5 Top Trends from CES 2015

Any way you look at it, the 2015 Consumer Electronics Conference was huge. There were 170,000 attendees, 20,000 new products, 375 startups, and 35 football fields of consumer technology.  This is not without good reason, in terms of market size, the US consumer electronics market was worth $US216B in 2014 and is expected to grow to $US223B in 2015.

The relevance of this to the enterprise cannot be understated. Just as we have seen mobile devices and personal apps disrupt Enterprise IT since the release of the iPhone, consumer technology will continue to be a significant disruptor in the workplace over the coming years.

Big product areas for CES 2015 included Smart Homes, the Internet of Things, Wearables, Health / Biotech, Fitness, Automotive, Personal Security, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Personal Fitness, 3D Printing, Gaming, and Television.

It also wouldn’t be CES without a book launch and this year it was Digital Destiny, by Shawn DuBravac. Digital destiny explores the digitization, “sensorization”, and connection of everything, setting the theme for the conference “Innovate or Die”, noting the trend for accelerating innovation.

In the remainder of this article, we explore five of the key product areas from CES 2015 the Citrix CTO Council think will impact the enterprise in the very near future.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things came in many forms this year: smart homes (over 700 exhibitors), wearables, internet of cars, sensors in everything, and robots to clean floors, windows, and solar panels.

While it is still too early to determine if IOT will be driving the next industrial revolution, it is certainly driving the next revolution in homes. 13% of broadband connected households have at least one smart device. There were literally 100s of security and home automation vendors at CES. This included typical things like motion detectors, contact sensors, cameras, thermostats, wireless speakers, garage door control, lights, and locks.

Skydrop have created a zero-configuration, learning watering system that works by paying attention to the weather. You can think of it as a Nest for your garden. Wireless charging over long distances continues to garner investment and credibility. Witricity magnetically transfers energy over 15ft (approx. 4.5 metres) and even has the ability to add passive repeaters. This could eliminate all those cords and charge packs in our homes.

The value propositions for consumer IoT tend to focus on peace of mind (security), energy savings, and convenience, each of which has direct relevance to the enterprise. As we saw smartphones drive the trend to BYOD we will see a range of consumer IoT devices blow-back into the enterprise, changing the way we work.

Brain Transplants for Things

Many companies at CES 2015 are neatly integrating intelligence into existing dumb things. This trend underscores the potential of the Internet of Things to improve our quality of life by augmenting things we already find in our physical worlds with digital intelligence.

For example, Roost make a battery for your smoke alarm that sends you a message when the alarm goes off in the event that you are not home; and instead of simply chirping when the battery is low it sends you a message to change your battery. Another example are light bulbs that fit into standard sockets, that are not just a programmable lights but include speakers (AWox), cameras, projectors (Panasonic prototype), and combined light/occupancy sensors (the Alba by Stack). Perhaps some of these will find their way into a meeting room near you.

A Technology or Motor Show?

10 years ago there were no automakers at CES. This year, there were more than 10 major automakers present including Ford, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Chrysler and Mazda (among others).  Many of these made some major announcements, and not without good reason. Owing to the growing middleclass across the world their addressable market stands to grow significantly in the coming decades. By 2030 the worldwide the middle class will double and if history is anything to go by, most, if not all will own a car. Consequently, by 2025 (just ten years away) the number of cars on the road globally, is expected to increase by 20%.

On display were a range of assisted driving and driverless cars showing how automakers and technology companies are working together like never before. The number and diversity of vendors providing autonomous driving capabilities was surprising – including automakers and technology companies such as NVidia, Bosch, QNX, Sony, and Nokia. Google said it plans to bring its driverless car to market by 2020 and the Mercedes driverless car was particularly impressive. It supports both manual and autonomous operation with four lounge chairs that can be rotated to allow face-to-face conversations when the car is in autonomous drive mode – your own mobile meeting space.

When it comes to driverless cars, the top three consumer concerns are safety/security, functionality/comfort, and productivity (when stuck in traffic). To help understand this, the Ford motor company is running mobility experiments across the world. Who would have thought 5 years ago the top feature of a new automobile would be touch-less interfaces. This is the case with the VW Golf Touch – ironic name.

Not withstanding regulations, this technology should converge in a way that will see people productively working in a safe and responsible manner from an automobile within the next five years.

Health & Fitness

Smart devices for health and fitness were in abundance at CES. This segment is forecast to surpass $US1.8BN in sales in 2015. In the clinical space, devices that monitor human vital signs were common and in the fitness realm we saw a range of equipment with embedded technology that can be used by athletes to better understand performance.

There were instrumented basketballs, socks, and shoe inserts along with tennis racquets. Watches and bands that measured pulse and cardiac activity were common. Earpieces like the Dash perform not only a headset, but also act as a heart rate monitor. Ampstrip is a skin attachable chest sensor to monitor vitals. Prima-temp is a temperature monitor for fertility, predicting the optimum timing for conception.

Perhaps this is the beginning of self-serve healthcare, a trend that aligns with some of our other recent predictions in healthcare.

Wearables and Sensors

Wearable devices came in many different formats at CES including watches, clothing, headsets, and jewelry. Wearables are expected to reach $US400M in sales in 2015. Wearables appeared to be most dominant in the healthcare and fitness space. They still haven’t had a consolidating iPhone moment. Haptic feedback, where a device communicates to the user via patterns of vibration, was a common trait of wearables on show.

It has become incredibly inexpensive to put motion, tracking, audio, and video sensors into anything. This is enabling basketballs that analyze performance, skateboards that work like Segways, and numerous gesture control devices. The combination of depth cameras and smart software is becoming the sensor of choice. One example showed depth cameras used for virtually trying on clothes and really making it look like you are in a video game. 2D camera and vision software combination is enabling some amazing things. This is driving down the cost of eye-trackers to under $100.

When it comes to the enterprise and work, the use of wearables is going to change the way we interact with the things in our physical world and the software in our digital world. Much of the innovation is likely to initially occur in the consumer space, however it will transition back into our work lives.