CES 2017: A Window into The Future

Monday Jan 9th 2017 by Rob Enderle
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Several new technologies on display at the Consumer Electronics Show seem likely to transform our lives.  

If there was one overreaching theme at CES, it is that the world around us is on the cusp of changing dramatically. These changes will radically alter how we interface with customers and employees, how we get to work, where work is done, and the breadth and intelligence of the tools we use at home and work.

Let me take you through some of the highlights.

Voice Interface

If you were a fan of Amazon’s Alexa, the digital assistant in their Echo device, this was a fantastic show for you; if you don’t like her, that wasn’t the case. Amazon was over-the-top successful with licensing this technology out. Lenovo and Ford, among others, had adopted this technology.

However, the high ground was likely taken by NVIDIA with their centralized Google based solution called Shield that use microphones, called Spots, that can be distributed around the home.

This massive wave of products anticipates a significant pivot to voice interface and away from screens for a lot of purposes like information discovery and shopping. This shift should be factored in to long-term plans.

AI Everyplace

Speaking of AI, NVIDIA indicated they had captured the two of the five largest automobile suppliers in the world for their soon-to-be-shipping car brain. Tesla plans to have their version of this on the road next year, while other car manufacturers like Audi were indicating 2020. Once it becomes commonplace this technology should mean that employees can live farther from their work and work while commuting to the office. Examples from companies like Panasonic showcased cars that were more like moving rooms than vehicles. And both NVIDIA and Uber imagined a future where car ownership was an exception and parking lots obsolete, suggesting long-term planners should likely start to at least consider repurposing parking lots.

In addition, given that these AI units are basically boxed brains, they could be applied to a far wider set of market opportunities than just cars.

Gorilla Glass Everywhere

While Corning's announcement focused on cars, many of the attributes of the glass they showcased have far broader applications. The glass can be both thinner, lighter and stronger than other types of glass, suggesting more viable triple-glazed windows that are more energy efficient and lower cost. Smart glass (another technology they showed off) could be used to better manage light and heat, and far stronger security glass can prevent incursion or protect against industrial accidents.

Of course, I was mostly focused on the fact that windshields using this would chip far less often because I’ve had to replace a lot of them as late thanks to local construction.

Productivity PC Wave

The trend toward productive PCs actually started last year with the announcement of the Microsoft Surface Studio, but Dell showcased both their XPS 27 and Canvas 27, which pushed the envelope even farther. Both were designed with significant input from creative types ranging from musicians and artists to film editors, animators and engineers. These products, which offer vastly increased resolutions, far more accurate pen input and a variety of unique tools, dramatically improve the productivity of users and their job satisfaction, according to the folks who have come forward to advocate them from a variety of industries. I think we are looking at the beginning of a major revolution in the PC space unlike anything we have seen since the 1990s.

AMD Ryzen and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

There were two components that are coming to market that had a ton of buzz at the show. Ryzen attracted attention largely because it was disruptive, focused on desktop PCs initially and because some of the PCs being showcases were near magical. Also, if they are successful on PCs, the server part is next.

The Snapdragon was noteworthy because it was selected for ODG’s AR/VR effort — a set of impressive glasses that looked like dark glasses but could perform AR and limited VR functions. What made this particularly interesting is that ODG was a firm that had exclusively focused on industrial solutions and had found a way to increase performance and reduce cost into a consumer product. I should point out that the consumer solution looked fine for many business implementations of AR and was far cheaper than most.

Change is Coming

All of this means there is a lot of change coming from how we, and our customers, interact with their technology, how, when, and from where they go to work, the materials around them, and even how they perceive the world. I think this change, mostly coming in 12 to 36 months, is unprecedented in both scope and speed.

Welcome to 2017! Better put on your track shoes…

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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