CES Kicks Off With Biometrics, Smart TVs And Car Stuff

The weeklong International Consumer Electronics Show powers on in Las Vegas this morning with a preview for the media and the kick-off of the extravaganza’s conference and keynote series. The exhibits — space is sold out — will open to the public tomorrow.

Even without tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft present, the show remains a vital throwback cog in the marketing machinery of the high-tech industry. It remains relevant by emphasizing the global nature of the exhibition and by constantly reinventing itself, as Don Clark reveals in the Wall Street Journal.

“The show, which has been running since 1967, grew up around devices like television sets and stereos sold by distributors and retailers,” Clark writes. “But it has continually morphed to add new classes of products and companies that don't fit the classic consumer-electronics description.”

Clark cites the exhibits of automakers such BMW, Ford, Audi GM's Chevrolet touting advances in in-vehicle electronics “and, in some cases, demonstrat[ing] self-driving cars” as well as “sectors such as 3-D printing, mobile apps, health-related gadgets, technology startups and the virtual currency bitcoin.”

Not that there won’t be plenty of televisions — as well as devices that plays nicely with them, from set-top boxes such as Roku to stereophonic sound bars, over-the-air DVRs and new wireless audio products, as CNET’s Matthew Moskovciak previews ahead of today’s preview.

TVs have been attempting to break out of the box by getting smarter for several years now and with consumers already invested in the large screens in their home and increasingly turning towards tablets to watch the plethora of full-length programming available to them (not to mention short snippets via YouTube and the like), manufacturers are focusing more on Internet connectivity and apps than bigger and better screens and sound systems, as Brian X. Chen and Nick Wingfield focus on in their preview for the New York Times.

“Over all, in the year that ended in November, TV makers sold $15.5 billion worth of sets in the United States in 2013, down about 4% from the same period in 2012, according to NPD,” they report. “Worldwide, manufacturers shipped 155.4 million television sets in the first three quarters of 2013, down about 3.6% from the same period in 2012, according to NPD DisplaySearch.”

Raymond M. Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, tells Chen and Wingfield that “the TV industry is in a doldrum because many people have more sources for their content, and many people have upgraded and they’re not ready to upgrade again.” 

That’s not stopping Samsung from introducing a high-end 105-inch Ultra HD TV with a curved display that cuts down on glare but, tellingly, more than three-quarters of its new models will be of the smart variety.

Writing from a metro area where the National Security Agency is awash with the personal data of “hundreds of millions of people” from around the world, as a New York Times editorial about Edward Snowden put it the other day, the Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang reports on the debut of all sorts of new biometric tools that are coming on the market. 

They include “tablets that measure pupil dilation to determine whether you’re in the mood to watch a horror movie or a comedy,” as well as “headbands, socks and bras that analyze brain waves, heart rates and sweat levels to help detect early signs of disease or gauge a wearer’s level of concentration” and “cars that recognize their owner’s voice to start engines and direct turns and stops, all hands-free.”

The “digitization of everyday objects,” as the CES’ chief economist calls the trend, “raise[s] fresh questions about privacy,” as the national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center puts it.

Stayed tuned, because all sorts of organizations are doing it for, and to, you. But Kang reports that Fast Identity Online (FIDO), an alliance of technology firms that includes Google, Lenovo and BlackBerry, will announce new technological standards for biometrics at the show.

Other wearable electronics will be news, too.

“Wearables have a good chance of being the story at the show this year,” John Curran, managing director for communications, media and technology at Accenture tells the WSJ’s Clark. “It's a category that is rapidly growing in terms of consumer sentiment and interest to buy.”

You won’t be seeing Lady Gaga in Volantis, the world's first flying dress, we are informed, but Kelsey Pommer’s rundown on category exhibitors in the CES’ official blog includes a helpful infographic of some of the devices, from that old standby Google Glass to “smart bra” to an Electric Guitar Bag (“Strum the pattern on your bag and hear your riffs”). Speaking of privacy: Unless you’re Eric Clapton, just not on the subway, please.

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1 comment about "CES Kicks Off With Biometrics, Smart TVs And Car Stuff".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , January 6, 2014 at 9:50 a.m.
    Entitled, "You Will Be Tracked" or "You Will Be Monitored" or "You Will Be Controlled" . We think we have choices. Joke of the century.