving the end user the ability to control other Kohler Konnect products, such as the toilet, tub, shower system and faucet, by voice.

Delta Faucet is in the process of field-testing an Alexa-fueled faucet concept that will afford end users conveniences such as dispensing the exact amount of water into a glass or cooking bowl and warming water to exact temperatures. The technology, according to a Delta representative at the show, is slated to debut sometime next year.

While voice-activation and remote connectivity were top of mind at Design Construction Week, so still was the concept of water conservation and clean water.

Enviro Water Products featured a pair of products aimed squarely at improving water quality. Its Pro Combo 2.0 system is the first of its kind to receive IAPMO certification and Enviro’s Justin Barker noted it reduces chlorine by 97%.

Additionally, Enviro again displayed its 20-gpm Water Heater Shield, which protects a water heater from sediment, scale and corrosion by filtering and pretreating the water prior to it entering the unit, maximizing the heater’s efficiency and lifespan.

“Scale is the No. 1 thing that affects a water heater,” Barker said. “And that affects all of us from the contractor to the wholesaler to the end user. Imagine never having to worry about scale.”

Other notable product innovations seen on the KBIS-IBS floor included Peerless with its Sidekick 2-in-1 shower, which includes accessories to perform tasks such as bathing young children and dogs. The unit is slated for a May launch.

SharkBite’s EvoPEX system is a push-to-connect rough-in plumbing solution for new construction. No special tools, soldering, glue or crimping to plumb an entire home is necessary, which optimizes install time and efficiency.

“You can plumb everything in the house, all you need is a PEX cutter,” SharkBite’s Chris Carrier said during the show.

Circling back to the remote connectivity piece for an additional second, Carter noted SharkBite’s parent company Reliance Worldwide displayed its new Streamlabs smarthome water monitor at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The monitor helps detect leaks in real time, provides education about an end user’s water usage and water habits in order to find ways to use water more efficiently, all in an easy-to-use, simple-to-install app.

Keeney Mfg. Co., also is cognizant of the current labor shortage in the industry and the importance of giving contractors all the ammunition they need to do their jobs cost- and time-effectively with its new Insta-Plumb under-sink drainage and repair innovation that offers a push-fit application for quick and simple installations.

Gerber showcased its Avalanche Elite line of toilets at Design and Construction Week. The Avalanche features a simple concealed trapway that makes the toilet easier and quicker to install, plus the flushing system has 50% more line carry than the national standard, ensuring no hidden clogs under the toilet or in the pipes.

On the trends front, National Association of Home Builders’ economists speaking during the show project 1.21 million total housing starts in 2017 and expect overall production to grow an additional 2.7% to 1.25 million units this year.

Single-family starts, according to the NAHB economists, are expected to rise 5% in 2018 to 893,000 and increase an additional 5% to 940,000 in 2019. Additionally, single-family starts are expected to gradually rise from 63% of what is considered a typical market in the third quarter of 2017 to 73% of normal by the fourth quarter of 2019.

In terms of multifamily, NAHB expects multifamily starts to edge 1.6% lower this year to 354,000 units from a projected 360,000 total in 2017. NAHB noted that it believes this is a sustainable level due to demographics and the balance between supply and demand.

Home remodeling, NAHB noted, is posting strong market conditions due in part to strong demand in the wake of the hurricane and wildfire season last year. Residential remodeling activity is expected to register a 7% gain in 2018 over last year.

This year’s Design Construction Week drew a combined crowd of more than 85,000 with about 60,000 registered for IBS specifically. Exhibit space expanded from 569,000 square feet to 583,000 square feet this year. IBS officials termed the show “one of the largest turnouts in recent years.”

Design and Construction Week heads back to Las Vegas Feb. 19-21, 2019.