The vast Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is held in January every year, overwhelms attendees with a huge range of new products from automobiles, TVs and skateboards to laptops, gamepads and devices for smart homes. Trying to pick winners amidst such a wealth of innovative products and gadgets is like comparing apples to oranges. That being said, commentators and industry analysts have spotlighted specific trends and products. Here’s a sampling of key topics relevant for those in the business world.
Synthesizing artists’ creativity with other technologies, 3D printing opens up a whole new world of product development and design. The process of bringing 3D printing to the marketplace has taken more than 25 years. Now it’s a reality, and industry pundits are proclaiming that 2015 will be the year 3D printing goes mainstream. Trends suggest that 3D printing companies are targeting small businesses rather than consumers, and that in the future, business owners will use 3D technology at central locations like office supply stores. Adding further heft to the predictions that 3D is a reality for businesses, Hewlett Packard announced its intention to enter this market segment in 2016 with products that will make 3D scanning and design easier.
Meanwhile, companies that have been in the 3D printing sector for years attracted major interest. 3D Systems commanded industry attention with a variety of specific applications designed for various industry segments, as well as applications for the home. Visitors to 3D Printing’s suite were able to see Chefjet food printers, which provide chefs with the ability to print out candies and cake decorations. Creativity with 3D printing does not stop in the kitchen. The company showed how 3D printing using colored plastics allows wearables – clothing design elements, earrings, shoes and other accessories – to be more customizable and visually appealing. The company showed how printers using Ekocycle (recycled plastic that converts coke bottles into plastic) could produce a variety of consumer products – balls, bats and skateboards. 3D Systems’ range of printers includes the Cube3 ($999) desktop model and the $2,800 CubePro, which prints in thermoplastics (either acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or polylactide or nylon).
Technology in the Home
Among a slew of fantastical and futuristic home electronic gadgets, several commentators noticed the tiny battery produced by Roost, which can turn an ordinary smoke detector into a smart device. Serviceable, very practical and with a huge potential market, this little device seems to be a winner.
Another simple product attracted interest from several industry reporters. On the heels of security systems and thermostats linked to smart phones comes Welcome HD, a smart home camera. This product from Netatmo has built-in facial recognition and live feed capability. It can detect when individuals return home and report their location to other users. For tracking comings and goings, keeping tabs on children, frequent visitors and pet sitters, Welcome HD brings homeowners a further home surveillance option.
Internet of Things (IoT)
This much hyped topic was in full force at CES this year. IoT describes a world in which everything – people as well as the objects they use, can be digitally managed by a computer to organize and streamline life as we know it. Often industry observers refer to this as turning the dreams of science fiction into fact. The movie Minority Report is frequently singled out as an example of a world where IoT is in use. A simple IoT example might be self-driving vehicles, an innovation which has been in the news in recent months. Self-driving cars might sound far-fetched, but certain recent-model automobiles already come with sensors that detect when the driver gets drowsy and can issue an alert.
Major companies already have taken steps to adopt IoT principles into product design. Significantly, Samsung’s president identified IoT as the most pressing mega trend currently underway. Connectivity is the key concept here. Many technology entrepreneurs share Samsung’s conviction and believe that building intelligent gadgets to offer people better individualized services and support systems is the next huge transition for us all.