Want to know what’s coming next in tech? The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the place to go. From January 5-8, big brands, thousands of reporters, and more than 150,000 consumers will congregate in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the event, companies vie for media attention through flashy product demos and frank discussions about what to expect from their products in the coming year. Business leaders and pioneering thinkers congregate to speak at panels on the future of consumer tech, covering everything from the smart home to the Internet of Things.
In anticipation of the event, Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Analyst Relations team conducted interviews with prominent analysts from firms such as Gartner, IDC, and Forrester to identify the trends everyone will be talking about this year. While many of the themes will be familiar to tech aficionados, analysts expect to see sleeker, more mature versions of previously unveiled technologies as companies begin to move from prototypes to consumer-ready products. In case you can’t make it to the big show, here are five things H+K expects to see at CES 2017.
- Virtual Reality: Expanding the Audience
Virtual reality is going to be the hottest topic at the conference. Facebook, HTC, and Sony have all launched platforms with varying degrees of success, but despite all the hype surrounding virtual reality, many consumers still have no idea what it is or why they need it. Companies with a stake in the virtual reality world are eager to change that, however, and CES will be a great stage for vendors to showcase the practical uses of virtual reality to thousands of reporters and technology executives.
As virtual reality starts to become a more viable consumer technology, device makers will be looking for partners to develop videos and games. Expect to see more displays of virtual reality experiences, particularly for those interested in virtually attending sporting events and concerts.
- Automotive Tech: Smart Cars on the Horizon
Automotive technology has dominated CES for the past few years, and it will do so again in 2017. Everything from self-driving cars to vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity to advances in “infotainment” systems will be on display in Las Vegas. In fact, two of the three executive keynote addresses—from Nvidia, an artificial intelligence computing company, and Nissan—will have a heavy automotive theme. Competition to win over aspiring connected carmakers remains fierce, and platform wars between tech giants Apple, Google, and Samsung will continue to unfold at CES. The latest salvo in the battle: Samsung’s $4 billion-plus acquisition of U.S. automotive technology manufacturer Harman is a clear move toward establishing dominance in the automotive technology space.
- Smart Homes: Standardizing the Platforms
At CES, expect Amazon, Apple, Google, Comcast, and others to press the case for why consumers need their homes to be automated—and expect the changing structure of the market to make their case a more convincing one.
After years in which the smart home market was oversaturated with a plethora of different technical platforms, analysts finally believe consolidation is on the way, which will help narrow the field to just a few major platform players. Companies are realizing that a single, pervasive platform is critical to adoption—users do not want to deploy multiple systems to manage different areas of their home. A homeowner is more likely to invest in a smart home system if he or she can control the TV, door locks, and thermostats through the same platform. The merging of standards group Open Connectivity Foundation and open-source framework provider Alljoyn is a significant milestone in the journey toward common platforms, allowing a more seamless experience for users with different smart devices, as well as added security.
- Drones and Robotics: Adding Capabilities and Intelligence
H+K expects a great deal of buzz—literal and figurative—around drones this year. The next generation of self-piloted vehicles will have extended battery life and flight time, 4K and 3D video, facial recognition, collision avoidance capabilities, and integration with virtual reality headsets for remote control. Analysts also expect to see a similar evolution within robotics, as products move beyond single-use, indoor devices such as the Roomba vacuum into multi-use, multi-environment tools. These versatile robots could assist the elderly or disabled with daily tasks, with the most advanced able to perform nursing functions such as picking up injured or handicapped people and helping them move around.
Drone makers and robotics companies are working hard to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning into the next generation of their products. Smarter drones will be able to better interpret what their camera sees and use that information to detect where it should fly next, which should cut down on crashes. And smarter robots will be able to adapt to their multiple environments, learn, and communicate, to make the multi-use robots better able to serve humans.
- Internet of Things: Enabling Agent of Disruption
The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a supporting role in many other emerging technology themes, including automotive tech, smart homes, wearables, drones, and robotics, but there will also be a strong focus on IoT-specific technologies and products at CES 2017. After a high-profile security hack last fall exploited holes in IoT networks, expect to hear a great deal about security measures in IoT technologies. Companies are fighting two battles on that front: the need to convince consumers that their information is safe and that the benefits of being connected through a product like an IoT-powered toothbrush or spoon is worth the risk.