The International Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, sets the stage for the year ahead. For clients, innovators and media alike, the year’s first major electronics gala provides a read on what will shape and impact the industry over the next dozen months. As we witnessed in 2014, trends emerge and shift quickly. We expect similar for 2015 –perhaps at an even brisker pace. Here are some of our top findings:
China made a huge presence this year, with a remarkable number of exhibitors and attendees. In addition to dozens and dozens of Chinese CE companies and Original Design Manufacturers, the one that stood out the most was the substantial Alibaba booth. Being a first time player at CES, it was surprising to see a number of people toting Alibaba bags and handouts. They were there in a big way.
Asian companies are being taken much more seriously at the CES by media outlets, they’re not there to just give out accessories and peripherals, but some of the most innovating hardware and software that end up making the “best of” lists at the end of the show. On a whole, Asia is now such an important player in the arena that for the first time this year in Shanghai, CES Asia will be launching.
Hardware is back
For years, many innovations in the tech space have lived in the cloud or were tucked behind lines of code in a smartphone app. Creating hardware was expensive, laborious and showed weaker signs of big returns in a market still reeling from the economic downturn of 2008. Largely thanks to advancements in cloud technology and the ease of connecting just about everything, hardware is staging its return to prominence. No longer do we have to squeeze an entire computer into a dashboard to make the infotainment center of a vehicle smarter – drivers are already carrying around potent phones with access to the Web, so all that’s needed is a great user interface and a means to link one’s phone to the dashboard.
That example is being applied in nearly every corner of CES. Gadgets are now more affordable to create, as companies can leave the bulk of the computing to a server situated somewhere else. We can expect a surge in new gadgetry unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years, with Internet connectivity not just as a standard feature, but a necessity for core functionality.
The “Internet of Things (IoT) is taking over every part of our lives
Home appliances, health monitors, smart locks, security systems and even dog collars can now be connected seamlessly to your smartphone. Whether you need to unlock your door for the sitter while on vacation or turn on the heater as you drive home from work, CES has something for you. How do you manage the billions of sensors that are now slowly infiltrating your home? That’s where software comes in. Several companies announced platforms that should help developers and engineers come up with clever new use cases. The IoT may not yet be part of the consumer lexicon, but the concept is off to a good start.
Wearables find their way
From watches to fitness trackers to phone notifiers, CES was dominated by an incredibly small group of products. Small in size, not potential. While a smartphone is arguably the most personal piece of technology a person can own today, companies are grappling with the challenge of creating a successful product that’s even more intimate. Convincing the masses to place technology prominently on their skin is an entirely new paradigm, and 2015 may be the year in which the public votes with its wallets on what’s popular and what’s not.
A virtual reality console may be your next gaming purchase
Virtual reality (VR) is taking advantage of technological advancements to stage a comeback. VR now has support from major capital firms across the globe, and they’re spending billions of dollars on creating new platforms for a wide demographic. There’s no shortage of new hardware in the works, ranging from dedicated systems to simple contraptions that users can plug smartphones into, but none of this would be possible without the underlying code. Gaming companies and developers are eagerly working on new ways to make virtual reality entertaining and functional, and within the next year we’re also going to see new methods of virtual interaction to assist in the workplace.
Accessories are en vogue
Perhaps it’s a sign of a strengthening economy, but the amount of space taken up by accessories on the Las Vegas Convention Center show floor has never been larger. As smartphone proliferation continues, we’re now seeing a market that’s hungry for smartly-designed peripherals to enhance the experience further. This ties directly into a growing demand for absolute personalization. From Bluetooth speakers that double as emergency lanterns to high-end headphones engineered from the same materials used in guitars, accessories are hotter than ever.