Dispatches from CES – the age of big data, wearable tech and hyper connectivity
At the start of January each year 160,000 people from around the globe head for the bright lights of Las Vegas to attend CES. The world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics is an opportunity for some of the smartest people on the planet to show just how technology will change our lives in ways most of us only think possible in sci-fi movies. From driverless cars and robo-maids to a 3D printer that makes biscuits, we really are now living in the world of The Jetsons.
I’ve attended this show on numerous occasions, back when I was working as part of an advertising team on some of the UK’s largest technology brands. On those occasions you really had to try and get under the skin of the technological specifications, whereas this year with my BA Media hat on, I was more compelled to think about the technology from a lifestyle point of view and how it could empower a high flying audience. I hasten to add this is a relief, as I have neither a degree from MIT nor any deep understanding of pixels, rams, chips or transformers.
The traditional big tech companies such as Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Intel and LG have huge stands and invest millions to showcase their current and pending product ranges. They were joined this year by 12 automotive giants as car-tech has become one of the most innovative and exciting categories. Ford have been heavily involved in CES for a number of years and this year there was also major investment in the show from companies such as Mercedes, Hyundai, Chevrolet, VW, Toyota and Audi. In fact this year’s Keynote was delivered my Mark Field, the CEO of Ford. He was joined by their CTO and Head of Research and they presented their vision based on Big Data and their core objective of aiding global mobility.
From the overload of information and technology that came out of CES, there were five key themes that really seemed to stand out this year:
- Wearables – There are now a myriad of partnerships between technology companies and fashion/automotive/fitness brands that can help you get fit, keep you connected, track your movements or even warn you if someone is invading your personal space. Although not being shown at CES, Samsung have filed a patent for “SMARTgloves” which could be with us at the end of the year.
- 4K TVs – This is also known as UHD (Ultra High Definition) and provides picture quality that is 4 times better than HD. Usually of a screen size in excess of 40” you can buy a 4k set from within a price range of just under £1,000 to a set costing many thousands of pounds. All the big players have amazing products in this category – the challenge is in having any content that brings the sets alive.
- IoT (The Internet of Things), or Connectivity – Imagine that your fridge knows you are out of milk, or your thermostat knows you are the only person in the house and alters the temperature to your preferred setting – that starts to explain the IoT and it is technology that exists today. It is basically everything from our house, our cars and our streets being connected to the internet. It will speed up traffic flows, allow for remote healthcare, improve security and even predict pending maintenance requirements.
- Connected and Automated vehicles – Gartner’s Predicts 2015: The internet of things report highlighted applications such as electric vehicle charging, ride-sharing and car-sharing services, parking guidance and payment, tolling and use-based insurance services.
- 3D Printing – A couple of years ago CES was all about 3D TVs but there was hardly a whisper this year. 3D printing however continues to grow and even had its own area at the show. It is basically making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It is exciting as it allows people at home or work to create their own products. Although industrial 3D printing has been around for years, however the rise of desktop 3d printing is a particular benefit for small businesses.
As well as an exhibition with 3,500 companies showcasing their wares across numerous locations around Sin City, CES also offers a brilliant conference programme. Of particular interest was a series of sessions that explored the role of content and advertising across multiple channels. Companies like Sling TV are now offering new subscription packages, particularly aimed at Millennials, allowing them to spend less per month for a package to select a much smaller bundle of channels.
Attending CES is a privilege as you are able to see close-up some of the most innovative and exciting technologies available today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. It is really refreshing as well to see that this isn’t about innovation “because we can” but that technology companies are constantly thinking about “why, how, where and who”. We might not be driving flying cars or skating on hover boards in a year from now, but we are getting a lot closer!
Charlie Said is Commercial Partnerships Director at Cedar