In January I was fortunate enough to check off one of the long-standing items on my bucket list. For those of you who don’t know me, I am the world’s biggest techno geek. So it has always been my dream to attend the world’s largest and longest running tech show which is held annually in the Nevada desert; the Consumer Electronic Show (or CES). Richard Lord reports back on his experience.
This year I got to go. And it was, in one word… AWESOME!
Imagine if you will, five halls the size of Gallagher Estate, all filled to capacity with every gadget, computer, smart watch, Bluetooth speaker, drone, gaming console, fitness tracker, cell phone, television, VR headset, camera and robot that you can think of. It was huge! Just to give you some perspective:
· 195 000 square metres of exhibit space
· 160 000 attendees
· 6 000 journalists
· 3 600 exhibitors
· 20 000 new product announcements
The show is the biggest event in the world’s technology calendar. It is billed as the “global stage for innovation”. It runs for four days at the Las Vegas Convention Centre and is the gathering place for all who thrive and make a living on consumer technologies. Some of the most notable manufacturers present included LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Phillips, BMW, Ford, Canon, Nikon, Garmin, FitBit, Parrot and Intel, to name but a few. Not to mention countless other small, medium and large tech companies and start-ups. It really is nirvana for anyone who is a bit of a nerd at heart!
So what were the trends? What is the next big thing? With 2015 being the year that Marty McFly travelled to in the iconic movie Back to the Future, are we any closer to hover boards, flux capacitors and time travel?
Well no, but these are the three trends that stood out most for me, and they are all related. In fact the first trend is all encompassing and massively impacts the other two…
Trend 1: In case you didn’t already know it, we are living in a mobile world
Everything is connected, and the heart of the connected world is the smart phone. Exhibitors fell broadly into one of two categories. There were those with products designed exclusively for the smart phone – accessories…headphones, cases, Bluetooth speakers, screen protectors, styluses, battery packs and the like. You name it, you could find it. The second category of exhibitors were showing off products that were controlled by or connected to smart phones. Drones, robots, smart watches, fitness bands, washing machines, TVs, security cameras, health devices. We live in a connected world and the smart phone is at the heart of it all.
Trend 2: The internet of things has arrived
We’ve been talking about the internet of things for a while now, and every year the prediction is that it will finally come into its own. Well, I believe that it is now here. What is the internet of things? It is the world in which everyday objects and devices are connected to the internet, allowing us to control them through technology.
Think of the smart home where all of your appliances are connected and can be controlled by you, where ever you are in the world, via your phone. Forgot to turn on the dishwasher before you left the house this morning? No problem, you can turn it on with your smart phone. Want to see if your child minder is looking after your kids properly? Log into your home security cameras on your phone and check up on her. Your fridge can tell you if you’ve run out of milk, your washing machine can tell when the load is done, your front door can unlock and open automatically for you as you walk up to it without needing a key. Even your pot plants can tell if they need watering or not.
Trend 3: If you can wear it, someone will make it
Wearables will truly come into their own in 2015 – and, of course, at the heart of the wearable eco-system is the smart phone. Wearables were everywhere at CES 2015. In fact they had an entire hall dedicated to them. There were smart watches, smart glasses, smart headphones, smart basketballs, smart golf clubs, smart belts, smart bags, smart socks, smart bras (yes, a smart bra!), fitness trackers, virtual reality headsets. There were even smart devices to help you keep track of your dog’s fitness!
They ranged from the very simple – tracking and doing one thing well, to the more complex – one device tracking a multitude of things. All of them link to your smart phone (via an app) and provide you with real time information and advice on how to improve your life, fitness and wellbeing. Many major fashion labels and designers are getting in on the act too. No longer does your FitBit have to be a dull, black, ugly plastic band around your wrist. Companies such as Guess and designers like Michael Kors have teamed up with the likes of FitBit and Garmin to make these devices a part of the fashion mainstream.
And of course, don’t forget that in two months’ time the one wearable that everyone has been waiting a decade for is about to hit the shelves – the Apple Watch! Interestingly, where as in the past these devices only reported statistics to you and left it up to you to decide what to do with the information, they are now being designed to make recommendations as to how you can improve your health and lifestyle.
So what products stood out most for me?
Perhaps the creepiest of the connected devices on show was something called Mother. Mother is a device that comes with little plastic stickers (called Motion Cookies) that are NFC (near-field communication) enabled. NFC is a technology that enables smartphones and other devices to share information via radio communication when they are in close proximity to each other.
So what does Mother do? Well, you stick the Motion Cookies to things that you want to keep track of, and they will report back to your smart phone via an app. So need to remember to take your pills? Stick a cookie to your pill box and if you haven’t taken them for a prescribed period of time, a reminder will be sent to your phone. Want to track if your kids are brushing their teeth? Stick a cookie on their toothbrush and you will be alerted if they are not using it. You can stick cookies to just about anything that you want to track. Big brother – well Mother actually – truly is watching!
The second was the Oculus. Oculus produce virtual reality headsets and they were recently bought out by Facebook to the tune of $2 billion. This was a truly fascinating bit of kit. They look like a pair of goggles, but they have two screens inside that sit over your eyes and immerse you into a high-definition 3D world. The goggles are packed with an extra-wide field of view, accelerometer, gyroscope and even a compass to track the position of your head and sync it to the content you are looking at. As you move your head around, the 3D image moves with you. It literally puts you in the centre of a virtual world. The applications are really interesting too.
It is mostly a gaming device, hooking up to your games console and giving you a completely unique gaming experience, but imagine brands being able to put people into your new vehicle, or experience your hotel room without having to physically be there. YouTube are soon going to be supporting immersive 360° 3D content, and Samsung have teamed up with Oculus to create the Galaxy Gear VR, that allows you to plug your Samsung Note 4 into the headset and consume specially designed content and games.
So what is the next big thing? Well, it is already here. It is all around us. Everyone has one. You have one in your pocket. You have one in your handbag. It is the first thing you look at in the morning when you wake up and the last thing you put down before going to bed. It is the internet connected smart phone, and with it, all manner of things are possible! Great things are coming. Be excited!
Richard Lord is associate media director at The MediaShop.
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