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Observations from the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show

I am just back from attending the 2014 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas where I was meeting with customers and visiting the massive show floor. CES is an intriguing blend of extremes and contrasts: biggest and the smallest; connected and unconnected; wired and wireless; high tech – low tech.  As personal and business technologies converge through the “consumerization of technology”, CES provides an exciting window into the current and future world of technology.

As with every show, there are things which are the same, more advanced or completely new from the previous year.   The following are my personal observations and extrapolations from the show based on my conversations with customers, colleagues and walking the floor.

1. Internet of Everything – Not only are all things (machines, sensors, devices) being connected to the Internet but so are people and data, creating the Internet of Everything.  IoE is a fitting overall theme for CES – everything at the show is connected to everything else.  As Cisco CEO John Chambers stated in his keynote speech “IoE is bigger than anything that’s ever been done in high tech.”

2. New Next Generation TV… Again – You could be mistaken for thinking that CES is really the TV show.  Televisions are everywhere and every company seems to produce one.  Manufacturers are still promoting 3D television, but it has taken a back seat to the next big thing – spectacular ultra high-definition or 4K TVs – four times the resolution of typical HD TVs.

3. The World is Curved The other big thing in TVs, that we didn’t know that we needed, is curved screens.  The curved screens are meant to offer a more immersive cinema-like experience.  But it is not just TVs that being bent, there were also curved smartphones and computer monitors.

4. My Home is My Connected Castle – Finally one can readily, and reasonably inexpensively, remotely control your home heating, open and close doors and monitor security cameras from your smartphone without engaging an engineering firm.  And homes now have connected entertainment systems, piping music and video in every room from personal collections and Internet content.

5. Bluetooth Comes Alive – Bluetooth is no longer just used to connect ear pieces to mobile phones.  It is now the connection technology of choice to connect everything from speakers, headphones, watches, cameras and even batteries to other devices and the Internet.

6. Digital Health And FitnessThere are now some very interesting, usable and well-designed devices to track and promote fitness (e.g., heart rate, running/cycling route, steps), in addition to specific devices to monitor and improve our overall health (e.g., blood sugar and pressure). The floor space and the number of show visitors in the health and fitness section have exploded since last year.

7. Big Data Gets Personal – Whether you are monitoring your heart beat, steps taken, the temperature in your home, or the contents of your refrigerator, all of these new devices seem to be generating and storing huge amounts of personal data that can be analyzed to your heart’s content.  Companies are selling apps and services to extract value from all of this data and to create your own personal log of your digital life.

8. My Coffee Maker Calls My Toaster – CE companies continue to try to connect all of our home devices.  But now appliances are getting in on the act.  There were lots of examples of connected refrigerators, ovens and washing machines, but it now seems that all household appliances are connected. Coffee machines, toasters and even beds are now connected to the Internet and each other – bringing new meaning to breakfast in bed.

9. My Smartphone Runs My Life – The smartphone is quickly becoming your personal “mission control.”  Every element of the Internet of Everything seems to be connected to, and through, the smartphone.  You can monitor and analyze your personal fitness, receiving messages of congratulations or encouragement.  You can control how your clothes are washed or your food is cooked from the comfort of your couch with a smartphone.  There is even a sensory-backed toothbrush that sends and stores data about your brushing habits to a smartphone.

10. In My Car – Aside from the pleasant weather in Vegas, you could be confused in thinking that you were at the Detroit Auto Show, rather than CES.  The car has become the new “connected home.”  Many of the car companies (e.g., Ford, Audi, Mercedes, GM) had booths, with lots of sleek and cool cars (including mind-blowing concept cars), showing off all of the great electronics in their vehicles and demonstrating how you are no longer off-line when you are behind the wheel.

11. The Robots Are Coming – Robots are becoming personal, consumer items.  In additional to older robotic vacuum cleaners, you can now buy personal drones, R2D2-type servants, pets and games to keep you entertained and make your life easier.  There were also several examples of video screen-enabled, remotely controlled robots that roam the floors of offices or hospitals, making a distant colleague or doctor feel as if he is standing beside you.

12. The New Sound – It finally seems to be recognized that to truly enjoy music you might need a better listening device more than ubiquitous ear buds.  There were lots of updated versions of 70s and 80s style big speakers with massive woofers.  Not to mention, wireless speakers and music systems.  And, every major electronics company was showcasing an impressive portfolio of high quality old school headphones.

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