CES: 5 Things You Need To Know
CES is the tech industry's annual shindig taking place in early January in Las Vegas. In 2016, nearly 180,000 attendees descended on the desert, a number that will surely be larger this year with delegates from all around the world heading to Sin City for a week full of innovation, networking and new toys.
So what are the things you need to know as we head into this new year?
1. The Car Electronics Show – the “C” in CES may well soon stand for “cars” given the sheer number of car manufacturers bringing their wares to the show floor. Ford, Mercedes, BMW, FCA, Volkswagen and more showed off new tech ranging from self-driving systems and electric cars to new user interfaces. Advanced autonomous driving systems and Artificial Intelligence -powered cars were two hot trends, alongside Faraday Future’s first production model. The LA-based startup showcased a battery-powered car that can use any EV charging station and reaches speeds faster than Tesla’s base model.
In total, some nine automotive manufacturers, 11 tier-one auto suppliers and more than 300 vehicle tech-related exhibitors were at the show.
2. It is all about Alexa – until now, there has been no connective tissue between IoT (Internet of Things) devices -- meaning tech made by one company would not interact with another because there was no underlying standard for them to communicate. Enter Amazon’s Alexa, the voice service that powers Echo and provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to interact with devices in a more intuitive way. There were 1,100 different companies at CES showcasing how they are Alexa-compatible since the Alexa skills kit launched showing how the voice service has truly become that tissue.
Alexa has even found its way into the aforementioned category of cars, with Ford announcing an Alexa integration. This means Ford drivers will be able to listen to audiobooks, search and transfer local destinations to navigation, request news, play music, add items to Amazon lists and more. Shop and drive -- imagine that. From within a vehicle, Alexa can access lighting, security systems, garage doors and other Alexa smart home devices. And from inside the home, users will be able to start or stop the Ford’s engine, lock or unlock doors and check vehicle data. Winner winner chicken dinner particularly when Alexa evolves to be able to press start on the microwave.
3. Drone-palooza continues – drones are not new news, but the sheer number of drones on show at this year’s CES led many to ask, will the drone bubble burst? From racing drones to pocket drones, fishing drones and selfie drones, the choices are seemingly endless. DJI is the clear market leader, announcing at the show that it had bought the company that made the cameras American astronauts took to the moon.
While drones offer good theater and certainly create good buzz on the show floor, the talk at the show was that the actual consumer demand for drones does not justify the dozens of brands and multiple showcases devoted to them at CES.
4. Will 2017 be the year of VR headsets? Not likely – there were many VR headsets, accessories, and activations that have been on the circuit displayed at CES. Many of the announcements were much of the same as we saw in 2016. The biggest advancements needed to take VR forward - better displays, wireless, and less bulky designs – are still in development.
Cool VR ideas that were on display included footwear that makes users "feel" the virtual world they are in, from a company called Cerevo. A prototype metal rig called the Hypersuit allowed users to lie on it to give the VR sensation of flying.
Tinder’s VR stunt at CES was well timed. The dating site launched what seemed to be a VR experience yet, on closer inspection, allowed users to look through a tube directly at each other. In real life.
5. Phone news was muted at CES – CES is ever more lean on phone news as manufacturers save their best for next month’s Mobile World Congress. The main points to look forward to in 2017 will be how AI is integrated into new devices to anticipate consumers’ needs; the combination of AR and VR as companies integrate Google's Tango and Daydream software into thinner, better looking devices. Finally, budget hardware will improve, thanks to the tech launched at CES 2016 making it into 2017’s cheap-but-good devices.
Huawei made a splash announcing that they will be expanding to markets outside of China. Its mid-range Honor 6x smartphone, which includes dual-lens camera technology, is targeted at young consumers. It will be available in 13 new markets this month, including the United States, at a price of under $300. As the primary iPhone competitor in China, Huawei is one to watch.
As with previous years, CES is a great place to spend time with clients and partners, and to catch up with the industry. And while getting a reservation at a decent restaurant is a challenge, a well-planned visit to the event is certainly worth the while. Even if it means breaking a few New Year’s resolutions.
See you there next year!