CES, the Consumer Electronic Show is the biggest trade show in the world. With over 2.4 million square feet of floor space and more than 150,000 expected attendees, this year will be the largest CES ever. Every year I trek to Las Vegas to join more than 170,000 other attendees to see the latest and greatest products and developments in the tech world.
This year we are seeing a plethora of connected home, car tech, wearables, virtual reality, drones, and health-related products. While all these gadgets are fun to see, it is even more fun to analyze the trends we see here and take a guess at where we are going.
Sensors in Everything
The trend to connect everything to the Internet continues and is even stronger than ever this year. Propelling the growth in this area is the continued lowering of costs for sensors. The accelerometer sensor in the original iPhone just a few years ago was about $15. Today that same sensor costs about 50 cents. Cheap sensors mean that these sensors can be built into a wide variety of products and worthwhile research can be performed for new sensors.
In conjunction with cheap digital storage and ubiquitous computing, this “sensorizaton of technology” is creating a proliferation of digital devices with everything from connected bandages to floor vents represented here at CES. Of the 20,000 new products presented at CES this year it is estimated that 15,000 of them have sensors.
These sensors are sure to be used in major categories like drones, automobiles, home appliances, and health-related products. This may, however, also create more growth in categories that may seem small today. This year we are seeing sensors in boxing gloves to help the user make the most of their punches as well as sensors that measure emotional response to content.
The more these sensors know about us, the more our lives can be customized and digitized. Imagine a future where when we come home deflated and depressed, our television, tablet, or robot will recommend that we call a perky friend or watch a certain happy movie.
Talking to Everything
Voice to text has finally come of age. We now have Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana and they all understand us quite well. The word error rate of such devices was 23% just two years ago in 2013. In 2015 that error rate went to down to 5%. This is because of the connectivity that these devices enjoy. When Alexa learns to recognize one person with a thick Southern accent, that recognition is shared with all connected devices, so Alexa and others like her learn very, very quickly and get better and better.
This voice recognition technology will be built into devices we haven’t even imagined yet. It will be the basis for home automation and a wealth of connected devices
We are just entering this virtual world with several new devices due in the second half of this year. This trend is strong and it is not just for gaming. As more and more applications are developed, this will be more than a passing fad. Imagine being able to choose a hotel room by virtually looking around the actual room.
Both sensors and voice recognition are being built into automobiles. The move to fully autonomous automobiles has gone beyond baby steps and is being used heavily in the upcoming cars. 2,000 square feet of this year’s CES display area was dedicated to automotive. Semi-autonomous tools such as lane assist, self-parking and adaptive cruise control are already here. By 2020 the big car makers will have fully autonomous vehicles ready to go. Some experts estimate that by 2025 a full half of all cars sold will be fully autonomous.
TVs Thinner, Cheaper, Connected
Just when we didn’t think TV transmissions could get any better, they have. New TVs are bigger, brighter, thinner, more colorful, and best of all cheaper. Smart TVs are getting smarter with better interfaces and home automation integration. Manufacturers are simplifying the user experience and focusing on things that TV has lacked, like greatly improved audio.
Drones continue to get better and better. Whether they are used for toys, camera views, delivery or drones to follow the action, they are everywhere. This trend can’t be overlooked, but exactly where it will go is yet to be determined.
Additional trends such as digital payments, wearables, and 3D printing will all be contributing to customizing and improving our lives. The CES innovators are pushing advances to new heights.