With the Consumer Electronics Show over for another year Eimear Reilly looks at the highlights of the technology showcased and the future of this billion dollar industry.
This year the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place from 6th-9th January in Las Vegas. CES is a renowned electronics and technology trade show, where major companies showcase their forthcoming products. As expected, drones, 3D printing, and wearables featured largely but this year connectivity seemed to be the overriding theme. Ranging from car manufacturers with data driven cars connected to smart phones and home appliances connected to the internet of things, tech companies are intent on a connected future.
Think your friends’ GoPro video from their J1 last Summer was amazing? Think again. Holiday memories of the future look set to be captured by your own personal drone. With drones available for less than £40, the global consumer drone sector will be worth more than $1billion by 2018, according to Shawn DuBravac, the chief economist for Consumer Electronics Association.
The legality and safety of drones for personal use is still under debate. In America the Federal Aviation Authority is considering introducing legislation that will limit the use of drones for commercial purposes, which could severely hamper Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ plan to introduce a drone delivery service for his customers. Here in Ireland the regulation is still unclear and it is a case of the law playing catch up with technology. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) states that small drones under 20kg can generally be used non-commercially if kept below 120 metres in altitude, within 500 metres from the operator and at least 150m away from anyone else or any structure or vehicle. The actual implementation of the law will become increasingly difficult as there is no clear distinction between a drone with or without a camera.
Apple’s iWatch announcement last September seemed to be the precursor for many of the products showcased at CES. Despite the iWatch’s absence from Las Vegas there were many software companies exhibiting apps compatible with the iWatch operating system and even a few copycat watches too. The advent of smart watches means that along with sensors we will have instant access to data such as our body temperature and heart rate.
If you expected 2015 to be the breakthrough year for improved design in the wearable technology sector you will be left waiting. A simple fact that many companies seem to have forgotten is that consumers won’t buy something they are going to wear if it’s not visually appealing. Google have experienced this and have quietly ceased production of Google Glass – a much hyped product that failed to catch the public’s imagination and whose wearers attracted many complaints. Misfit’s Swarovski Shine — a $150 bejewelled solar powered fitness tracker also left much to be desired in the design stakes. Products at CES, such as Ring, hint at a future where screens will not exist and our technology will be physically bound to us. With over 5,161 backers on Kickstarter, the gesture-focused product raised $880,998.
In the same way that the internet has infiltrated our phones and home appliances, it is set to connect the cars of the future. Analyst Gartner has estimated that by 2020, there will be a quarter of a billion connected vehicles on the road, enabling new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities. CES took place the week before the annual Detroit Auto show and it was interesting to note the presence of many large car companies. The chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz cars Dieter Zetsche delivered a keynote speech entirely on a fully autonomous prototype vehicle.
With car companies facing stiff competition from traditional tech companies like Apple and Samsung, Google’s self driving car is no longer alone as car companies began to reveal autonomous and semi autonomous car technology.
Unfortunate parallel parking could be a thing of the past with BMW’s park assist technology which will park a car in dark and small parking places. Unable to find your car keys? No problem, because before the end of 2016 Hyundai car owners will be able to install their car key on their Apple and Android smart watches. Effectively, cars of the future will come equipped with an in-built operating system connected to the internet.
Not all products showcased at CES appeared to be commercially viable. Designer Anouk Wipprecht demonstrated her spider dress which pokes anyone who enters the personal space of the wearer using sensors and robotics. The Spider Dress, powered by Intel Edison, uses two sets of monitors — one to measure the distance from those around you and another which monitors the wearer’s breathing patterns. The dress looks unlikely to become a wardrobe staple in Coppers.