Innovation Meets Implementation: The Transformative Tech Trends that Commanded CES 2016

Feb. 2, 2016, 9:23 a.m.
Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer

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As the bustle of CES 2016 quiets down, many mainstream media professionals are grumbling that there were little-to-no groundbreaking announcements presented on the floor. While that notion may seem apparent on the surface, ABI Research’s team of analysts conducted an in-depth, post-show investigation to recount which transformative tech trends commanded CES 2016 and explore how vendors can successfully implement those innovations in the months ahead.

Below are our findings, broken down by key categories:

360° Video: 360° video content filled the floor at CES 2016, with the technology evident in new cameras, software, image stitching technology, and most impressively, live 360° feeds that do not require any stitching. Perhaps more predominant than VR display hardware, the video content is receiving heavy investment and will begin to gain momentum in the upcoming months, with Jaunt VR poised to be the leading on-demand content platform.

Virtual and Augmented Reality: Augmented Reality (AR) in automotive will be a strong vertical alongside industrial and healthcare. This was evident in Hyundai showing off more of its AR owner’s manual, BMW showcasing an AR motorcycle helmet and a handful of vendors displaying connected car experiences with AR or HUD imaging technology. While AR platforms are at the inflection point in factories and currently wrapping up early trials, we expect deployments of 10,000 employees or more in 2016 and 2017. Additionally, low-cost VR, like Google Cardboard, will see strong growth in 2016, as its content shows good momentum within both the premium and user-generated markets.

Healthcare and Fitness: Connectivity will be built into more wearable form factors—headphones and glasses or glasses add-ons—and will all tout collecting activity data as a primary application. Additionally, as made clear by a Samsung demo, as well as products from MC10 and L’Oréal, adhesive and disposable patches are emerging. Specifically, in regards to medical applications, disposable Bluetooth patches such as the TempTraq smart thermometer and the Oxxiom pulse oximeter will begin shipping in 2016.

Also of relevance, there are a number of medical/data analytics partnerships emerging, including IBM from CTA, Pathway Genomics, Under Armour, and Medtronic. With noticeable advancements in biosensors and algorithms to track health, vendors showed a number of healthcare-focused devices with specific developments made in providing calorie intake, excess muscle tension, BMI, and hydration levels.

Wearables: The main focus at this year’s show seemed to center around longer battery life and how the lengthened power will improve consumer experiences. Withings achieved a battery life of 8 months on multiple products, and Huawei Mate 8 touted a 2.36 day battery life (“the longest battery life of any smartphone) with a 30-minute quick charging. Battery life and charging speeds may gain further press attention this year if the rumor concerning the iPhone 7’s wireless charging feature pans out to be true. In all, though, the hurdle to overcome at next year’s show will be how to elongate smartwatch battery life to one week (Fitbit Blaze is currently at five days).

Connectivity: While the prevalence of WiGig in VR headsets was prevalent, no one liked feeling constricted by the headset cords. Nitero, a company failing to gain traction in WiGig, is now focused on using its WiGig solution plus its own in-house 4:1 video compression to fit very high-definition VR video content streamed to headset. The solution would be a good fit for HTC’s tracking cubes, which may be a real partnership opportunity, as Nitero is currently in talks with both HTC and Oculus. Lenovo is moving forward with WiGig, offering the solution in their high-tier, portable PC products and soon to roll the solution out to all mid-tier products, as well. Taking a relatively aggressive approach, the company may start offering WiGig in all low-tier products as early as next year. Broadcom demoed its new NFC chip, proving that it performs much faster than NXP’s chip. This could signify a bright future for Broadcom, despite the fact that the company initially lost a lot of its NFC share when it lost Samsung to NXP.

In all, universal docking with USB 3.0/Thunderbolt/WiGig/wireless charging; multi-factor authentication using mobile devices; and connected conference rooms with telepresence and better end-node IT management all held a strong show presence.

Automotive: There was an abundance of personal, virtual in-vehicle assistants based on natural language conversation and AI. Cockpit displays, in particular, boasted impressive new features, such as curved OLED clusters (Visteon), AirTouch contactless touchscreens (BMW), moving infotainment content between displays via swipe (Continental), and haptic touchscreen feedback (Bosch). Additionally, remote control via wearables was a definite trend, with a surge of real-time, digital map generation via big vehicle data crowdsourcing made evident by Toyota, Mobileye & GM/VW, HERE, Harman, and TomTom’s announcements. Moving forward, the automotive industry will see AI/deep learning for machine vision and a greater push toward in-vehicle networking.

Smart Home: We can expect a vertical integration of wearables within smart home devices, as seen with this Misfit Specter headphones integration with Misfit smart lighting. The concept of a low-cost, managed subscription network security for smart homes was introduced, and there was a noticeable surge in multi-functionality with single connected devices. Samsung launched Smart TV as a home gateway into home devices, and several system partnerships with Amazon Echo evidenced the concept of voice control for smart homes. Overall, there was a splitting of home security services into a la carte pieces centered on smart home and monitored security, breaking up traditional offerings into installation, monitoring, devices, etc.

TV: HDR was the obvious focus for CE/TV manufacturers. ST announced that it will have a single chip solution to support the proposed standards. OLED could see additional growth this year, with LG, Changhong, Konka, and Panasonic all showing OLED TVs at the show. Overall, it seems TV manufacturers are looking for the ‘next big thing’ to drive excitement. There were an abundance of 8K TVs on display and companies were pushing potential new applications for displays.

Outlier: With regard to smart programmable magnets, Polymagnet demonstrated how it can design hinge, spring, and latch solutions for a range of consumer and industrial applications. Its correlated magnets can be used for everything from alignment and positioning, to addressing how 2-in-1 displays attach to the keyboard base, to speeding assembly and repair of devices without the need for special tools. The company has a number of announced deals in computing, servers, industrial, retail, and other verticals.

In all, technology is continuing to transform, with embedded features blurring set category lines and platforms meshing to become interoperable. Mobile will not be the center of the world. As we drive forward, technology will focus on enhancing lifestyles rather than creating new behaviors. It all marks a profound period of change within the consumer technology market—a change destined to directly impact our technological future.