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It’s that time of year again, time to take a glimpse into the future of technology, says tech expert Henry Groom.
With over 180,000 attendees from the technology industry descending on Las Vegas for one of the largest exhibitions in the World - the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018.
It’s a melting pot of what’s here and now, with a glimpse into the future of electronics and services from across the globe. I’ll take you through what I think are some of the biggest items and trends to come from this year’s CES.
What is CES without televisions? As always, the major manufactures delivered way beyond expectations. One example of this was Samsung.
Samsung arrived early to the playing field with their release of “The Wall”, a 146-inch micro led TV that you can make larger or smaller by just adding or removing panel squares.
But it wasn’t the size that made it big news at the show, but the quality of the visuals.
The TV is made up of self-emitting LEDs, in essence these are more powerful and brighter, with more clarity than normal LEDs used today. Meaning no need for backlights or filters! The Wall brings to light a new way of being able to provide home entertainment that is customised for your needs, but also opening a door to businesses for places such as storefronts.
“Alexa, what’s the weather like this weekend?” “Hey Google, what’s happening in the news?” We’re all becoming accustomed to interacting to the little box in the corner of the room, but do you really know what these things can do?
Google arrived at CES with one intention, telling you about their Smarthome “little box” - Google Assistant.
From your arrival at Las Vegas, wherever you looked there was either a billboard, a sign, even a monorail covered adverts proclaiming all the amazing things Google Assistant can do.
Google has never displayed at the show in all of the years it has been running, so this was a huge surprise to see them going all out this year. At the same time though, it is perfect timing.
In 2017 the voice assistance market saw over 55 million units of Amazon Echo being shipped and even ending up in a back log of production.
With voice assistance and AI becoming common place in most households, Google are bringing their devices and platform to the masses, and in a very big way.
Not only is the price low, but the increased integrations with hundreds and thousands of other third-party products and devices like lighting, heating and electric vehicles are making it integral to many areas of life. It can even help you make a Nicoise salad.
It was also really good to see how many of the major automotive companies have taken the voice assistant and integrated it into their vehicles to allow for home/work/on the move control and engagement seamlessly. So, you can now check how much milk you have left in your fridge while driving home from work.
With the ever-increasing demand for these devices, added to increased engagement with AI, we are going to start to see more and more businesses seize the opportunity to offer services such as; checking when your tax return is due, speaking to a medical professional, obtaining a car insurance quote and much more. The landscape for Business to Consumer (B2C) and Consumer to Business (C2B) is rapidly changing through the use of technology.
We are seeing a major shift in the Smart home market whereby everything in the home can be connected. Lights, heating, washing machines, even toilets - the vision for the connected home is rapidly changing.
Something to remember though is, having something that controls something in your home doesn’t really make it Smart. The intelligence to have the devices understand you and your routines and to react accordingly without prompting is becoming more commonplace.
Another major component to Smart homes is the connectivity, it needs to be able to be function wherever you are. The ability to monitor, report, manage and control must go with you - in the car, on the train, at the shops, the need to be connected at all times is one of the major points the Smart home providers were talking about this year.
The home security and monitoring company Ring showed how a booth should be. Replicating the home fully and showing how bringing perimeter alerting, using multiple cameras, lights, doorbells and detectors can build an all-round self-monitoring solution.
The potential for water and gas leak detection was something that could be seen over the show floor this year. But one company stood out with their automation of shut off valves when leaks are detected.
Guardian showed a very impressive, non-invasive DIY solution to bolt onto existing pipe work to allow the remote shut off in the event of a leak. Could this be the next wave of home products the energy companies or even insurance companies offer to their customers, protecting homes before damage is done? Personally, I think this is something we are going to see become commonplace over the coming years.
One of the biggest parts of CES was dedicated to the future of health. Given that the world’s annual spend on healthcare by 2020 will exceed $9B (billion) it is plain to see we as humans need to strive to take better care of ourselves, and wow did the exhibitors bring some amazing products and tech to make life better.
We can look forward to socks that track and monitor patients with diabetes through neuro-fabrics, automated vital monitoring of babies and children through wearables, even retinal scanning to diagnose early signs of chronic health conditions.
The focus on health was astounding this year, showing the way technology is truly integrating into our daily lives for the better, without being obtrusive.
Nokia Health was out in force at CES this year. After its recent acquisition of the Withings brand, which contained various wearables and weight management devices, Nokia Health was drawing the crowds with one of their new items – Nokia Sleep.
As a long time user of their techy wearables, I’m always drawn to see what is next on the roadmap for this business. I was able to spend some time with Nokia Health to look at how they are taking sleep management to the next level; not only being able to report on how well your sleep went (REM/Deep/Light) but coaching you to get the most from your 40 winks and even monitoring your snoring.
Integrated into other third party technology Nokia Sleep can also control things like heating and lighting to help relax into your slumber, but also wake you up naturally and at the most opportune time within your sleep cycle.
Over the past few years I have invested in various kick-starters and tested multiple “bed trackers” with only one of them standing the test of time. They need to be strong, stylish and unobtrusive, but most of all they need to help you get the sleep of your dreams. Nokia Health seems to have hit the nail on the head with this one.
One of the areas of CES that is hugely popular and draws the most crowds is the automotive area. This year was no disappointment, with new announcements of hydrogen cell powered Kias through to high-end AI powered dashboards and VR/AR enabled driver engagements. Technology in this field is growing at such a rapid pace that it is very hard to keep up sometimes.
One of the most exciting projects to catch my eye - and judging by the queues to view this, it caught everyone else’s too – was the Toyota e-Pallet Concept Vehicle.
Toyota decided to reveal their vision of what the next generation of motoring will be. Working with various partners they have looked at problems in the market and delivered a concept vehicle that showed different applications for autonomous transport. The e-Pallet will be level four autonomous, meaning it needs no driver input at all.
But that isn’t the main reason this is so special. Toyota is placing its bets on the future being in providing a vehicle that is more than just transportation but a space. This could be a space where you can collect a parcel from, have a pizza delivered, sit down and have a meeting in a mobile office or even have your hair cut. The uses are endless.
You can look at these as new spaces to do activities, to shop, to east, to work, to play, all while getting to your destination. Toyota are already teaming up with Pizza Hut, Amazon and Uber to start conceptual trials, with publically available vehicles are due to be in use at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Human engagement and emotional connections were something of a theme in this year’s show when it comes to robotics. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be a robot to clean your floor, a robot to clean your windows, even a robot to play table tennis with you.
Nothing excited me more than the announcement of the new Sony Aibo. As an owner of the previous model of the robotic household pet I have waited over 18 years for the release of an updated version.
Sony have taken some of the latest generation chipsets, electronic components and developed advanced AI to power the robotic dog to learn, understand and communicate with its owner.
It may just seem like a gimmick, but this new robotic man’s best friend could enhance our understanding of how emotional engagement with robots could benefit other avenues such as healthcare and mental wellbeing.
This year, smart phones were not as “in your face” as at previous shows. There were some announcements of new devices and sneak peeks of new technologies to give brighter screens, longer batteries and better cellular coverage.
In an unexpected game changer for Smart phone security, Vivo in partnership with Synaptics unveiled their “in screen fingerprint reader” - Synatptics Clear ID at CES.
A sensor placed between the display and the glass using an optical sensor that reads your fingerprint through the glass. Clear ID is said to be as secure as other solutions, but can be a little slower, this is hoped will be improved over time but we may see this in the future being incorporated into other phones to replace current fingerprint sensors or buttons, allowing for devices to increase battery size or build in new features with the space saving.