C-E-S. Three letters that strike dread in the hearts of tech communications professionals around the world. Despite losing many holiday breaks to the need to finalize last-minute show logistics over the years, I actually enjoy and – dare I say look forward to – the Consumer Electronics Show. It provides a fresh, shiny (and sometimes noisy) start to the new year and highlights the latest televisions, appliances, wearables, toys, gadgets and accessories.
This year, I had a break from the show, supporting clients from the office, which gave me an opportunity to follow all the announcements and new products from not only the big names, but also some emerging startups. Here are the key takeaways that are likely to influence technology trends in 2019:
The Year of Voice
CES 2019 saw Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant incorporated into everything from toilets to doggie cams. While Apple and Siri were absent from the show floor, it’s clear that 2019 will be the Year of Voice. According to recent research, 20 percent of American households had a smart speaker in 2018. Amazon continues to have a majority of the market, though Google made many Assistant-related announcements at CES, most notably the availability of Google Assistant Connect, a developer kit designed to make it easier to integrate its voice technology into devices. With analysts forecasting most households will align behind just one smart speaker / voice platform, it’s now a race to lay claim to the remaining 80 percent of U.S. homes with internet access.
Smart Home Security
One of the subthreads of the smart home discussion at CES involved the security risk posed by having so many connected devices in the houses of the average homeowner, who might not necessarily be security savvy. While some vendors are looking at ways to ensure automatic software updates and others at building security in at the core of a device’s hardware, Comcast announced a platform that purportedly ensures the security of all devices with access to one of its gateways or Wi-Fi networks. That’s a great first step, but what’s also needed is a secure way to manage all smart home devices so they can “talk” with each other – for example, enabling your alarm to let your coffee maker and thermostat know you’ll be waking up in 15 minutes and taking the chill out of the house and having a piping hot carafe of joe waiting for you upon waking up.
Smart Health Wearables
According to the Consumer Technology Association (which puts on CES), there were 25 percent more healthcare related companies at the 2019 show than the year before. So while this might not be a new trend, it’s one that is always exhibiting new and innovative solutions to common health challenges. One of the devices that stood out to me was the Oticon Kaizn, AI-enabled hearing aids that not only help amplify conversations but also minimize background noise at, say, popular restaurants and other high volume venues. My stepfather has hearing challenges especially out in noisy public places, and a device like the Kaizn would arguable change not only his experience but his ability to engage with those he’s with.
To be sure, CES is just a week’s worth of technology debuts, and we have a long year ahead to see which of the technologies demonstrated at the show get much traction or see adoption. What’s always clear, however, is the excitement and promise of how technology can impact and improve everyday life.