For a few days in early January, Las Vegas becomes the center of the technology universe with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
There are incredible products and innovations to be found at CES every year, so it’s great to walk the halls and take it all in. But through all the hype, flashy lights, robots, and gadgets, what I’m really trying to seek out are a collection of emerging tech trends and themes that will influence products into the future. There is a lot to be excited about! But here is my short list of trends:
- WHAT IS A CAR?
Just a couple of years ago cars were not part of CES. Now they are front and center of the conference, which means that pretty much every car company is now also a tech company. Ford, Mercedes, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, Honda and many more brands occupy more and more of the showroom floor each year. One head turner (and CES award winner) was the Toyota e-Palette, a fully autonomous electric vehicle with a very simple design, in something we can now call the “mobile retail space”. See the picture below, it’s basically a customizable box with eight wheels with the intention to open up opportunities for businesses to create services that can “blur the lines between brick and mortar and online commerce.” according to CEO, Akio Toyoda. Unfortunately, we have to wait a while. Testing of the e-Palette will not begin until at least 2020.
The vehicle space is not just restricted to car brands. Chip manufacturer Nvidia has seen massive growth in recent years due to their graphic chips finding new applications mainly in autonomous vehicles (but also in machine learning and Cryptocurrency Mining). This year the chip manufacturer announced a partnership with Uber and Volkswagen. The goal of this partnership is to make make further gains in the self driving/autonomous vehicle industry. Nvidia said the development of the Uber self-driving program had resulted in over one million autonomous miles being driven in just the past 100 days using their autonomous vehicle computers called Nvidia Drive. There are (at least so far) 320 companies who are involved in self-driving vehicles using Nvidia Drive. With a variety of specialists companies developing a deep ecosystem: software developers, automakers, sensor, camera, and mapping companies — all incorporating Nvidia Drive in their designs.
2. SMARTER HOMES
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), who are the organizers of CES, expects sales in this category, which include products such as smart thermostats, fridges, security cameras, and locks to reach 40.8 million units in 2018. This is a 41% increase over 2017, cashing in at about $4.5 billion in revenues. In response to this opportunity Intel announced, during a CES keynote, a comprehensive 5-point strategy focused on bringing more intelligence to the home. Intel had remained pretty low-key about connected homes in recent years, so it was very interesting to hear that they are doubling down in the space. Their products include not just chips but networking capabilities that can accommodate the increasing number of network connected devices in a home.
Drones are maturing. Total drone sales are expected to reach record highs of 3.7 million units in 2018 (which is up 20% from last year) and earn $1.2 billion in revenue (which is up 17%). Drones below 250 grams (see the little cute guy below) are expected to reach just over 2.2 million units this year, while drones above 250 grams will reach 1.5 million units shipped, CTA said.
Intel put on a daily synchronized drone light show as part of CES that uses their chips, which was fantastic entertainment, but what was really impressive this year (one of my wow moments), is that the bigger drones are getting REALLY big. Drones are know reaching the point of application for transporting humans, autonomously. “Mega drones” are here and Sky Uber is coming soon….
4. HEY GOOGLE! (or Alexa, or Cortana)
Google took over a lot of spaces this year to make a big splash, unfortunately the weather returned the favor on day one. Google doesn’t have a big presence at CES usually, but that changed in a big way this year with stands and activities everywhere. Even the Las Vegas monorail says “Hey Google!”.
What this suggests is that personal assistants are the new battleground and the race is on to serve you! The integration of consumer connected devices with the leading voice-based assistants from Microsoft, Amazon and Google was very noticeable this year as these companies look to take advantage of the voice platforms who’s capabilities are now meeting consumer expectations for quality and accuracy.
Sales numbers of assistant enabled smart speakers are very impressive. Google announced earlier this week that it has sold “more than one” Google Home device per second since their Home Mini launched in October. While that is very impressive growth, it still receives some serious shade from Amazon, who’s line of Alexa-enabled devices account for about 70% of all smart speakers sold in 2017.
Lets also not forget that we have our first Alexa powered toilet (I’m not sure how you feel about talking to your toilet, but “Alexa, lift the toilet seat,” is now a phrase you can actually use). Alexa own 100% of the Voice-toilet market . Apple is of course the 800lb gorilla in the room and hell may freeze over if Apple make an appearance at CES next year with their home based speaker products (and, of course, Siri).
Voice assistants also bring us back to cars. Panasonic announced plans to bring Alexa and Google Assistant to their in-car infotainment systems, Toyota announced that cars equipped with their most current infotainment systems will receive Alexa capabilities this year, and Kia revealed that many of its 2018 car models will add Google Assistant capabilities.
Amazon and Google are clearly looking to capture users in the connected car market because the car is likely the next big digital platform beyond the home (and the hand-off between home and car can cement the utility and adoption of a Google or Amazon platform). Plus voice is needed during the long bridge over to a fully autonomous vehicle world. It’s projected that more than 77 million connected cars will ship annually around the world by 2025.
The Wearables Market includes everything from high-tech fashion to familiar wearables that track your activity, mood, and even your pets (the smart pet bed is finally here folks) and an estimated 310 million wearable devices were sold worldwide last year. But wearables are starting to show in more niche use cases this year. L’Oreal are now in the wearables game (yup the cosmetics company) with a device that fits on your fingernail, Smart Swimsuits were launched and New Zealand’s own Stretch Sense once again had their product featured in the Intel Keynote and spoke at CES on a panel focused on next-generation fitness wearables.
Hearables is now a subset of the wearable market place that I’m actually excited about (I did not expect my Apple AirPods to be such a profound user experience). Jabra have released a new wireless ear bud that is powered by Amazon Alexa and another set of earbuds that offer realtime language translation.
Our wallets will be doing most of the talking in 2018. Consumer Tech spending is forecast to hit a record of $351 Billion. Included in this number for this first time is consumer spending on music and video streaming services, which includes the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Prime, which is projected to reach $19.5 billion in revenue in 2018 - a 35% jump over last year.
However what’s in the wallet is not as important as the tech of the wallet at a place like CES, with Sprint revealing the first self-charging digital payment card that can download multiple card profiles and modify its magnetic strip.
Google couldn’t keep away from announcements here either, revealing that it’s simplifying the mobile payments ecosystem under one umbrella with its ‘Google Pay’ service (finally uniting Google Wallet and Android Pay)
Even the car manufacturers recognize payments as being an important challenge “Frictionless retail is happening all around us,” said Dean Evans, CMO of Hyundai Motor America, “Speed is the number one consumer demand today.”
7. EMERGING TRENDS TO WATCH FOR THE FUTURE
Some things are seen at CES that are not large scale trends (yet). But are notable enough to keep an eye on.
Crypto currency is hitting the general consumer market soon and at CES we saw some interesting crypto tech. From companies who store digital currency offline, to Kodak (who is making all kinds of comebacks). Who blew everyone’s mind with the release of their own CryptoCurrency called KodakCoin.
What’s incredible about this announcement is that the Kodak stock price more than tripled since this announcement. Kodak also launched a Cryptocurrency mining computer and a Cloud based mining service for the Crypto committed digital coin fans.
Quantum is here. IBM and Intel both announced impressive advances of Quantum Computing chips. IBM even had a Quantum Computer on display, which was a thing of beauty.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also announced their own 49-qubit quantum chip at CES, calling it a major breakthrough in quantum computing and the next step to “quantum supremacy” (IBM’s chip is 50-qubit)
Hyperloop said hey. The ability for us to zoom down airless tubes that are hundreds of miles long from one city to the next at near-supersonic speeds just got a little more real by having Virgin’s Hyperloop One show up at CES. Reality is far away for this concept still, but the fact that we even have a unit (from a company like Virgin) is evidence that we are way beyond concept for this new technology.