Principal Consultant, Collaboration / Multimedia / Video / AV
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
A View From The Road Volume 7, Number 1 -2013 International CES
In This Edition:
· Football Fields full of Phone Cases
· The Post-Smartphone Era
· Crowdfunding, Gamification and Content Curation
· Displays and Keynotes
· TeleMedicine set to Explode
· Watches and other Gadgets from the Exhibit Floor
“Thirty-seven football fields of technology and innovation.” That’s how the Consumer Electronics association described the just concluded 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. “International CES” is the title preferred by the CEA, dropping the emphasis on individual consumers. That does make perfect sense though, as the consumerization trends in large enterprises continue to blur the line between what is a consumer technology vs. a professional or enterprise one. I’ve been reporting for years how this trend has made CES the most important conference of the year for enterprise technologists like myself, and now Forbes has reported that their research proves this to be true. This is the largest show that CEA has ever held in its 45+ year history, boasting 1.92 million net square feet of exhibit space. The previous record was 1.86 million net square feet of space at the 2012 International CES. More than 3,250 exhibitors unveiled some 20,000 new products here, drawing more than 150,000 attendees, including more than 35,000 from more than 170 countries outside the United States. While there is no question that the numbers were impressive, it was more like twenty-two football fields of innovation and fifteen football fields of iPhone cases.
There have always been inexpensive (cheapo) accessory companies selling inexpensive (cheapo) phone covers, screen protectors and related accessories at this show. Some of them were fun to look at, but then a savvy attendee moved on to the real exhibitors and the real news. My wake-up call this year is that according to the CEA tablets and smartphones are the ONLY CE product showing positive growth in sales – nearly 50% year over year. There are now more smartphones in the US than there are people. This means that the tech companies – the “real exhibitors” – are the ones struggling, while these bling and aftermarket accessory companies are the winners (at least in terms of sales volume.) And boy, did it ever look that way:
I’d have to say that nearly 40% of the exhibitors on the floor were showing these accessory products. Yes, there are some that are more worthy of mention than others – Drycase.com for one example with finally the perfect solution for carrying your smartphone or tablet to the beach or pool. But my point is that as hardware devices continue to get replaced by apps that run on our smart devices, hardware exhibitors will continue to give way to firms that carry accessories for the only hardware we are really buying in volume – tablets and smartphones. (If you do want to buy one of those dry cases use code CES2013 for a discount.)
Before the exhibit floor officially opened, at the CEA’s State of the Industry Presentation we learned the important themes from CEA’s senior analyst, Shaun DuBravac:
1. We are definitely in the “post Smartphone Era” as mobile connectivity is becoming less about telephones. These devices aren't phones anymore, they're hubs for all our peripheral services. Think about how many things we used to buy as hardware are now just apps (Cameras, GPSs, etc.) Think about how many new hardware products are being introduced that no longer need controls or status displays (moisture sensors, health monitors, tracking devices, etc.) Our smart devices have become our control hubs and viewfinders for all technology we interact with. This is a key insight, as it marks the beginning of the end of the hardware centric industry as it changes to a software centric one. Eventually the smart device and the appropriate peripherals are the only hardware we will be buying.
2. We are also in the age of algorithms. Our devices are connected to “sensors,” and are being supplied with intelligent algorithms to not only report what is happening to us (read the news, deliver an email, etc.) but to understand what that data means. They can provide recommendations, perform optimization, allow for self-driving cars, provide medical advice, etc.
3. The above now allows what is being called Contextual Connectivity. A "smart" device no longer just means that it is connected to the internet and services. It now means that the device can act appropriately based on the data it receives. Instead of getting an alarm that there is water in the basement, a smart monitor can now turn the main pump on, turn a secondary pump on if needed, and then report its actions for follow-up. A wireless headset no longer just sends and receives audio, it reports where you are, if you’re wearing it, what room you’re in, who you want to be able to reach you, etc. Smart devices are now ones that can act appropriately based on context.
4. We’re experiencing the Changing flow of Storytelling. It’s no longer just an email or video chat while we watch events on TV. The new concept of the "Second Screen" is showing that we have become content omnivores – we expect and manage simultaneous feeds of data on multiple screens – playing games, watching programming, monitoring smart devices, absorbing related information, etc. – all simultaneously. Manufacturers and programmers have realized the offerings in this area can be made far richer than what has been available in the past.`
5. Form factors are changing dramatically. With smaller tablets and bigger smartphones no one really knows where one ends and the other begins. PC’s are no longer just clamshell knockoffs – they can be tablets with or without keyboards. The blend and blur is a virtual hardware mashup where the differences have become less obvious. The terms “convertible" and "hybrid" are now not just for our cars but for our shape-shifting PCs and tablets with multiple forms, uses & interfaces. A good example of this was Lenovo’s new “Interpersonal Computer” displayed by Intel.
It’s a tablet that can work on your desk but can be lifted-up and brought to your living room so four people can play a game together.
In addition to those themes, we saw the emergence of a few somewhat obscure industry terms landing squarely in the mainstream at this year’s show. Here are the key ones (with definitions from Wikipedia):
Crowdfunding – (alternately crowd financing, equity crowdfunding, or hyper funding) describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding, movie or free software development, inventions development and scientific research. There were a large number of firms that exhibited at this conference that are getting their start via this relatively new process (recently mentioned in the New York Times.) One example is Tetherboard, who showed their Tethercell battery that talks to your smart device.
With it you’d know how much your batteries are charged, when they are near end of life, etc. They’re using IndieGoGo for their crowdfunding. Another example shown at CES is The Pebble E-paper watch which used Kickstarter. Through these processes everyday people can become angel investors in projects and receive perks and privileges that rise along with the monies promised. (I think I get to play a Klingon on a new Star Trek production because of my support for it on Kickstarter.)
Gamification - is the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning. Essentially, it is a marketing methodology for getting people to learn something or do something in a specific way by making the process of learning it like a game.
Firms such as Bunchball and ParWinr are active in this field. At This year’s exhibition we saw the entire gamification community bright with glee because Ford Motor’s formerly closed AppLink service has been opened for all iOS and Android developers to create apps that will be able to speak to a number of the car’s services. This could mean gamification software could assist with making good driving habits rewardable with points or perks the drivers earn. Imagine getting 10% off your next purchase at Starbucks for driving under the speed limit for a whole month. Just wait till this trend and process spreads throughout the marketing we’re exposed to and we experience the power of positive reinforcement on changes in consumer’s behavior.
Content Curation – (This one is so new it’s not even in Wikipedia) It is the process of gathering rich media content, sorting it, applying algorithms against it, and making it available on-demand to consumers who often don’t even realize their likes and dislikes are tracked and stored. It is how your TV set or smart device is now or will soon “suggest programs you would like” and then make them available to you.
Rambus’ Imerz platform is a great example of this, as they have supplied the logic to many manufacturers, and are now working on a direct to consumer app.
would a CES conference be without extensive discussion about the latest in TV
displays and their related services and features. This year was of course no exception (though
I personally preferred Albert
Brooks’ tweet on the subject: “Hey CES: Watch
some actual TV before you make them any bigger.
As far as trends in this space are concerned, 3D was sort of an afterthought – with plenty of it to see, but few if any discussions that it is the next big thing anymore – acknowledging that most consumers didn’t care. “4K” or as the CEA has named it “Ultra HD” was the main talking point. While TV at that resolution is very nice, there is little if any content available at that resolution, and no transmission to home services that can carry it at this point. At their press conference Sony announced they would launch a 4K content distribution to home service this summer.
While that was nice to hear and would be a much needed boost to the UHD display market, no one at Sony’s booth (or any of my friends who work at Sony) could find any of the details of this announcement or what is planned. It is certainly possible that no work has been done on the project beyond agreeing to announce it. Hopefully some details will be ironed-out and explained shortly.
LG and Samsung displayed visually stunning yet conflicting products / announcements, each claiming to have the World’s First Curved OLED displays.
Clearly they both couldn’t be right (and from the awesome looks and paper-thinness of it the LG product seemed further along.) For their part, Samsung said their units “provide an IMAX feel.” Immersive telepresence is an obvious, immediate use-case for these systems when they are available – supposedly mid-year this year. Samsung also showed a new, 3D, OLED display with Dual-View capabilities. Two people can be watching two different programs on the same display simultaneously. Their electronic shutter glasses carry audio from their chosen program, allowing for a whole new family viewing experience. Think cuddling with your sweetheart in front of the TV, with one of you watching a chick-flick, and the other a football game – both in HD.
Sharp, in this year’s first moment, showed an 8K display.
What about it was drawing the huge crowd? Well….8K is twice as good as 4K, right? It was a bold move for a firm that has been having its difficulties recently, but with no native content even available for 4K displays at this time one has to wonder what they are thinking. Also, what will the industry call that - "SUPER, Ultra HD?” (Wow, a Spinal Tap and Wile Coyote reference in one product – the Muse of writers have blessed me.)
Panasonic finally announced that they will have 16 models of LCD TVs coming out, but in this year’s “they still didn’t get the memo” moment these will be alongside 16 plasma models they still refuse to part with. On the bright side for them, they showed a new “My Home Screen” central control system that uses the front mounted videoconferencing camera to identify the user and show his or her personalized content and control layout. With both a pen for annotation and “shopping by remote” they really beefed-up their features this year.
Speaking of Panasonic, both they and IBM announced that they have joined the SmartTV Alliance, bringing that group up to 11 members. The Alliance held a press conference where their president, Richard Choi of LG, announced that they have settled on HTML5 as the universal platform that all member firms will use to create and distribute content for their apps.
They are hopeful that more industry participants will join them so that all manufacturers can leverage the same library of content and applications much more easily than today. Their new slogan is “Build Once, Run Everywhere. I personally hope this catches on with all the manufacturers as it would accelerate the inclusion of compatible smart features in displays, and also accelerate the adoption due to standardization in product function and content.
As in CES’ past, there were a number of keynote addresses to enlighten the attendees on what firms who can afford to buy the speaking slots are thinking. Some highlights include:
· Microsoft’s CEO Steve Balmer (just one year after deciding to give up speaking and exhibiting at CES) making a cameo appearance during Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs' keynote address. Ballmer spoke about Microsoft's new Windows RT and Windows 8 Phone products. He called them "stunning" additions to Microsoft's line-up. He also showed off two of the newest Windows RT devices, the Samsung ATIV and Dell XPS. Both are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors. Steve Balmer’s appearance was just one interesting part of what one reporter called Qualcomm’s “circus of absurdity”
· Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam spoke about the future of mobile wireless technology and the wider tech industry. Some of his key points were that “Cloud computing is the third wave of the digital revolution” and that over half of all mobile traffic this year will be video.
· Samsung’s President Dr. Stephen Woo presented his ideas on mobility, processors, their new Youm flexible OLEDs (do watch the linked video – amazing!), and then introduced former President Clinton.
Clinton spoke about the benefit of technology to the world’s population, and on how he missed driving (as presidents are never allowed to do so).
· Not at a keynote but rather at his press conference, I thought it important to highlight that Netgear’s CEO Patrick Lo stated "Every single electric device in the home will be connected to the Internet" by the end of this year (for early adopters.) Think about that.
One of the key emerging technologies this year was Telemedicine and Digital Health Technology. This represented a wide space of ideas from gadgets – like Fitbit, Withings and BodyMedia – to full Telemedicine suites from such firms as HealthSpot (with their remote doctor diagnostic kiosk) and GrandCare (with remote health monitoring for the elderly and homebound.)
This is an absolutely exploding space – including such technologies as videoconferencing, remote diagnostics, life sensors and lifestyle applications. Concurrent with the CES conference, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made an announcement that The FCC would create a $400 million US annual budget to support telemedicine because of all of the advantages it can provide for rural medical care. After years of promise look for telemedicine initiatives to finally take-off.
Just like your smartphone is not primarily used for phone calls anymore, watches are transforming into body sensors and tethered extensions of your smartphones to help you manage your connected life. The Crowdfunded Pebble (as I mentioned above) was also very popular at the show.
As with any CES there were a whole lot of gadgets and new devices on display. I’m not even attempting to discuss most of them. Places like CNET, Mashable, The Verge and USA Today can provide you with much better coverage of the latest “best in show” gamepad and celebrity sighting. The list below is of items I found interesting to the AV, Collaboration, Multimedia, Unified Communications and Video spaces:
Casio Signage - This is now the second generation of the virtual, projected assistant they showed last year, but now in a short-throw, tabletop, touch sensitive version.
It utilizes a combination LASER and LED based DLP engine that reaches about 2500 lumens. The use-cases are almost endless.
Huawei Ascend Mate - Helping lead to a new colloquial term combining the phone and tablet to make a “Phablet,” here it is shown next to my business card for some perspective.
Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? Is it a PHABLET? You decide.
Facecake Digital Signage – Bringing gesture control to the point of sale:
Here is a model trying-on virtual dresses. The use cases – especially at point of sale opportunities – are very exciting.
Kingston MobileLite – The next generation of their popular Wi-Drive
This is a wireless hotspot with removable media – so now every iOS device can has a real USB and SD slot for everyday use. Kingston gave out beta versions for final evaluation before they take it to market.
Samsung gets it right – Here is a picture of a new Samsung display that is correctly identified as using an HEVC codec:
It was nice not seeing H.265 when there is no H.265 yet.
Vivitek Quad Display – This projector company was showing a pretty unique image:
They had four ultra short throw projectors automatically edge blending to make one large image. This application will have some uses.
Plantronics Voyager Legend UC – Their latest, top of the line headset now available in a UC version.
It comes with a USB/Bluetooth dongle and a charging case that can recharge it a few times. With voice control, “find-me” applets, seven hours of stand-by, hard switches for power and volume and a really great, comfortable, intuitive design this is a real winner.
Invoxia iPad Dock – This AudiOffice version adding to last year’s iPhone dock turned office phone.
It is the perfect desk phone for those power users that make video calls on their tablet. It adds a handset and a speakerphone base, rivaling any low-end appliance for videoconferencing.
Finally, I wanted to acknowledge the CEA for doing a much better job with the logistics than in years past. The mobile phone coverage and press/analyst Wi-Fi were excellent, making the difficult job of covering this event that much easier. I’m also very appreciative for being honored as a CES Innovations Judge again this year. It is great to get to see the latest and greatest in electronics as it comes out.
That’s it for this edition of A View From The Road. Look for the next one from Enterprise Connect in March. Or, better yet, come join us in Orlando. If you’re attending, send me an email if you’d like to meet and chat about the state of the industry (or to find out how a sharp consultant can help you with your strategy or operations ;~) In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Twitter (Http://twitter.com/@NJDavidD) for industry news as I hear about it. I promise to keep the tweets to a minimum - only when the news is of great interest. I’ll let Twitter’s actors and comedians (like Mr. Brooks above) comment on life’s situations – they do quite well without me.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over 30 years of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He recently joined Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info.