LAS VEGAS — 5G; artificial intelligence; connected homes; streaming media; cloud-based gaming; mixed reality; electric transportation; telemedicine; task-based robots; and more.
These are the tech topics and trends that researchers from the Consumer Technology Association are watching closely over the next several years. It’s worth a look at their analysis, given that the trade group organizes CES each year and gets extensive exposure to how technology is changing the way we work and live.
CTA hosted its annual “Trends to Watch” session Monday morning before CES officially kicks off Tuesday.
The theme of the talk was that we’re moving from one “IoT” — Internet of Things — to a new “IoT”: Intelligence of Things.
“This new IoT bears testimony to the fact that artificial intelligence is permating every facet of our commerce and our culture,” said Steve Koenig, vice president of market research at CTA, who gave the presentation here in Las Vegas.
Read on for more of what to expect over the next decade in tech.
The fifth generation of wireless technology is one of the major narratives of CES 2020. There are now 50 different 5G networks around the world and the number of 5G handset shipments is expected to spike over the next several years. It’s still early for 5G development, but the eventual impact can’t be ignored.
So what does it all mean? For consumers, faster speeds on their devices.
But the real impact will be felt with enterprise, Koenig said. “5G is the first wireless generation that will eventually be led by enterprise applications,” he said. “5G is literally going to overlay the entire economy.”
He pointed to two application areas: massive IoT, with lots of end points, and critical IoT, with fewer end points but more data requirements.
As one industry example, Koenig said farming can be revolutionized with 5G connectivity powering new innovations such as precision agriculture and automated farming equipment. There are several startups in this realm, including some from Seattle, and agriculture giant John Deere once again has a big presence at CES this year.
AI is now everywhere. While it’s become somewhat of a buzzword, the technology is vastly improving how our services operate on our phones, TVs, laptops, and much more.
You can expect more of the same in the future across the device ecosystem, Koenig said. He pointed to object detection as an example, using a scenario where a smart oven camera detects a frozen pizza and knows exactly how much time it needs to cook — with zero human interaction. Smart home tech is another big theme this year at CES.
“We are finally fulfilling the promise of the smart home, which is to create intelligent living spaces that take care of us, instead of the opposite,” Koenig said.
Beyond our personal devices, AI popping up in places like the McDonald’s drive-thru. That type of integration leads to the discussion of job displacement, though Koenig painted an optimistic future where robots automate small tasks alongside humans.
“This is what we can expect to unfold over the next ten years: more human-machine partnerships — in manufacturing, in medicine, in the drive-thru at McDonald’s,” he said.
There are several new streaming platforms coming online this year, including Quibi, which is focused on short-form content and will deliver a keynote this week at CES, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, also getting keynote time at the show. That adds to existing services from Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, ESPN, HBO, Disney, and many others.
“Consumers have an abundance of choice, and in the industry, there is an abundance of competition,” Koenig said.
He added that the “mosaic of content we currently manage is about to get more granular.” U.S. consumer spending on streaming services is expected to reach more than $20 billion by 2023, up from $16.7 billion in 2020, based on CTA research.
The promise of augmented and virtual reality has been hyped for decades, but actual use cases are finally cropping up.
“We are inching closer and closer and closer to the Star Trek Holodeck,” Koenig said. “Things we attribute to science fiction now this decade are going to happen.”
Though augmented reality glasses haven’t hit the mainstream, they are looking more realistic, evolving from the Google Glass era. Koenig pointed to the Norm Glasses, which won a CES award this year.
The gaming industry has historically set the pace for innovation in the broader tech world and that continues to be the case. Koenig noted high-end gaming rigs and next-generation voice headsets. There’s also the rapid rise of esports, already a billion-dollar industry.
“If you have a teenager and they are down in the basement playing games, that might not be a bad thing,” Koenig half-joked.
Cloud-based gaming is another trend to watch, with companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple all developing their own services that let people play without using expensive hardware. Sony is set to give a keynote later today at CES, with rumors of PS5 news on deck.
All of this is leading to more and more growth of the $100 billion-plus gaming industry.
“We are seeing a democratization of gaming — it’s not just about owning a console or high-end PC anymore,” Koenig said. “There are a lot more options.”
Transportation companies are so rampant at CES now that it’s almost as if there’s a show within a show. There are a bevy of automakers and several other companies here pitching their ideas for the future of mobility.
A theme this year is electrification, thanks to advances in battery technology and more places to charge up. “This is the electric decade for vehicles,” Koenig said.
Self-driving is also still a hot topic. Koenig said he’s seeing a stronger narrative around commercial deployments of autonomous vehicles. “We expect more of that to happen around the world,” he said. “And if you’re talking commercial deployment, you’re talking about fleets — and that means partnerships. Vehicle OEMs; software developers; platform providers; service providers; etc.”
There is also rapid innovation happening with multimodal transportation, from scooters to flying cars. Hyundai is expected to show off its own flying car concept on Monday.
Digital health has now become a lifestyle, Koenig said, and there are more than 150 exhibitors this year at CES in an industry that includes sleep tech, baby tech, mommy tech, and more.
Thanks to AI and 5G advances, Koenig expects digital health to move from “symptoms-based telemedicine to evidence-based,” where doctors have better access to live vital signs, live video, and more.
“Hospitals will become data centers before long,” he added, noting that encryption and security technology will become even more paramount with that shift.
The robots are coming into our lives, in all shapes and sizes and for various purposes.
Koenig sees the future of robotics in two segments: task-based systems, like an autonomous vacuum or automatic bread maker, and social robots, like the cute little Lovot devices we spotted at CES Unveiled on Sunday.
Koenig said there’s been a “resurgence of innovation” with task-based systems as social robots have had trouble finding a market. But he said there is promise with “stationary robots,” such as Amazon’s Echo or Black and Decker’s Pria medical assistant. “Focused on the human-machine interaction — not moving around or jumping around,” Koenig said. “That’s kind of the trend with social robots.”