Commentary

CES 2019: Into The Data Age Of Consumer Tech

What makes CES 2019 stand out is we’re finally seeing many key technology trends become reality. For example, in recent months we’ve witnessed the initial commercial deployments of 5G (from Verizon and AT&T) and self-driving vehicles (from Waymo) in the U.S. This activity heralds the imminent arrival of the next age in consumer technology: the data age.  And at CES 2019, Verizon’s Hans Vestberg, AT&T Communications’ John Donovan and Waymo’s John Krafcik all will be on the CES keynote stage.

CES 2019 will teach us much more about trends in 5G and put them in a global context. And keynoters IBM and AMD will highlight new technologies like quantum computing, which represents the salient of "data age" innovation.

As we look across the show floor, data is the common denominator. Technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors are working together, or overlapping, to create altogether new experiences. Suddenly, we’re confronted with a new ‘IoT’ – the Intelligence of Things.

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5G is the network that will power the data age through advancements in speed, capacity and latency. In 2019, expect to see many other 5G networks deploy around the world alongside existing 4G LTE networks. While it will take a few years for 5G to fully blossom, this key ingredient technology will begin to bud at CES 2019.

CES will showcase the entire ecosystem of 5G. On the technical side, carriers around the world will show how to make use of mmWave spectrum, beam-forming and steerable antennas. On the device front we can expect to see more fixed wireless broadband solutions and a first look at some 5G mobile handsets, which will begin shipping in limited volumes in the U.S. soon. Shipments will ramp quickly in the coming years and by 2022, roughly three in four smartphones shipping in the U.S. market will be 5G enabled.

Another key ingredient technology of the coming data age is artificial intelligence. And like 5G, CES 2019 will showcase the whole ecosystem of AI across B2C and B2B domains. New and advanced processor and chip architectures will demonstrate the brains of AI and we’ll see AI chips embedded in more devices to expand functionality and also enhance the user experience. Before long, settings like ‘night mode’ for photography, or ‘bright mode’ on TVs will become a thing of the past, as AI-enabled devices automatically calibrate themselves in real time based on use cases and environment.

CES 2019 will also be a mecca of machine learning, with applications for businesses and consumers alike. Predictive analytics and automation are examples, but machine learning is also becoming more widely used in services to improve user experiences. This translates to more convenience and enjoyment for consumers, especially where content like audio or video is concerned.

Perhaps the most visible application of AI will be in digital assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby. For many consumers, digital assistants are already becoming indispensable virtual companions. An August 2018 CTA survey of U.S. online adults using digital assistants revealed two key insights: consumers are employing digital assistants for many things (e.g., listening to music, controlling smart home devices, or voice-shopping) and many of these activities normally require using an app or visiting a website. We’re seeing the beginning of a behavioral shift, powered by AI with voice as the human-machine interface and this is opening up V-commerce, the fourth retail channel.

As digital assistants occupy more ‘vessels’ from devices to cars, and as more brands and services support them, these invisible helpers are quickly becoming omnipresent. It’s a dynamic routine in the coming data age, but one we can readily observe.

New ways of accomplishing old tasks are emblematic of the coming data age and one of the most tangible means of this is through augmented and virtual reality. The theme here is all about use cases, from brand marketing and shopping to medicine and manufacturing.

At CES 2019, gaming exhibits and programming will highlight innovations that go beyond ‘game-changing’ and bring us another step closer to the experiences described in Ernest Cline’s epic novel Ready Player One. Expect new advances in AR/VR headsets like ThirdEye Gen X1, haptic clothing from Teslasuit, and next-gen controllers such as Sensel. And the Gamespot eSports truck will feature gaming kiosks for professional gamers and attendees to showcase their skills in Mario Kart and the newly released Super Smash Brothers.

Another key theme is vehicle tech, as the future of mobility moves into the fast lane. This year, expect more commercial deployments of self-driving vehicles in different countries around. For now, most of these initial services will be limited to denser urban areas. But we’ll also see automated driver assistance systems switch into high gear as level three systems become available from some vehicle makers. Level three means ‘conditional automation’ where the car can drive itself at least part of the time.

We can feel the data age of consumer technology at hand as trends become reality through innovative experiences, business models and more on display.

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