CES 2019 Trends and Takeaways
With CES 2019 now over and Vegas returning to its normal level of craziness, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the new tech product announcements and reveals. Rather than running through individual products of note, I prefer to take a step back and look at the broader trends in evidence on the show floor. Here are 5 trends from CES pointing to what’s in store for tech in 2019.
1. Convergence of Tech Categories
The biggest trend by far was the convergence of multiple technologies to enhance product categories that have been around for several years. AI technology, sensors, and microelectronic components have matured to the point where drones, robots, and personal mobility vehicles are merging into one large category. A huge number of “smart life” devices are now featuring advanced sensors and AI-powered backends that blur the lines between fitness, home, and assistance. This all points to continued convergence of technologies in 2019 aimed at building a “tech behind the curtains” future where interactions with devices and platforms are seamlessly enabled by multiple technologies working in concert.
2. Everything Connected
With continuing increases in transmitter and antenna efficiency and advancements in communication protocols, more devices than ever before tout themselves as “connected”. And this is before 5G starts hitting the market in a big way later this year with large expected improvements in latency and power usage. From sinks to cities, “connected” has now become the default state for the world of technology with the remaining challenges being interoperability and how to make sense of all the data these devices generate. Expect to see even more “dumb” devices launch connected versions in 2019, or at least have connectivity options. However, from the consumer side there’s still room to improve usability and general interface friendliness.
3. “Smart” Components
A huge number of sensors, components, and full devices at CES featured on-board or cloud-based “smart” features. In many cases these features were backed by artificial intelligence algorithms, enabling sometimes-creepy capabilities for analysis, movement, and prediction. As the tools backing these capabilities grow cheaper and easier to use, 2019 will see many products moving beyond merely connected and into “smart” territory with biometrics, analytics, and life tracking features built in. Integrating these features across multiple devices is also enabling new lifestyle improvement plays such as stress reduction and mood-responsive behaviors. Expect “smart” devices to start actually being capable rather than gimmicky as the tech improves.
Robots have been at CES for a long time, but the integration of Machine Learning-based Computer Vision and 3rd party voice assistants is pushing them closer than ever to actual practicality. While none of the robots on display were of “I need this now” quality, the breadth of companies now creating “ok that’s pretty cool” level companions, helpers, and tools points to a robotic future in the 2020s. From trainable robotic arms for repetitive tasks to Alexa-enabled mobile companions and gecko-like window washer units, the robotics space is heating up and promises to address a variety of needs with surprising acuity. Look for announcements in 2019 about robots intended to make it out of niche commercial applications (like warehouses) and into homes and offices.
5. Autonomous Mobility
Even though an entire hall at CES 2019 was devoted specifically to automotive technology, vehicle concepts and mobility solutions still spilled over into just about every part of the show floor. It was quite obvious to attendees that mobility is a huge topic of interest and investment for a large number of companies. And thanks to decreasing costs of advanced sensors and processing components, autonomous and semi-autonomous features are front and center in mobility product demos. From mobile workspaces the size of large golf carts to autonomous snack carts, the clear trend is toward electric mobility vehicles with advanced assistance built in. Despite the autonomous car setbacks from the last year, the electric and autonomous mobility space is heating up in a big way in response to urban customer demand for traditional car alternatives. Look for a continuation of big trends in this space across multiple countries in 2019.