CES 2013 Highlights & Predictions, Part 2

17/01/13

Continuing on from part one of my blog from CES here is the second part of my Highlights and Predictions for 2013

Wearable Tech

You could be forgiven for thinking that CES is a television product event but in fact it covers a very wide spectrum of consumer technologies and this year was no exception. One area that stood out as a theme this year were technologies and gadgets that you stuck on your head, wrist and otherwise connected to your body. So called wearable technology has been around for a while but a combination of smartphone integration, low power radio connectivity and smaller/smarter devices is starting to produce practical and innovative products. Examples on show this year included a slew of smart watches that typically connect to your smartphone and provide both information (displaying texts, alerts etc) and control (managing access to song libraries as you run etc). The most high profile of these was the Pebble watch which features an e-ink display and smartphone interface in a very cool design. It is famous for having raised $10m in crowdsourced funding on Kickstarter.com and finally ships later this month.

Other examples included virtual reality headsets for immersive gaming (yes we have been there before but these looked quite good), augmented reality glasses (similar to Google's Project Glass) and a very wide range of health devices and sensors that provide sports/leisure and medical support.

Prediction for 2013: I think we will see a serious take up in health related devices that combine body/activity measurement and analytics with smartphone apps and cloud based connectivity to medical and sports professionals. I also think that the venerable wrist watch is in for a period of tech driven innovation, I have placed an order for my Pebble watch already.

Smart Homes

Another long heralded technology area is the smart home, with devices and appliances that think for themselves and take away the hassle of our everyday chores. This years CES certainly provided plenty of gadgets and gizmos in this category and the general theme was that if it plugs into electricity it will also plug into the Internet (driving the growth of the Internet of Things) and deliver clever new features. Examples included fridges with LCD panels in the door to provide information about the food inside and the ability to re-stock online, washing machines with friendly UIs that can be controlled remotely, all-home energy management systems that carefully manage and optimise electricity demand and a number of little floor cleaning robots that whizz around automatically sweeping and mopping up dirty floors (while amusing or terrorising the home pets at the same time no doubt).

Prediction for 2013: While there are many interesting ideas and some cool products out there, I don't think 2013 is the year when our lives are transformed by the smart home. I think the day will come though…

Second Screens

While much of the focus at CES was on the TV screen, a significant amount of talk was directed towards a newer phenomena in television - the second screen. This term, which you will hear increasing commentary on during 2013, refers to those other screens that we are using in ever larger numbers while watching TV - smartphones, tablets and PCs. Depending on your point of view, these screens are either competing with and spell disaster for broadcasters and their channels or are the perfect vehicle to allow greater viewer engagement with the content on their TV screens.

Lots of TV manufacturers discussed how they are opening up remote access to second screens to allow them to control activity on the TV and provide information on what is currently being watched so that the second screen can offer a 'synchronised experience' such as additional content, interaction with the TV programme, personalised recommendations and of course targeted advertising. In fact an entire day at CES was dedicated to discussions and presentations around the second screen (I spoke at one of these sessions of our own experience building The Walking Dead second screen app) and many of the conference sessions throughout the week talked about the second screen as a fundamental part of the future TV viewing experience.

Prediction for 2013: We have seen a few second screen applications to date and just last week the BBC launched their first synchronised app for the Antiques Roadshow. These generally fall into two categories - generic applications that span many TV shows/channels/networks (such as Zeebox, IntoNow and GetGlue) and broadcaster/programme specific applications such as SyFy Sync, Bravo Now and The Walking Dead. During 2013 I think we will see a number of broadcasters experiment with second screen apps and would be surprised if every major broadcaster had not launched at least one show app before the end of the year.

Car Tech & Too Many Cases

Amongst the many other weird and wonderful technologies and products on show at CES, Audi's self-driving auto-parking car was impressive. This prototype allows you to pull up outside a venue, get out and the car will drive off and park itself. When you are ready to leave you simply tell the car via a smartphone app and it pulls up outside ready for you to drive away. Drivers of the world rejoice in not having to walk back to the car park in the rain again while valets plan for career diversification.

Finally, I have never seen (or imagined existed) so many smartphone and tablet cases as I did at CES. A football pitch sized area consisted of case vendors demonstrating their wares built from every known material, colour and design possible.

Prediction for 2013: Valets attacking self parking cars and consolidation/collapse in the smartphone case industry.

If you didn't make CES this year I hope this was useful and if you did let us know what caught your imagination.

Steve Plunkett, Chief Technology Officer