Shawn Dubravac, CEA’s chief economist, discussed the themes presented in his new book, Digital Destiny, at an event before the CES Unveiled ‘mini show’. He said that there are five ‘pillars’ that form today’s consumer electronics industry: ubiquitious computing; cheap digital storage; connectivity (such as WiFi and Bluetooth); proliferation of digital devices; and the ‘sensorisation’ of tech (primarily in the last seven or eight years, beginning with the use of accelerometers in the iPhone and Wiimote).
Dubravac implied that consumers are now less enamoured with sensors, saying that we used to come to CES to see what was technologically possible; now, we come to see what is technologically meaningful.
The trend to watch at CES this year were named as the digitisation of our physical space; the permeation of logic; the ‘internet of me’; and fragmented innovation.
The first of these trends revolves around the use of sensors in objects, such as surfboards, urinals and clothes; we are digitising information that was already there. However, this is only useful if it influences something in the physical space.
We cannot talk about the digitisation of space without discussing UltraHD TVs, which have seen massive growth over recent years. Market share of these models is expected to grow from 0% in 2013 to more than 40% in 2018 in the US.
Smartwatches are also a good example, with Dubravac asking: does it make sense to digitise your wrist? Companies are experimenting now to try and answer this question. The CEA believes that about 10.8 million smartwatches will be sold this year, with the space dedicated to the products at CES up 400% over the 2014 show.
Moving to the second trend (the permeation of logic), Dubravac talked about how the way that we interact with computers is changing, from punch cards to mice to touch. The ‘evolutionary path’ of the way that computers communicate will be pushed at CES, with – for example – voice commands, especially in the automotive sector. The next step is a more intuitive approach where computers can take information and use it as it is produced (Dubravac called this ‘adaptive customisation’). Self-driving cars are a good example.
Predictive customisation is another example of the evolution of logic. More advanced engines can be used to refine recommendations, such as Netflix tying in to cameras, thermostats and smartwatches to recommend new films that suit your mood and situation.
All of the above comes together to begin to centre around a customised internet for the user, leading to the third trend: the internet of me. When the internet was ‘launched’, everyone largely accessed the same browser and the same information. With the rise of the smartphone, services such as Yelp, which had more personalised recommendations, began to be developed. The internet changed to focus on smaller, more specific pieces of information.
The internet is now moving to its third stage: from 2 billion smartphones to 50 billion connected devices, which will change the way that the internet is used – again.
The fourth trend is fragmented innovation. The CE industry is now seeing very diverse innovation. When digitisation began, innovation focused on objects that were widely owned: TVs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles and so on. Now, digitisation is spreading to devices with much lower levels of adoption, around 30%; last year’s CES saw the introduction of the connected slow cooker!
Dubravac’s big questions for innovation in 2015 are: what will be digitised next? How will connectivity be provided (cellular, Bluetooth, etc)? Where will sensors be embedded and deployed? Finally, what is the use-case scenario?