CES 2015 just wrapped up a weeklong showcase of new technology, and the unofficial theme for the Las Vegas event was the Internet of Things (IoT).
From the hardware and software on display, to keynotes and media coverage; smart, connected products were the common denominator. Even Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez weighed in with some words of caution regarding the quantity of personal data collected by smart products. But for the most part, CES was upbeat and marked by another year of rapid advancement. Here are some of the highlights and takeaways.
3D printing has finally arrived
3D printing provides an important role in future IoT applications, and will have a bigger impact on manufacturers than consumers, accelerating competition and development cycles. As products become are capable of collecting and acting on usage data, on-demand “additive manufacturing” will revolutionize self-service and preventative maintenance.
CES featured advancements in 3D printers, particularly in the areas of printing single-piece housings (as opposed to assembling printed parts) and innovative new consumables, including exotic metals, chocolate, post-consumer recycled filaments, and wood-infused plastics.
You will be connected to what you wear and drive
A plethora of smart watches were featured at CES, along with clothing and even sports equipment. Garmin, Lenovo, Alcatel and others exhibited watches and wristbands, as manufacturers try to figure out what customers want in smart wearables. Luxury cars boasted improved connectivity—making integrations with smart phones and apps much more seamless and intuitive. Self-driving demonstrations were on display by Audi and Mercedes, while BMW showcased an intriguing valet service that enables vehicles to drop their drivers off and then park themselves.
Samsung and LG are making sharper televisions
Samsung and LG each unveiled a family of televisions of different size and capabilities. Incredibly lightweight and sporting a razor-thin profile, both are providing 4K, or UHD, resolution—basically quadrupling the amount of pixels in a given display.
The picture isn’t the only thing sharp about these screens; Samsung displays now ship with Tizen, a flashy, Linux-based operating system. Tizen not only ups the IQ for smart TVs; by increasing their compatibility, these displays are developing the capability to serve as the stationary hub for user management over a smart home. Complementing this currently unrealized potential are built-in cameras that enable gesture-based controls.
Drones are rapidly maturing
Even as the public remains nervous about drones, manufacturers are racing to bring them to market and define applications, from surveillance to delivery. The show featured drones of all sizes, from heavy-duty industrial quadcopters designed for security, to tiny drones that take selfies and perch on the user’s wrist like a watch when not in use.
Everything is connected
As mentioned, the unofficial theme of CES was the Internet of Things. Nearly everything on display was designed to connect to something—or everything—else. The ability to collect and present information is becoming standard, regardless of the device; the ability to introduce new features and functions through software upgrades is also becoming universal. Smart connectivity is rapidly becoming a required attribute of products, and that will continue to drive what manufacturers build, and how they build them.
If CES 2015 was the year that saw most everything on the floor grow a brain and a wireless connection, what will be on tap for 2016? The future will likely deliver more substantive and open-ended relationships between smart products. Right now, most of these products are designed for user-to-machine, or basic machine-to-machine connections.
As manufacturers loosen their proprietary grip, smart products will more easily connect to other products, networks, devices and apps. The products featured at CES over the next several years should be informed by how users begin to think of new ways to share data between products, and build their own systems. Look for manufacturers to observe these “smart sandboxes”—which will be facilitated through the collection of usage data—and capitalize on that information to make better, more marketable products.
Photo courtesy of CES