FIVE MAJOR TECH TRENDS FROM CES
Every year thousands of exhibitors, retailers and tech enthusiasts descend on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This annual digital pilgrimage is a chance to enjoy an advance preview of cutting-edge products before they hit the mar
Although CES seldom unveils examples of consumer technology which are wholly unexpected, it does nonetheless excel in helping to turn abstract tech trends into nascent digital realities. Through this, we can get a real glimpse of how tech is going to change the way we live in the next 5-10 years. Here are five key things we learnt from CES 2015:
Internet connectivity is going to be everywhere
The Internet of Things – a world of massive machine-to-machine communication – is set to transform our world as we welcome connected objects such as smart watches, connected TVs and web-enabled monitoring systems into our lives.
Cisco's Visual Networking Index ( VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast reported last year that by the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices would exceed the number of people on earth, and that “there will be over 10 billion mobile-connected devices by 2018, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules—exceeding the world's population at that time (7.6 billion)”.
Wearable technology options are growing, but it is still a niche market
Wearables are one of the areas where this 24/7 mobile-enabled connectivity is likely to have the biggest impact.
Although wearable technologies like Google Glass, Fitbit and Pebble are still relatively new concepts, they are already quite well known among digital enthusiasts and early adopters. As a result, they enjoy a media profile which somewhat overlooks the fact that they are still quite specialist products.
Globally, Cisco estimates there were c.22 million connected wearable devices in use during 2013.
Jump forward to 2018, however, and this market is expected to have grown eight-fold to 177 million. At an anticipated compound annual growth rate of 52%, this is a sector which many industry experts think looks set to explode.
All eyes are now on the forthcoming
Apple Watch to really see if the mainstream potential of the market will be realised.
Digital health monitoring is going to become more sophisticated
Wrist-based wearables have tended to dominate this budding industry, so it was only a matter of time before this type of technology moved to other parts of the body.
Sensoria's smartsock – which was exhibited at CES and begins retailing next winter – was a high-profile example of a potential new market in the wearables arena.
Using sensors embedded in the soles of their specialist socks, data is then sent to a removable anklet and synched to your smartphone. Through an accompanying app, runners can then use this data to monitor how their feet hit the ground. Sensoria claims that by recording your technique in this way the risk to injury can be reduced; and running techniques (as well as running times) can be improved.
And if that all sounds a bit too active, then don't worry; technologies designed to help improve our sleep are also increasingly in abundance.
It's an area where there is a huge amount of interest, a fact best exemplified last year when the 22-year-old British entrepreneur James Proud attracted $1.3 million for his sleep product, Sense. Using the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter, he raised this sum in just one week. His rather more modest ambition had been to raise $100,000 over four weeks.
Capturing data via a clip attached to your pillow, as well as the inevitable mobile app, Sense joins the smartsock in being part of a small and embryonic group of wearables that no longer need to be worn at the end of your arm.
Connected cars are coming sooner than you might realise
Outside of the home, Google's self-driving car has attracted considerable publicity in recent years.
But, it was Mercedes who grabbed the attention of CES show-goers when its self-driving F015 drove itself onto the conference stage.
Meanwhile, both VW and BMW showed that gesture-based controls aren't just going to be confined to your games console. Their future in-vehicle infotainment systems will soon be motion controlled, making redundant even relatively recent innovations such as touchscreen dashboards. These in-car systems will also be compatible with either your Android or Apple smartphone, allowing you to run the same apps through the car's infotainment system as you do on your handheld device.
VW also unveiled plans for self-parking cars, building on a similar announcement by Volvo in 2013, whereby your car automatically drives off (you don't need to be inside) to find a parking space. After you've finished whatever it was you needed to do, you can then call your car back to your location via the obligatory smartphone app. Such an idea may seem rather fanciful, but in a decade it may come as standard with many car models.
Your HD TV is already out of date
Finally, in the home it looks as though 2015 may be the year that Ultra-high-definition (UHTV) goes mainstream. The technology has been around for a while, but in many cases it has struggled to make it into the living room.
Sometimes referred to as 4K, the picture it offers is four times as sharp as standard high definition. But take-up has been slow due to an age-old conundrum: manufacturers won't mass produce affordable sets until they believe that there's enough 4K content for viewers to enjoy, and media producers won't shoot - or distribute - in that format until they determine that there is a critical mass of devices capable of watching it on.
In the future we may determine that 2015 was the tipping point for both parties.
Attendees at CES reported seeing plenty of 4K HDTVs, computer monitors, and cameras this year; whilst YouTube announced that it now has 26 partners showing 4K standard content as standard. And as broadband connections get faster, and more households migrate to fibre connections, you can expect to see more programmes like House of Cards in 4K, as companies like Netflix will increasingly distribute shows in that format.
As for the industry itself, attention is already beginning to focus on 8K. I was fortunate enough to see a demo in Amsterdam last September, and it will be shown for the first time in the region at the inaugural IBC MENA Conference and Exhibition which was held in Dubai at the end of last month. The picture is discernibly sharper, perhaps too sharp for some but, as CES consistently shows, technology marches to its own beat. And you're often helpless to stop it