David J. Danto
Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
View From The Road Volume 8, Number 1 – The 2014 International CES
In This Edition:
Curved Is The New Flat
Machete-ing Down The Unimportant
Cisco And Smart Cities
Picking Up The Curve
My Best Of CES Highlights
“Curved is the new flat.” Make sure you
understand that clearly if anyone asks, as you wouldn't want to Michael Bay it on your answer.
No, I'm not writing in a new urban slang, but rather making sure that you
understand the key takeaways from the just concluded 2014 International CES
show. This is the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas by techies and geeks,
manufacturers and buyers, press and industry analysts, and CEOs and
celebrities. It represents a once a year quest to find the newest and
best in technology.
This year’s grand technology stage didn't disappoint, with plenty of
emerging trends and admirable new gadgets. However, as in any quest
through the jungle, one has to machete down a lot of unimportant brush to get
to the hidden jewels. Let's start this report with some of that brush -
thick and everywhere, pretending to be important but in reality just blocking
you from the real prizes.
There was a huge amount of interest in the automotive space this year.
Not CES' traditional aftermarket device firms, but rather, most of the
major auto manufacturers were on-site with huge displays and keynote
presentations. There were some innovative announcements and concept
demonstrations - particularly in the areas of sustainability and
autonomous vehicle control or “piloted driving”- and as the auto space is not
my area of focus I won't spend much time on them other than to say there was a
lot more bun than meat here. If after hyping "groundbreaking,
earth-shattering" innovations for weeks before the show, the best an auto
manufacturer can do is show us an embedded android tablet then it really
doesn't deserve to be touted as any more important than a newfangled cup
holder. If a firm tells us (in multiple, email account clogging messages)
that it's going to announce huge "innovations in automobile
technology" I'm expecting a car that flies itself up to my second floor to
pick me up for a drive, or one that can run a month on a quart of water.
Those would be huge innovations. Putting Android in the car is
more like that little "objects are
closer than they appear" sticky mirror disk on a car's side mirror –
it’s a nice improvement but they don’t win any awards for it. It's not a
connected car if it just serves as another smartphone when you already have
your real smartphone with you anyway.
While there is no doubt that connected cars, connected devices, sensors and
the Internet of Everything is a
critical new trend (which I’ll get back to), that doesn't mean we need dozens
of firms making cheap "smart watches" and eyeglass based viewers.
This year you couldn't spit on the exhibit floor without hitting some
unknown company’s smart watch and/or wearable sensor device.
Remember how a little while after the iPod’s release hundreds of exhibitors
had their own knock-off MP3 / media players in all colors shapes and sizes?
That’s what the wearable device market turned-into at this year’s show.
No real value that might exist in any of them was able to escape the
noise level that’s been created. How good will you feel about your new
Pebble, Fit Bit or Galaxy when the kid down the street from you just bought
something very much like it at a 99 cents store? I think the best advice
here is to wait for the pendulum to swing back a little again before anyone
thinks seriously about purchasing any of these.
As I Tweeted, “there are more smartwatches in Las Vegas this morning
than Slot Machines. Welcome to the phase
of the ‘me-too’ knockoff.”
Where there is real value in smart connections today - to a potential of
$19 trillion - is where professional and enterprise grade sensors are connected
to a smart city. Think of your garbage can sending a signal when it's
full to be picked-up (then and not before), or streetlights as part of a
network that glow dimly but get bright as people or cars pass near neighboring
ones. These are just a few examples of the Internet of Everything that
Cisco CEO John Chambers talked about in his Tech Titan keynote address.
It was interesting watching Mr. Chambers speak and present, as it was very
different than presentations of his I’ve attended in the past. Rather than
being a technology pitchman with bits, bytes and charts with statistics, he
presented himself as an excited "smart future" evangelist. He
described not only the potential savings of those smart city sensors, but the
enormous revenue opportunity that their implementation represents. He made
the bold statement that all of this smart connectivity will begin to converge
in this year - 2014. He clearly seemed energized - as a person with the
proverbial light bulb over his head, encouraging the audience to see the same
vision he does. (Here’s a picture of me
taking the far right picture above as Mr. Chambers takes his traditional
strolls through the audience to connect with those present as he explains his
His keynote began with a funny
video and in person appearance from comedienne Sarah Silverman (and most of
us in the audience were grateful it was Sarah and not Ellen Page with another UMI disaster.)
His on-stage guests also included the deputy mayor of Barcelona - a
city that has successfully implemented some of these smart changes he
discussed, and Jim Grubb, Cisco’s Chief Demonstration Officer, showing off the
Snowflake version of their perennial CES topic - Videoscape. Watch the
entire keynote (minus Sarah Silverman’s part) here. (They must have removed her either because
she made fun of Movie
Director Michael Bay’s earlier gaffe at this CES, or because they were not
fond of her comment “you’ve
got balls Chambers.” Those of us in
the tech industry already knew that anyway.)
Mr. Chambers’ curveball in evangelizing the future and not talking-tech was
just one of the many curves of this CES.
The most obvious of these curves was the new large display format of
Samsung, LG and others.
Curved HD and UHD displays were the hit of the show. Remember how tube TVs were considered gauche
when the first plasma flat displays came out?
That’s how I believe flat displays will soon be seen when these curved
displays begin their trek up the adoption curve. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, the
curved displays I spent time examining looked outstanding – even from the most
extreme angle – where the curve actually helps the image look better. Samsung had some outstanding units in this
space, including one with an ultra, cinema-wide aspect ratio of 21x9, and other
units that could curve or go back to flat at
the push of a button. I predict
“curved is the new flat,” will be the industry mantra, as every manufacturer
begins to jump on this bandwagon for next year. Samsung also showed some excellent
innovations in 8K display (which they dubbed quad-UHD or QUHD) and voice
control of displays. (Much thanks to Samsung’s Scott Cohen
who stepped in to give me the tour when their PR firm FleishmanHillard dropped the ball.)
I chatted with ClearViewAudio’s VP of Marketing, Gene D’Ovidio, who
explained that the patented technology behind the device is brand new – using
“edge-exciters” to have the clear pane of Plexiglas recreate the waves. It has far more applications than just a
gorgeous 360 degree stereo speaker for home systems, including the embedding of
this system in the actual display glass (which the display manufacturers
stupidly snubbed as an added expense) and any number of enterprise
applications. Gene and I informally
tested it at the show to see if it would work as a teleconference speaker and
our results were promising. Keep an eye
on this one.
There were also curved Smartphones (curved along the vertical axis) from LG
and Samsung, but the jury is still out on those. I like this
interview of a Samsung Galaxy Round millennial tester who explains that the
curved devices are more comfortable to hold, but hints that the claim that they
are more comfortable to talk on is stretching it but irrelevant because “who
talks on phones anymore.”
Every year people always ask me what the big trends are from CES. I’ve come to the conclusion that for the most
part there are no big trends, just a lot of small ones. So here’s a list of the 2014 International
CES Trendlets as I saw them:
Curved is the new flat. (as above)
The Internet of Everything. (as above)
Native 4K content for Ultra HD TV displays (UHD-TV)
will come over the internet. A few years ago the concern was that masses of
people would stop buying / watching big, room type TVs and instead view their
content on PCs and tablets. At this
year’s CES that sentiment has changed.
No one is openly saying it, but that fear has given way to the opinion
that people will still buy their TVs but the content on them will come from the
web (using a set-top box or embedded smart application.) Do you still think Amazon Prime video or
Netflix is a bad idea? No one else does
either. If I were a broadcaster or MSO,
this development and the continued legal successes of Aereo (now poised
to be in front of the SCOTUS) would probably be making me very nervous just
about now. Get ready for one of those Black Swans.
Consumerization of the enterprise is now mainstream. With every device from smartphone
manufacturers now including obvious enterprise features (despite any IT
Security objections) and with the dozens of internet file sharing applications
banned by firms but in wide use at them anyway, it’s clear that obstructionist
IT policies have failed to prevent progress and innovation. I had a great
chat with Jurgen Kurz – CEO of Nero –
about how his firm is reacting to the new mainstream consumerization. Nero still makes a fabulous suite of
multimedia tools and will continue to do so, but he doesn’t see this as his
firm’s best opportunity going forward.
He and I agreed that the lines between consumers, SMBs and Enterprise
users are getting blurrier all the time.
His firm’s new, flagship product, Nero
BackItUp is a combination software product and service, meant to enable
powerful back-ups of all kinds of digital files, and their easy distribution
amongst all a user’s devices. What makes
Nero unique in this space is that users can perform these tasks any way they
want from any device they wish. Want to
use unlimited cloud storage? That is available.
Want to do all your back-ups to a local NAS or server? That’s supported
too. And if you want some combination
(back up some files to NAS…others to cloud…back up your NAS to the
cloud…retrieve a PC or Mac file from your smartphone…back up your tablet or
phablet files and view them on each other or on your PCs – all that is
available in any combination. It is
certainly a different direction for Nero, but one that offers some real
productivity assistance. This is not
only applicable to individual end-users but is clearly set-up to follow a path
to users in SMBs and onto those in larger enterprises. Why would an organization’s individual line
of business leaders pay tons more for the usually inflexible options their IT
teams may offer?
Technology improvements inherently reduce privacy. This is a scary but obvious conclusion
reached during the Q&A at Shawn
DuBravac’s (CEA’s Senior Analyst) State of Consumer Technology presentation
just before the expo opened. With social
media, ubiquitous connectivity, everything else about us on the net, and the
clear efforts in government interception, we are returning to society like it
was centuries ago. Everyone in our
“village” knows everything about us and we have no secrets from our neighbors
(or our governments.)
3D TV is dead. I saw seven firms showing “glasses-free” 3D
TVs. 1) Each one looked something like
the Fischer Price Toy below. 2) Nobody
TVs have “smart” controls now. The firm (insert
any TV manufacturer name) explained how they have created the best and most
innovative smart TV control ever produced in the history of mankind, bla, bla, bla
(more hyperbole that everyone ignored.)
I’ve often said that CES reminds me
of the parable of the
three blind men and the elephant – no two people who attend will see
exactly the same things in the same way (other than everyone apparently
agreeing about the Michael
Bay big fail.) Seasoned attendees
such as myself completely give up the concept of seeing the whole show. In light of that, below is a list of the
items I saw that I think my readers should know about. Were there other things at the show – of
course, but you can find those on the websites of Engadget, CNET, CNN,
CNBC, TechCrunch, and
others. Not all of the items I highlight
below however will be covered by those sites.
These are also in no particular order.
A startup called
Revolve Robotics introduced their
Kubi – a remote controlled pan/tilt device for tablets. Remember the scene from the old Sylvester Stallone movie
Demolition Man? Well, it’s possible
still some development to do but these look very promising to finally bring a
real-live experience to the video conference room for both remote and local participants.
Plantronics demonstrated their Concept One
headset that can port out a wearer’s sensor data to third party
applications. I shot and posted a video clip
showing the basics of this feature, and here
is their more detailed explanation video.
Invoxia showed a
new smaller unit (the NVX-220 IP phone) to go alongside their Audioffice unit.
still mystified as to why Cisco or some other firm hasn’t bought them or
introduced a similar BYOD dockable concept.
showed their new, very innovative LED light bulb that works with or without AC
the power goes out in your house the device will still work for hours – turning on and off as usual from your
regular light switch. (As I publish
this on Sunday 1/12 there are still 3 days left to become a Kickstarter
backer of this if you’re so inclined.)
If you feel a chill while sitting on your sofa,
just say “hello thermostat, make it warmer” and it responds and adjusts your
Presenter tabletop system. The
device is now half the size as before.
addition, it now comes with an entire programming service to set-up the content
for you and make sure it all works.
StickNFind showed their new system that
allows for easy set-up of indoor navigation.
use smart stickers to identify the items and locations within your space.
their iOptic system of heads-up displays in glasses
and electronic contact lenses.
that picture in the lower right above of the guy holding the tiny glass
bottle? That’s as close as I (or anyone
I think) got to this new electronic contact lens. I included it here as a number of people
asked me to check it out – and I agree it would be cool and innovative – but
I’m personally not sure anything was in the liquid. It might as well have been the gitchy Las Vegas / Florida / California Snowman. The jury’s is still out here.
TheHovercam is a new entrant in the
document camera space.
smaller and lighter than the established brands – and one would assume much
less expensive as well.
FINsix showed the world’s smallest / lightest
PC / Notebook power supply.
will be available in March (assuming one of the big firms doesn’t buy them
Elmo showed their new Boxi T-200 short
throw pico-projector, costing about $400 MSRP.
this weight and price I can’t imagine a salesperson not buying one of these to
carry in their briefcase.
their very innovative Luci Aura lighting instrument
is a waterproof, inflatable LED lamp array that uses solar power to charge and
lasts up to 12 hours on a full charge. For
big-city folks you can buy them for about $15 and set them to show any color
you wish – or flash through them all, making an excellent party
decoration. For underprivileged
countries this represents 12 hours of free electric lighting in a fully sustainable
device. In-between those extremes are
campers, outdoorsmen, etc. This is one
of the most innovative devices I saw at the whole show.
last product I’ll highlight is the “Mother” device from Sen.Se. It is
everything that Cisco is talking about with the Internet of Everything, but for
the home. It also won an Engadget best
of CES award.
Matryoshka doll in
plastic monitors all aspects of your homelife.
Place the little “cookies” on things you’d like to track and the device
reminds you if you forgot any of them – just like your mother would. For example, place a cookie on your underwear
drawer and if you didn’t open it that day it would remind you how bad that
would be in case you’re hit by a bus.
of those products and a whole bunch more were highlighted by me on
Twitter. I set up a web page where all of those
tweets could be viewed by people who for one reason or another didn’t want to
actually view them in Twitter. It is
still there and would provide a fuller recap for a brief period of time. I can’t freeze my Twitter feed, so as time
passes and I keep tweeting, the older posts will move further and further down
into oblivion. Please follow me in real
time if this sort of technology news is of interest to you. I promise not to tweet about celebrity sightings
or what I’m having for dinner (although I have been known to tweet a customer
service rant now and again.)
That’s it for my coverage of the
2014 International CES. This year is
already shaping up to be a busy one for me.
I have recently been added as a guest blogger for
Cisco’s Service Provider Channels, and I’m going to be a presenter at both Interop
Connect. In addition, I’ll be
serving a number of roles at InfoComm 14
– which is shaping up to be an exciting conference with the just
announced addition of Microsoft as a new platinum sponsor.
article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own,
personal opinions. David has over three decades 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 now works with 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. Please reach-out to David if you would like
to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems or develop a
future-proof collaboration strategy.
All image and links provided above as reference under
prevailing fair use statutes.