The Fung Global Retail & Technology team recently attended the 50th annual CES trade show in Las Vegas. Originally a trade show for televisions, radios and phonographs, CES has evolved into the world’s largest consumer electronics showcase, drawing more than 165,000 attendees. The size and scope of the show boggle the mind, but we noted several key trends at the event.
Voice Control is Everywhere The accuracy of machine voice recognition has improved dramatically over the past several years, leading to the advent of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and other voice-controlled appliances. Alexa seemed to be everywhere at CES 2017, and products ranging from LG refrigerators, Ford cars and Samsung robotic vacuum cleaners to TVs from Westinghouse, Seiki and Element will all support Alexa this year.
Concierge Services Will Be Provided by a Combination of Smart Home, Car, and Phone Bosch showed a vision of the future in which a consumer’s smart home, smart vehicle and smartphone will act in concert to provide services. An early version of this technology was demonstrated at CES last year, in the form of a Ford car driver being able to send a message to his or her Amazon Alexa intelligent agent at home, instructing the device to turn on the lights as the driver arrived at home. The Ford driver could also tell Alexa to instruct his or her car to warm up before driving. In the near future, smart handoffs between the three networks will enable users to operate home appliances, schedule appointments and stay connected whether inside or outside their vehicle.
Fully Autonomous Car Technology Is Improving There were numerous announcements and demonstrations of driverless car technology at CES, including an all-in-one module offered by ZF that uses a chipset from Nvidia. One researcher from Toyota gave a highly academic presentation that outlined the SAE International standards for autonomous cars, pointing out that levels 2–4 enable a vehicle to operate autonomously under various controlled situations. However, the presenter noted that it is possible that the driver would have to take over if the car could not make sense of its environment. Cars meeting the level 4 requirement are expected to be out by 2020 and, ultimately, they could reduce human error, leading to a reduction in injuries and fatalities.
TVs Keep Getting Thinner and Better Building on the advent of flat-panel TVs with 4K resolution, TVs keep getting better and better, and they now feature high dynamic range (HDR)—meaning a greater difference between bright and dark elements—and quantum dot technology (which modulates the brightness of the backlight), both of which improve picture quality. TVs and monitors featuring 8K resolution were also on display, and Hisense showed a TV in which the picture was generated by lasers, which offer a color gamut with a larger number of colors than offered by traditional LCD TVs. TVs from LG featured Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound, and Hisense commented that it was close to receiving THX certification on its sound systems.
Wearables Expanding in Health and Fitness The number and variety of wearable devices continues to expand, particularly in the health and fitness area. There were connected toothbrushes and hairbrushes on display at CES, as well as many devices that monitor and improve sleep. Under Armour announced a shirt that enables athletes to recover faster while sleeping, as well as an update to its app that analyzes the sleep data generated by many kinds of devices. Other gadgets on display included a watch that reminds kids when to brush their teeth and go to bed in order to enforce good habits and devices that monitor and measure breathing as well as determine the digestibility of certain foods.
Virtual and Mixed Reality are Still Expensive But Offer New Uses There were many vendors demonstrating virtual reality at the show, including Intel, which displayed a couple of compelling offerings. The company demonstrated a 360-degree view of a live basketball game, a live drone inspection of a solar panel out in the desert, and a mixed-reality shooter game that turns room objects into game objects, as well as a 360-degree video transmitted wirelessly by Qualcomm. Today, virtual reality typically requires an expensive headset and a powerful PC, while augmented reality can leverage existing smartphones and tablets.
These products and technologies just skim the surface of what was demonstrated at CES 2017, and the Fung Global Retail & Technology team will continue to follow these and other tech trends throughout the year.
If you like what you are reading, subscribe to our daily news and analysis of retail, technology and fashion here.