Every year, as the Las Vegas party people recover from their New Year’s celebrations and depart the city, the nerds and geeks rush in to take their place. We all begin our pilgrimage to the annual CES Conference – still the largest convention in the US despite efforts to keep the number of attendees capped.
There is no doubt that as a society we love our technology – whether it’s waiting on line at 4am to get a cheap TV “doorbuster” or crowdfunding the latest wearable device, we all seem to come up with the money to indulge our electronic desires.
CES week begins with two days of press / analyst events before the exhibits even open. This is where key manufacturers let the people covering the space know what their focus will be in the next twelve to eighteen months. This is followed by four days of exhibits, receptions, conferences and general exhaustion. Just as in the parable of the blind men and the elephant, it is impossible for one person to see and understand the entire scope of the event. The best media firms covering CES send teams that divide the coverage chores – and even they miss plenty of things.
I’ve been attending and covering CES for fifteen years now – way before it was the popular thing for an enterprise focused individual to do. It was clear to me – even fifteen years ago – that no firm dealing with enterprise technology could hold back the tide of consumerization. The key to maintaining my enterprise perspective is to look past the flashy things and focus on potentially disruptive trends – if you can recognize them. And believe me, this year’s conference will have plenty of both. One doesn’t have to look further than all the automotive firms boasting about their latest cars having WiFI, streaming audio, touch interfaces (and everything that has nothing to do with reliable transportation) to realize how much “flash” is being used to market things today.
As I prepare to depart for the conference here are some of the things I’m looking out for:
Resolving the TV Content – 4K or “Ultra HD” (UHD) TVs have been hot at CES for a few years now, but there really hasn’t been an easy way to get real 4K content to them. Expect to see a lot of discussion around the first BlueRay disk players to play true 4K, as well as plenty of boasting and debates around High Dynamic Range (HDR.) HDR is the term used to describe a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks in an image, so contrast is significantly improved. Manufacturers hadn’t really agreed on how to do this till now – with most of them now supporting a SMPTE standard – at least as one offered option alongside their own. Then there is also the issue around being able to broadcast UHD – and the new ATSC 3.0 standard that’s on the horizon. It’s still a very confusing space for consumers. I’ll be looking for clarity if there is any.
Internet of Things – Wow, is this space exploding. Inexpensive sensors, internet everywhere, connected devices – this is growing exponentially as predicted. There isn’t a sector or vertical market that won’t be disrupted by these technologies. My goal this year is to separate the IoUT (Internet of Useless Things) from the devices and systems that will have profound impact, and then to really look at how secure they are. I’ll be recording video clips of the best of them for my monthlyAVNation-TV webcast: Connected! Everything IoT. Look for my first CES wrap episode the second week of January (with plenty of content left over for future episodes I presume.)
Hubs are Hot – The Amazon Echo started a trend with its cute, voice controlled cylinder blazing a new trail in home automation. Regrettably Alexa turned out to be kind-of dumb (as I covered in my review.) This year a few other manufacturers are gunning for her, both with similar shaped more powerful devices and other products (like a smart TV) to take over the role. What system will you be talking to in your house to control your devices? I’ll be looking to find that answer.
Collaboration – While this is not the right conference for covering Unified Communications, videoconferencing or any of the other pure enterprise solutions, it is the conference that will show what consumers will be using going forward. It would be very naive to think that this won’t have an impact on where enterprise employees will expect their technology to go as well. I’ll be looking for new, disruptive products and devices in this space too.
Glass is the Future - There is a new Corning video out showing how the “Glass Age” is here. Of course, almost none of their predictions have come true to date, but who doesn’t like the cool future-vision videos they keep producing.