CES 2019: Insights from the world's biggest tech show
PUBLISHED: 12:04 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:03 18 March 2019
What are the latest consumer technology innovations heading our way?
Widely regarded as the largest technology event in the world, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), took place in Las Vegas in January. Mark Thomas, chief executive of Suffolk software development company Coderus attended to hear first-hand about the latest innovations.
Artificial intelligence and home devices
One keynote presentation that grabbed our attention came from David Vanderwaal, the senior vice president of marketing at international electronics company LG.
LG’s artificial intelligence platform (AI), called ThinQ, provides functionality that not only allows individual devices to react to commands, but also incorporates data about a person’s habits and preferences (so-called lifestyle data) enabling a device to make proactive suggestions. At CES 2019, these features were on show in a special experience room, with a living room, laundry area and kitchen displaying everyday products for people to try out.
While you might have a smart washing machine that responds to a command with: “Yes, I will start the washing”, ThinQ may take this one step further so the washing machine suggests that: “Because you only have half a load shall I put it on speed wash that only takes 20 minutes?”
Instead of simply asking the TV to turn on, the device may suggest some films you might enjoy. If your milk is running low in the fridge, your electronic shopping list could be automatically updated.
Televisions of the future
Another example of what is to come was a display featuring LG’s new 88’’ TV screen. AT CES the company showed how four of these screens can work in unison – either showing four separate channels at the same time or working together to create one huge cinema screen that fills the whole wall, with the joins between the screens invisible to the user.
We also saw examples of television manufacturers integrating Apple’s popular video, music and image sharing apps AirPlay Video and AirPlay Audio. This development made me ponder whether Apple is preparing to enter the growing video streaming market to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime.
A rollable TV that can be folded up and taken away may sound a thing of science fiction but there were prototype examples of this at CES.
We have already seen foldable smart phones released by the likes of Samsung and Huawei and LG demonstrated a television screen that works on the same principle.
A rollable TV would enable homeowners to hide the TV when it wasn’t being used – creating more space in the home. To achieve this new type of television, innovative technologies have had to be developed. One example is crystal speakers that are embedded into the television screen.
The rise of voice
One of the fastest growing areas of technology is voice assistants, which we are starting to see integrated into small devices around the home. One example is the home thermostat system called Nest, which is now owned by Google, which allows users to set temperatures using voice commands.
Google and Amazon with its Alexa voice assistant are leading the way in this area – by making their technology open to developers who are creating apps to integrate it with other household devices.
And while the home is becomingly increasingly automated, many of these features are starting to be incorporated into cars and other vehicles.
Ford has already been working to integrate Alexa into its vehicles – so drivers can use voice to navigate, for example. What we are starting to see in this space is rather than separate technology eco-systems for the home and the car, the emphasis is on a unification of these eco-systems, so the technology is available to the user at different locations.
On road and water
One exciting development is the integration of voice technology with driverless cars, whereby passengers can use assistants such as Alexa to navigate home without having to physically touch any controls.
This is a game-changer and the arrival of automated vehicles will ultimately alter the way cars are designed and their interiors laid out.
Examples at CES were vehicles arranged more like train sleepers than cars – to enable people to get some rest on long journeys – or the seats set out similar to a small living room, so people can watch a movie to pass the time while the vehicle does the driving.
Of course, future vehicles will be electric and we also saw concepts for wireless charging roads - using a process called electromagnetic induction to transfer energy from the road to a receiver on the underside of the car.
While this infrastructure is not currently available we can expect this technology or something similar to be incorporated into road repairs and road-building programmes in the future.
I was also grabbed by an exhibition display from a company called Furrion, which showed how many of these innovations can be integrated into a boat.
I am interested in boats and would one day like to own one, so anything that combines boats and technology has me hooked. Furrion’s display featured a boat controlled by voice and touch screens – it’s great to see the boating sector embrace some of these technologies as it has been quite hesitant to do so in the past.
Applications for business
I believe every business in Suffolk should be looking at AI and machine learning as well as robotics, to explore how these technologies could change their sector and how it can help their business.
Even in sectors like agriculture, AI and robotics will have a role to play. It’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see it incorporated into fruit-picking, for example, where instead of having hundreds of pickers, an automated line does the job and uses AI to identify certain fruits or whether a fruit is ripe or not.
The health sector is another area where I see these technologies having a huge role to play.
There is a trend towards health services being delivered in the home and remotely via video calls. Much of this could be controlled by voice to help elderly and infirm patients, who will find a voice interface easier to interact with than a keyboard that tends to become too fiddly for older fingers.
Apps that monitor eye sight or heart rates can feed data straight back to GPs and alert them if there is a problem.