We've just rung in the New Year (Happy 2017!) and already, industry folks are getting set to travel to, or read all about, what's new in tech at CES 2017.
Each year, the press releases, buzz, and inside information revealed prior to the show gives a good indication of what we can look forward to seeing in terms of trends. Last year, these includes things like 4K content, wireless audio, virtual reality (VR), wearables, self-driving cars, and more.
For 2017, here are 10 trends that we should be keeping an eye on.
1.HDR-Compatible Devices, Content
If 2016 was all about 4K displays and content, the 2017 event will be all about High Dynamic Range, which allows for brighter whites and darker blacks. Not only will we see announcements about more content becoming available in 4K through cable/satellite TV and streaming providers, networks, and via Blu-ray discs, but we'll also hear plenty about HDR fare to afford an even better picture.
2.Voice control in wireless audio
Wireless audio continues on its massive upward rise, and 2017 will likely see the market grow even further, with brands like Sonos, Bose, Denon Heos, Bluesound, and others at the forefront. Not to mention Amazon. Yes, Amazon will be integral to the growth in this category. That's because voice control is becoming the latest buzz feature in wireless audio and smart home control. In 2017, users will be able to control Sonos speakers using Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. And Google just launched its Google Home product to compete. Expect to see plenty more voice-controllable home "hubs" at the show looking to take a bite out of what will likely be one of the hottest markets in 2017 - both on the wireless speaker side of the equation and the voice control technology that integrates music playback into a full-on smart home. I've been using the Amazon Echo Dot at home for the past few months (sadly, it isn't officially available in Canada yet), and it's compelling, to say the least. Watching my family and friends marvel at how they could ask Alexa just about anything during our annual Christmas Eve party makes it easy to see why voice control will be a hit amongst customers.
VR will continue to have as significant a presence at the 2017 CES as it did for the 2016 event, with many of the same core players, like Samsung, HTC, Sony, Oculus Rift, and others, but with improved technologies and more striking demos. Here's hoping the lineups for demos won't be as crazy this year as they were last.
4.Artifical intelligence gear
From robots to intelligent smart home devices and gaming, "AI" will likely be two letters you hear uttered quite often by employees and entrepreneurs working booths, eager to show you their latest and greatest interpretation of AI technology. From health care to hospitality, gaming to education and fun, AI will be a huge part of this year's event.
5.Smart car technology
Remember once upon a time when someone said "smart car" and you automatically thought of those tiny, half-sized vehicles? Nowadays, smart cars mean everything from electric vehicles to self-driving ones, cars with dashboards that contain tons of intelligence, communicate with your smartphone, and can detect everything from passengers walking behind you to a possible crash. Judging from the amount of vehicle-related pitch e-mails I've received this year, and the wide range of vehicle manufacturers exhibiting at the show, 2017 will be a big year for car tech.
Travel the Sands Expo and the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and chances are you'll come across tons of wearable devices. But beyond the basic activity trackers and stylish smartwatches that look like traditional wristwatches will be tons of new wearable gear focused on everything from photography to adventure, fitness tracking, and health monitoring. It will be interesting to see what kinds of new gear comes to market this year to hopefully give the category that kick in the butt it needs. Interestingly, this year will mark a first that Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank will hold a keynote, which is a good indication that the company will be working even more heavily on the tech side of business going forward. Chances are they won't be the only ones among the sporting apparel brands.
7.Fashion smartphone cases
This category seems to make this list every year, and there's good reason. With each season, each passing fashion trend, and each new smartphone device comes the need for a whole new set of cases to protect them. No one in his right mind would drop $1K on a smartphone only to leave it unprotected. This year, we'll see more of the same in terms of themes (fashion, power, wireless power, etc.) but with some refreshed designs and patterning based on seasons and overall fashion trends. Products like the Handl Butt Case show that just when we think there's no more room for innovation, there's plenty more that designers can come up with.
8.The smart home
Part and parcel with the focus on voice control will be an overall focus on smart home devices, from smart lighting to music control and speakers, smart TVs, security cameras, and even appliances. Expect to hear more about various "ecosystems" with products that can work together seamlessly. That's the main issue with the smart home today: interoperability. So now that consumers are aware of the smart home and what it means, they need to find the right ecosystem to meet their needs. Brands like Savant and Control4 will be pushing their systems, while companies like iDevices and platforms like Apple HomeKit and its ecosystem of products, will be focusing on what they can offer for the DIY crowd.
9.Drones, augmented reality, robotics, retail tech
I've categorized these together as somewhat emerging areas that will mark significant space on the show floor, and garner interest from attendees. While things seem to be cooling slightly for the consumer side of the drones market, it's clear there's still a lot of interest in the category, and what it could mean for everything from product delivery to real estate. And of course we can't forget just how darned fun they are to use and watch being flown about!
10. Hi-res audio
Pop over to the Venetian to see (and hear) everything coming in the hi-res audio space. For a consumer-focused show like CES, most of the attention will likely be on products like turntables, high-res headphones, portable DACs, and portable audio players that are bringing hi-res listening to new demographics. It'll be interesting to see what products earn the most hype from the show.
Thanks to Apple's removal of the headphone jack in its iPhone 7, expect to see plenty of Bluetooth headphones and headsets on display at the show, along with adapters that let you continue to use your old wired headphones with the latest Apple smartphone. Truthfully, we can't credit Apple alone with the growth in this category - Bluetooth headphones were a huge part of CES last year as well. But chances are, plenty of manufacturers will be upping the ante this year in order to compete. Keep in mind that we may just see new innovations in wired headphones that come with Lightning cables instead of 3.5mm as well.
12.Baby and kid tech
As every year, CES will have dedicated spaces focusing on baby and kid's tech. It's no surprise: parents are finding gear like video monitors and high-tech swings and car seats invaluable when having kids. And coding toys and smart watches for kids are becoming commonplace as well. As they say, start them young. While some parents feel they should shield their kids from the evil that is technology, the reality is that being able to understand, use, and even create technology will be an important skill for any child going forward. So embrace it. CES certainly will, and we look forward to seeing the innovations in this category.