Last week, we published our own list of tech trends that we predicted would be hot topics at this year's CES. Today, on the eve of Press Day for the show, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) held a presentation called Tech Trends to Watch, summarizing data from its latest Sales and Forecasts, and providing insight on what's to come.
The presenters - Steve Koenig, Vice President of Market Research, Ben Arnold, Senior Director of Innovations and Trends, and Lesley Rohrbaugh, Director, Market Research - highlighted 10 key areas of consumer tech that will shape 2019 and beyond. They divided them into three core categories: ingredients, like voice computing and artificial intelligence; Consumers, relating to digital privacy and security; and In the Market, including digital assistants, AR/VR, and vehicle tech. At the heart of each is data, as Koenig noted that we're approaching "the data age of consumer technology."
The first major area of consumer tech for 2019 is 5G technology, of which we've already seen the first commercial deployments. 5G, says Arnold, will impact every sector of the consumer technology industry. Quoting Qualcomm's Executive Vice President Brian Modoff, they noted that we "spent the last 30 years connecting people," and that we will spend "the next 30 years connecting things." With expectations to see widespread 5G networks by 2020, the presenters highlighted some carriers around the world that are already working on next-generation networks, including Shaw and Rogers in Canada.
The second key focal point is the smart home, with interoperability and intelligence coming together to create greater awareness, adoption, and interest among consumers. In addition to new product categories, we're seeing established ones get smarter. Security cameras, for example, can not only tell you that someone is at the door, but also distinguish between the dog walker and a delivery person.
Next is artificial intelligence (AI), which is at the heart of almost every technology product today, and involves everything from processors and chips to digital assistants. There are three themed we're seeing in AI, says Rohrbaugh: digital assistants are going into everything; support for digital assistants has become table stakes; and voice is quickly becoming the "go to" interface. There are simply more vessels through which digital assistant "genies," be it Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or something else, can work. Alexa, they note, now has close to 60,000 skills and 20,000 compatible devices. Consumer behaviour varies in terms of how they're using them, but according to recent U.S. CTA data, the top use is to ask questions and conduct general interest searches (63%), followed by checking the weather (58%), and listening to music/radio/podcasts (50%).
While there wasn't much said on the topic, the trio did suggest that 2019 could very well be the year for the smart home appliance. Indeed, a trip to the CES Unveiled press event that took place just after the presentation showcased a variety of smart appliances, both large and small. And several companies have plans to debut high-end appliances with smart features built-in.
In TVs, the big news, as we predicted, is 8K, with companies like Samsung revealing new 8K displays at the show. The CTA predicts that 200,000 4K UHD TVs will ship this year, growing to 500,000 units next year, and up to an impressive 1.5 million by 2022. CTA also anticipated that 8K content, which will be necessary to drive adoption of 8K TVs, will follow a similar path as 4K. That means content will be released slowly and surely. But early adopter consumers will look to get their hands on 8K TVs as soon as they can, just as they did with 4K, and even HD when it was first announced.
Virtual reality (VR) technology continues to grow, finding applications in both the consumer and commercial spaces, with everything from affordable cardboard goggles, to more sophisticated systems. This is yet another category that will be driven by applications. But it's also one that's innovating beyond the standard VR headset and hand controllers. A new Teslasuit thermal controlled suit offers a full body haptic experience through motion capture. "So if you're playing Red Dead Redemption, and someone punches you in the stomach," notes Arnold, "you'll feel it." OK, so maybe this is a bit too real. But there are certainly interesting ways to use such technology.
Along with virtual reality is augmented reality (AR) tech, which now includes some really compelling offerings, like glasses and smart mirrors. The technology is finding its way into retail, sports, and even education through historic sites and museums, helping consumers get a better visual understanding of how historic sites really looked way back when. Bose has also launched an immersive audio experience to work alongside the visual with its Audio AR, which adds another dimension to the experience.
Car tech is an even bigger part of the show than ever before, taking over the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. "CES is becoming one of the most important automotive shows in the world," said the three. Self-driving technology, from basic driver assistance to full-on automation, gets high marks for having the most "wow" factor, and we'll see options from several car manufacturers, along with services like Waymo's robotaxi. But there are innovations beyond that, too, from improved audio and connectivity systems, to electric vehicles.
The explosion in the digital health category might be driven by an aging population, or just greater recognition of how technology can help us detect, prevent, and better monitor our health and wellness, including our sleep. It isn't just about wearables, either. It's about devices that allow for patient monitoring and therapeutics, and finding ways that patients can talk to doctors in real-time, and send data to them on an ongoing basis. Wearables, however, are still a core part of the category. But they, too, are evolving. Omron, for example, will be debuting a blood pressure monitor wearable.
Finally, new this year, CTA will be highlighting a category it calls Resilient Tech, including devices that can help you in case of an emergency, like a natural disaster or attack, and other dire situations. GoSun, for example, is debuting a solar-powered oven that can be used in case of emergency, abut also at the campsite or beach, letting you cook full meals powered only by the sun.
So automation and data are at the heart of every type of tech innovation for 2019. But as much as we want to say the sky's the limit, there are also concerns. At the top of this list is privacy and security. But there are also concerns relating to how far we can actually take things like automation, and what customers really want. As an example, the presenters note Domino's Pizza's self-driving delivery vehicles. Sure, the restaurant was able to leverage the technology to get the pizzas to customers on time and in good order, without having to send an employee out. But customers didn't want to have to walk outside to grab the pie from the car!
So it's not just about jumping aboard the latest tech, but also using it in a way that will be valuable for the customer. An example was provided of a television news program that leveraged AI intelligence to offer more accurate and real-time closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
It's clear there's lots to look forward to at the show. CES 2019 officially kicks off on Tuesday, January 8. But stayed tuned for our reports from Press Day tomorrow, and follow us on social media for live updates.
Lesley Rohrbaugh, Director, Market Research and Ben Arnold, Senior Director of Innovations and Trends, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)