Trends observed at CES 2014

Danny Jacobs//January 9, 2014

Trends observed at CES 2014

By Danny Jacobs

//January 9, 2014

For the fourth consecutive year, Frank Gorman of Gorman & Williams is guest blogging from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

No one would dispute that change accompanies new technology, but early detection and implementation of the changes that technology eventually demand are not easy. If you fail to detect and implement the required changes, it can be fatal to your business. At CES, this is called “disruptive innovation.”

CES 2014 is the forty-seventh gathering of persons and businesses involved in consumer electronics. One of the main reasons they have been coming over these years is to see the technology, compare it to their own, predict the coming changes, and decide what steps are needed to adjust and go forward successfully. Here are some consumer electronic trends resulting from new technologies, evident at CES 2014, which are already changing the industry.

1. Automakers Race into Connectivity

Driving is an entirely different experience from what is what just ten years ago. In-car navigation systems, videos in the back seat for kids, and cell phone calls through the “radio speakers” are now commonplace. The arrival of smart phones, however, has provided the impetus to dramatically change the opportunities and experience for the driver.

Automakers are equipping their new cars with Bluetooth and wireless high-speed communications capabilities and touch-screens that allow the driver to connect as she would with an iPhone, hands free. The primary design criteria for these in-car connectivity systems are minimal driver disruption.

The effects of these developments were evident at CES 2014. Chrysler, which was out front with its Uconnect system in 2010, is now providing voice texting/dictation and direct connections to 911 and roadside services. General Motors and Audi have teamed up with AT&T to provide drivers with AT&T’s built-in 4G LTE (long term evolution) wireless service; new Chevrolets are expected to be selling with this capability in the latter part of 2014. Ford displayed its proprietary in-dash wireless connection system called “Ford Sync TDK.” BMW permitted CES attendees to test drive its all-electric i3 vehicle, but this was more about performance than connectivity.

A favorite at CES 2014 is the Driverless Car Experience sponsored by Bosch and held on the lot outside the Convention Center. Sometimes called “autonomous/automated” driving, the experience includes parking assist, collision avoidance, and emergency braking. California, Nevada, and Florida have indicated a willingness to permit driverless cars.

2. TV’s and More TV’s – Yet Higher Resolution

Curved TVs
Curved televisions tower over a display at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, Nev. (The Daily Record/Frank Gorman)

The biggest buzz this year, however, was about TV! The surprise is that TV’s continue to draw such overwhelming attention. CES 2014 has bigger TV’s up to 105 inches (8 feet and 9 inches), curved TV’s, and 4K Ultra HD TV’s.

The “4K” refers to resolution of the picture. It is the same resolution as “Ultra HD.” In past years, resolution was measured by the number of pixels in the vertical resolution. Now the manufacturers have switched to promoting horizontal resolution, and a 4K TV has a horizontal resolution of nearly 4000 pixels and a vertical resolution of 2000 pixels. The clarity of a 4K screen is impressive and is equal to cinema quality. LG, Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic are displaying KK TV’s.

The TV’s were also curved (as were some of the smart phones). Some TV’s have fixed curvatures; others are flexible in that the remote can activate the sides to pull inward about 15 degrees. The curved TV’s bring all the light and color toward the eyes of the viewer, but video gamers may give the most enthusiastic reception to curved screen because it enhances peripheral vision.

Combining all of these features is Samsung’s 105 inch, curved, 4K Ultra HD TV – the largest of its kind in the world. No one knows when the “push” (more than a trend now) for bigger and more resolution will end.

3. Electronic Sensors

Many of the products at CES 2014 incorporate sensor technology, which has been become one of the most important technologies in consumer electronics. Digital health and fitness products rely on sensors, and home security devices and even some TV controls rely on sensors.

A leading sensor technology is MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems), and a wide variety of MEMS have been developed. Advances in sensors technology were highlighted in the MotionTech zone.

The combination of improving sensors, internet connectivity, and wearable are resulting in a wide range of new products. Some fashionable tech gadgets have been worn on bodies over the years, but it is the advancements in sensor technology that is expanding the wearable device market.

4. Altering the Business Model

At CES 2014, you can see new technologies altering the business models of some very successful companies.

Microsoft once dominated operating systems and business software. Competition and technological changes in the internet, mobile communications and access, and delivery of content now have Microsoft moving rapidly to change. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox One now has apps that are used to connect viewers to video streaming and downloading services, such Hulu Plus, ESPN, Univision, and others. Microsoft is also moving into content creation with an agreement to work with Steven Spielberg on production of a TV series. (Microsoft’s Surface tablet was nowhere at CES 2014!)

Bosch, a Germany-based engineering and electronics company, was the world’s largest supplier of automotive components in 2011. Bosch may be changing this behind-the scenes approach to automotive electronics. This year was Bosch’s second appearance as an exhibitor at CES. With consumers looking for in-car systems that work with their smart phones, and automakers now developing in-car systems around smart phones, it makes sense for Bosch to be out front with the consumers who are demanding connectivity in the car.

Sleep number
Sleep Number’s booth marks the bed company’s first appearance at CES. (The Daily Record/Frank Gorman)

The New York Times, American Express, and Sleep Number Beds (making its first appearance) are other examples of exhibitors at CES 2014 promoting their businesses in ways you might not have expected.

5. Mobile Device Security

As businesses and individuals continue to do more on mobile devices, security becomes more important. At CES 2014, Samsung promoted its mobile device management (MDM) system called “Samsung KNOX,” a welcome but unusual step because mobile security has not been a front page concern for the consumer electronic industry.

KNOX is an Android-based collection of apps that can be installed by an IT administrator of a company or by an individual on her own mobile device. Presently, it is only offered for Samsung’s high-end mobile devices. It allows the user to separate (or to layer) personal data from business data. The business data can be in an encrypted state while it resides on the smart phone or tablet. It remains encrypted until it reaches the company’s server, where the data is un-encrypted. There are other security features as well, such as preventing the capture of a screen shot.

For sure, KNOX is not the only MDM that can provide an enterprise or an individual mobile security. Apple’s iOS is reportedly provides more security than Android. Microsoft offers MS-MDM, but most mobile devices do not use a Microsoft operating system. There are relatively unknown MDM providers that began providing MDM’s before Samsung, such as Divide/The Secure Workplace, Mformation, and Absolute Manage. Enthusiasm for MDM’s can wane in the face of the prices charged by Samsung and other providers for the system.

Samsung, however, has detected that the mobile landscape is changing and that the importance of mobile security may be increasing. Perhaps not a brilliant detection (just read about Target and other commercial security breaches), but Samsung’s promotion of mobile security may spur the entire industry.

Frank Gorman is a partner at Gorman & Williams where he practices Intellectual Property law.

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