Car, fridges, toothbrushes and toys: everything is smart at CES 2017

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At the beginning of every year, technology companies flock to the Consumer Electronics Show (DES) in Las Vegas to show off their latest creations – some make it into the mainstream, some do not.  But it is the place to decamp and trend spot for a week.

Among the bright lights and casinos, established technology companies and hopeful start-ups came to CES in Las Vegas to demo their wares to more than 177,000 visitors.  It draws developers, manufacturers, investors and media from across the globe.  With more than 3,800 exhibiting companies, this year was a record breaker. Through connectivity and innovation, the show touched every part of our daily lives, from self-drive cars to smart cities, digital health and 3G.

CES 2017 was a global showcase that demonstrated that we are in a new era of innovation where technology is valued not just for the devices it produces but for the experiences it makes possible,” said Bridget Karlin, managing director, IOT, Intel.

The devices and solutions on show at CES 2017 will shape our world.  Here are the top 4 key take-away trends.

Driverless cars

The car industry was out in force, showing us how automotive and technology are merging into one. 

Honda, Toyota and Chrysler demonstrated self-drive concepts. Electric car maker Faraday Future unveiled what it calls a “new species” of car that can learn and adapt to its driver preferences over time. The FF91 has been designed to integrate the user’s digital life into its apps and content.  Advanced facial recognition enables the car to be unlocked without a key.

There were also a number of interesting automotive and tech partnerships announced.  NVIDIA and Audi, for example, confirmed they are collaborating to put advanced AI cars on the road starting 2020.  The first phase will be an AI platform for self-drive cars, enabling them to understand their surroundings and drive safely.  BMW confirmed it will partner with Microsoft on Azure Services for BMW connected cars.  It also presented an in-car application of Microsoft’s Cortana, showing how voice controlled capabilities already offered by the solution on home PCs and smartphones could in the future be available on board a BMW.  Which leads us on to a big trend at the show – voice recognition.

Home assistant 

Amazon’s Alexa, the voice of smart speaker Echo, appeared in a host of devices at this year’s CES.  This was down to Amazon opening up its voice assistant to other companies.  Suddenly voice activation has taken off.

LG Electronics (LG) debuted a new kind of refrigerator, dubbed Smart InstaView, incorporating Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service and powered by LG’s own WebOS smart platform. The intelligent assistant can do everything from search recipes and play music place orders via Amazon.com and check the weather, all using voice commands.  

LG also showed off its ‘Hub Robot’ designed to double as a smart home gateway and a personal assistant.  The voice controlled unit has an animated face and swivels to look at however is talking to it.  LG demonstrated it preheating a connected oven and controlling an autonomous lawnmower. 

Another ground breaker was toy maker Mattel with its Aristotle voice-activated room hub and camera, designed to help teach and protect young children.  It can automatically play a lullaby, dim lights or light up green if a child answers a question correctly, for example.   

Artificial Intelligence

AI has been around for some time in bots, but it was a hot topic at CES. Technology companies are hoping that AI it will finally make the jump into mainstream.  It opens up a whole new world that allows devices to deliver services and help us learn, or let them learn about us. 

AI popped up everywhere at CES from Toyota’s inspired Concept-i, which can anticipate the driver and passengers’ needs and communicate via light sound and even touch, to Kolbree’s AI toothbrush, designed to collect data about brushing techniques. Hover Camera Passport stood out.  It is a drone that comes with AI technology that can track a person’s face. It autonomously follows the user and allows them to record their adventures hands free.

Superfast 5G

The consumer electronics industry is eagerly awaiting the arrival of 5G. In his keynote, Qualcomm’s CEO Stephen Mollenkopf said that “5G isn’t an incremental improvement in connectivity, or even just a new generation of mobile,” said Mollenkopf, “5G will be a new kind of network, supporting a vast diversity of devices with unprecedented scale, speed and complexity.”

Central to Mollenkopf’s keynote were the results of The 5G Economy, an independent research study commissioned by Qualcomm, which maintains that 5G’s full economic effect will be realized across the globe by 2035, producing up to $12 trillion worth of goods and services.

A number of other companies including Intel, AT&T and Ericsson all put a stake in the ground for 5G.  Intel announced what it believes is the world’s first 5G modem that can be used for drones, IoT, and autonomous vehicles.  While SK Telecom plans to launch 5G services this year, and Verizon and AT&T have soft launches planned in 2018, it is unlikely to be available to be mass market until the 2020s.

As we have seen 2017 promises to be an exciting year in technology.  If you want to find out more about the top security trends for 2017 click here.  Read more about what 5G can do for the enterprise here.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.