A View From The Road Vol. 11, Number 1 : CES 2017


David J. Danto

Business Transformation Consultant
Collaboration / AV / IoT / Multimedia / Video / UC
Dimension Data

Director of Emerging Technology                        
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance   
eMail: DDanto@imcca.org      

Follow Video & Technology Industry News: @NJDavidD     

In This Edition:
•      Happy 50th CES
•      Separating The Wheat From The Chaff
•      Moving To A Voice First World
•      IoT Security Finally Emerging
•      New Notable From The Expo
•      These Are The Drones You’ve Been Looking For

Greetings from Las Vegas, where I’m attending the 50th anniversary of CES (formerly known as International CES and The Consumer Electronics Show.  If you’re curious about the past, take a peek at the CES timeline here.)  I couldn’t get a clear photo of the anniversary sign above because of the enormous number of people at the show.  It was a record all around, with an estimated 165,000 attendees, 3,800 exhibitors and more press and media than the 2016 Summer Olympic Games – and getting around the venues and through the crowds was an Olympic event unto itself.  With the Press and Analyst events starting Tuesday, the Expo over on Sunday, and events, showcases, demos and meetings starting at dawn and going late into every evening, all attendees should win a gold medal for marathon endurance.   Big kudos as well to the CES team for the logistics this year.  Their app was top-notch for the first time in a long while.  The convention areas had fantastic cellular coverage.  (I can remember a couple of years ago having to walk outside to use my smart device – now it was perfectly reliable everywhere.)  Even Monorail tickets could be pre-loaded on convention badges – and worked flawlessly.  Way to go CES team!

The entire conference can be adequately covered by a medium sized team of 10-15 people, but one individual such as myself has no chance to see it all.  Because of that I made the conscious decision years ago to not even try.  While Drones, Health Wearables, and Self-Driving Cars are hot stories, I choose to avoid these topics.  Feel free to read about them in most news organizations’ CES coverage.  I also stay away from things like the IoT Toothbrush and the Radiation Protection Underwear.  There’s no shortage of coverage for those kinds of items, and if you want to read about that oddball stuff then then enjoy others’ coverage.  I focus both on items of interest to an enterprise technical audience, and on high-level trends that will affect the technology landscape in the months and years ahead.  This separating the wheat from the chaff isn’t easy - and I definitely miss a thing or two - but the 18-24 month view ahead in technology is its own reward.

Hey Siri, Cortana, Alexa – What’s going on?  The most important thing I learned from this conference is the clear trend of moving to a voice first world.  People hate GUIs, but they love talking to their devices.  Hundreds of devices were shown that are either enabled to work with one of the existing voice / AI platforms, or were creating one of their own.  CTAs Chief Economist and Director of Research Shawn DuBravac explained at his Tech Trends To Watch session that we are at an inflection point for voice control, with the speech detection error rate now at human parity.  

He predicted that voice controlled home digital assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.) will double their penetration this year, and that CES 2017 will see the release of approximately 700 new voice controlled apps.  When one looks at this in the context of big data engines like IBM’s Watson and others, there will be many more things we can do by voice than ever before.  You can now talk to your home hub and change the lighting or temperature.  You can now order food right from your refrigerator – or enable it to understand that it should automatically order milk or eggs when it sees you running low.  You can now tell your washing machine to order more detergent after you have completed enough washes to use up most of what you already have.  How do these trends effect the enterprise?  Well, from Harman’s perspective, instead of walking into an enterprise conference room and looking for an AMX touch panel, you can say “Hey JBL, start my video call” and “Hey JBL, add Bill Smith to my call.”  When you add to that the context of what other enterprise manufacturers are doing – like the proximity features that Cisco has shown for years – you can see how the conference room touch panel is going the way of the dodo.  Voice first and back end artificial intelligence will rapidly become the new UI for our personal and professional lives.  

The explosion of IoT devices over the last few years has regrettably caused a number of security exposures and vulnerabilities for users.  The rush to get products onto the market at low price-points created a virtual army of unprotected devices – which was recently exploited by a number of Botnets.  On my AVNationTV webcast Connected! Everything IOT, we recently discussed the dangers of this overlooked area.  CES this year showed some of the first solutions to this crisis.    

Firms like Symantec’s Norton and Securifi have created new routers that employ whitelisting and machine learning to identify normal behavior and then recognize and prevent abnormal behavior (malware, hacking, bots, etc.)  Cujo created a smart firewall device that does the same thing but doesn’t require you to replace your router(s) – which represents an infinitely easier installation.  All of these systems will require an ongoing subscription to the manufacturers’ services to keep them smart and updated.  

On the other end of the spectrum, firms like MicroEJ have created secure software platforms for IoT devices that large manufacturers and start-ups alike can utilize to make their devices much less susceptible to hacking and malware.  There are finally solutions to this significant exposure, so there is no longer an excuse for manufacturers to make weak products and for users to ignore the risks.  That’s a very good thing for all of us.

In the world of displays, LGs has positioned themselves as the clear leader in the space – surpassing Samsung (at least in my opinion.)  I was privileged to be a CES Innovations Judge in the display category this year and glad to see that my top pic won the Best of Innovations award in this category.   They showed the thinnest ever SUHD display – which they called their video “Wallpaper.”

It’s about 2.5mm thick, and is a gorgeous OLED that can mount to a wall with magnetic pads. LG had all their OLEDs in a massive videowall display they called their “OLED Tunnel of Love.” They also furthered the Voice UI theme we’re seeing this year with a whole series of voice controlled hubs and robots.  (Click the photo below to see a video of their Home Hub robot – which should be called Blinky - in action.)

On the other hand, Panasonic was non-existent in the display space for the first time in…well...ever.  This absence was more stunning than any announcements they actually made.

As for Samsung, they get kudos for taking on the Galaxy Note 7 disaster right out of the gate at the start of their press conference, saying they’re still working to find a root cause analysis of all the exploding phones, but it won’t stop them from continuing to innovate – which is commendable.  Less commendable however were their display claims.  They seemingly implied that the tail on a letter Q made their displays better than their competitions.  Everyone accepts that OLED technology is the epitome of imaging for high-quality displays, but apparently not Samsung.  In their “These Amps Go To Eleven” moment, they tried to claim that their Quantum Dot LCD - technology they dubbed QLED – was better than OLED…and they quoted a real science sounding person to prove it.

In light of the recent news that Samsung now has no one agreeing to build their TVs it was all a little hard to swallow.  What was impressive however was their announcement that they’ve created a single optical cable for all the connections to their displays.

There were so many new products and announcements at the conference this year that it’s difficult to categorize them in a single wrap-up blog.  Here are a bunch of them in no particular order.    

  • Wireless headphones and earbuds were a hot item this year with Apple’s removal of the audio jack on the iPhone 7.  There were flood of new systems (with few any better than the ones that were already on the market.)  One exception was Nuheara’s IQbuds.  These are earbuds that are meant to be worn anytime to improve our ability to hear what we want and how we want in multiple environments.  They were a CES Innovations award winner and are definitely worth checking out.  Of course, for regular wireless earbuds for music and voice, nothing beats the cost and qualify of Plantronics Back Beat series.  I was privileged to have met and interviewed the inventor of Bluetooth – Jaap Haartsen – in the Plantronics suite this year.  He admitted he never envisioned the technology to be as pervasive as it is today, but because it was designed well it is flourishing. 
  • I had a nice chat with Huddly Chief Innovation Officer Casey King about their soon to be released Huddly Go.  It is a cool little camera – disguised as a webcam but with much more processing capabilities inside.  Keep an eye on them as they release and continue to update it.
  • I spent some time visiting with the team from Logitech.  They have some very cool collaboration technology in the pipeline for release later this year – with a new camera that will be shown at ISE.
  • IOGear showed a series of wireless HDMI transceivers, including an Innovations Award winning long-distance system.  Being able to wirelessly connect HDMI over distances of up to 600 feet is a great achievement.  Here is my chat with them.  
  • A firm called ChatSim has negotiated roaming agreements with all global telecom carriers, and can offer unlimited messaging via some popular apps (including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp) for a flat $15 a year no matter where you are.  This is a great service for global travelers looking to cut data roaming fees.  
  • Altia Systems – the makers of the Panacast camera – showed their new 4K 3D visualization system.  They can in real time have a VR headset wearer move around in the 3D space of wherever they’ve placed their camera rig.  Think about placing the camera in a museum, or construction site, or architectural model room and having people look around in detail from the other side of the world.  They can also record the multimedia and metadata for use in non-real-time scenarios.  This will drastically reduce the cost of producing 3D “envisioning” content – and hopefully put some architects that gouge for 3D content creation services out of business.  Altia also showed me some impressive new features in their Panacast2 camera soon to be released.  This team really gets where the collaboration camera market is going.
  • A firm called AMAXpertEye has developed an enterprise grade “see what I see” system that allows people to wear video enabled glasses and transmit what they’re seeing to others at another location.  This live from the field system is now applicable for use in environments where reliability and security is required.   
  • A start-up called Olive & Dove showed a new videoconference enabled doorbell called RemoBell – this one much simpler than those on the market already.  It takes standard AA batteries – which means power doesn’t need to be wired for it.  It also allows five simultaneous people to connect to the camera.  Here they are describing how it works.
  • I got a chance to catch-up with TouchJet’s CEO Helen Thomas.  I saw the prototype of the TouchJet Wave at CES 2016, and now, one year later, they are shipping this product – which I believe will significantly disrupt the interactive whiteboard space.  You can equip seventy conference rooms with interactive capabilities using the Wave for the price of putting in one 85” display from a major manufacturer.  Here is my interview with her, and here is my recent whitepaper on the entire IWB space. 

Finally, I leave the last word for CES to a firm called Propel.  They have created drones in the shape of Star Wars ships (click the picture to see a brief video from the show floor.)  

For a conference as vast as CES2017 – it was amazing to have found these.  After all, these are the drones you’ve been looking for….

That’s it for this edition of A View From the Road.  My next update will be after Enterprise Connect where I will attend as a panelist.  I’m also deep into the planning for the IMCCA UC Program at InfoComm this June.  It will be an amazing, not to be missed event.

This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has had over three decades of delivering successful business outcomes in media and collaboration technology for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds - including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. David is also the co-founder of Masters Of Communication.  Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.

All images and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.