Trending @CES 2012

17 January 2012 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

Last week, we and 150,000 of our closest gearhead friends attended CES, the consumer electronics industry’s largest trade event – and with a few days’ distance from the Las Vegas hype and glitter, we’ve been able to identify some of the show’s most interesting trends.

1. The Center of the CE World Is Shifting

While the big Japan brands – Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba – still dominate the show floor, it’s never been more obvious that Korea’s tech titans, Samsung and LG, now represent the front line of consumer electronics innovation. Or at least the innovation on display at CES. The biggest U.S. gadget players – HP, Google and especially Apple – are conspicuous by their absence; Microsoft has announced that next year, it too will exit the show, selling the rights to its coveted exhibit space to Dish Networks and China’s Hisense electronics. The latter is also a sign of the times: While Chinese brands are still quietly building market share rather than trying to technologically leapfrog, it’s only a matter of time before the biggest China players – Lenovo, Haier and TCL in particular – make a move for mindshare as well.

2. Say Hello to the Internet of Things

As of 2010, there was an average of one net-connected device per human being on Earth; by 2015, there will be an average of two. This reflects the reality that more and more information is being exchanged between intelligent devices, independent of human agency. In fact, networking giant Cisco recently estimated that the single fastest-growing category for Internet traffic is “machine-to-machine,” with the amount of data flowing between M2M modules now soaring at a rate of 258% per year.

Several brands at CES pushed the curve on the thing-based Internet. LG showed off the second generation of its “Thinq-enabled” home appliances line – e.g. a smart refrigerator that’s capable of tracking grocery purchases and ordering favorites when they run low, as well as transferring recipe suggestions to a connected smart stove.

Not to be outdone, Samsung unveiled its own plans for a household ecosystem of connected intelligent devices, with the Smart TV at its center. Will the television go from digital hearth to digital hub? Samsung – the world’s number-one seller of TVs – is banking on it.

3. Rise of the Intuitive, Immersive Interface

For obvious reasons, traditional devices are awkward input and control tools for an Internet of Things. (A microwave with a keyboard? No thanks.) This year’s CES showed dozens of ways that manufacturers are attempting to solve for this problem: Wall-sized multitouch surfaces (including a massive 82-inch capacitive display from Perceptive Pixel, whose technology powers the “smart walls” used on CNN), face recognition, and, of course, natural-language voice control.

Behind closed doors, Nuance – the developers of the speech recognition technology used in the iPhone 4S’s Siri intelligent agent – showed off their new DragonTV voice-based television interface, and it was impressive; Nuance says the software will power the smart TV offerings of “all the major manufacturers” (including, perhaps, Apple’s hypothetical new iTV?).

Meanwhile, startup Tobii unveiled an eye-tracking system that senses what you want to select next based on the position of your pupils. And PrimeSense, developers of the technology used in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect peripheral, demonstrated the next-generation version of their motion recognition system, which uses a 3D camera to allow users to control devices with typical touchscreen gestures (swipe, pinch to zoom, and so on) – in thin air, from up to ten feet away.

4. What’s Next
Though some have questioned CES’s continued relevance in an era of instant communications and social networks, the show remains one of the few opportunities to watch the dynamics of the technology marketplace up close – allowing active observers to spot new technologies, track the uptake of trends, and identify emerging standards in real time. We’ll be following up on the phenomena we saw this year, so watch this space.

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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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