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Press kickoff briefings at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) are no stranger to big claims and hyperboles. At the “CES 2019 Trends to Watch” presentation on Monday morning, Steve Koenig, Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA’s) VP of market research, made some pretty big claims about what we should expect to see at the show, but those claims don't seem at all to be hyperbolized.
Early in Koenig's comments, he laid out a timeline. The 2000s were the digital age, the 2010s were the connected age, and the 2020s will be the data age. Koenig then laid out a thesis that “more business decisions are backed by data."
The technology roadmap compiled by the CTA, which Koenig presented, highlighted the following emerging “ingredient" technologies: voice, robotics, biometrics, and blockchain. The technologies—applications, really—moving into the market include digital assistants, AR/VR, vehicle technology, sports innovations, digital health, and resilient technology.
Also, 5G continues to pop up as an infrastructure technology to enable the disruptive possibilities. Koenig called it “the central nervous system of the data age," and quoted Qualcomm EVP Brian Madoff as saying, "The last 30 years were connecting people; the next 30 years will be connecting things."
To make his point, Koenig made this observation: "Think of all the disruptive innovation we've seen with 4G—Uber, social media, and mobile apps of all kinds; 5G will only bring more of that." Koenig told his audience to expect to hear carrier companies provide specifics on 5G deployment plans and schedules. After the presentation, Dan Feinberg, I-Connect007 technical editor and 5G expert, pointed out that 5G isn’t even about phones, “We don’t need 5G for phone calls—4G is more than enough; thus, 5G is about connecting devices with a lot more bandwidth.”
AI technology is just as ubiquitous in the briefings, staking its place as the next layer up from 5G in the protocol stack for the data age. Koenig likened AI to a steam engine (by implication, 5G is the railroad tracks). As AI and machine learning transform business applications and user experiences, Koenig—citing reports from MacKenzie Research—sees AI exerting as much global economic impact as did the steam engine in the mid-19th century.
Layered on top of that, Koenig then turned to digital assistants, observing that adoption of voice-based user interfaces has been so quick as to become table stakes in the consumer spaces already. "Voice is becoming a legitimate option for device interaction and shows that we truly are on the cusp of a major shift in consumer behavior,” Koenig observed. “Expect more human-machine partnerships. We're also learning the limits. There are still many, many things AI and robotics cannot yet do."
At CES, it is widely known that automotive technology has historically been a show within a show. This year is no different. After showing a slide with the stages of vehicle automation:
0. No automation
1. Driver assistance
2. Partial automation
3. Conditional automation
4. High-level automation
5. Full automation
As future mobility technologies roll out including technologies like V2X communications, electric vehicles, and 5G (again), partial automation solutions will improve and proliferate. Koenig posits that autonomous vehicles are rolling out more and more Phase-3 offerings and encountering cultural issues, which has not been without controversy, he points out.
All of this led to the highest level in the stack in Koenig's presentation: resilient technologies.
Smart technologies simply must be resilient if they are to be practical, reliable, adaptable, and multi-configurable.