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A home charging station at CES 2016. (Photo: Frank Gorman)

Driverless cars, Internet of Things and drones: Trends of CES 2016

Frank Gorman of Gorman & Williams is at CES 2016 in Las Vegas. Previously, he gave an overview of this year’s expo. Today, he’s highlighting some of the trends.

CES 2016 presented several innovative technologies that have moved beyond novelty and gadgetry to “trends” toward change that will affect markets and the way we live. This happened in previous years with television, PCs, iPhones, sensors and video streaming. The following trends have the feasibility, widespread acceptance, and momentum to go all the way.

Connected, electric and driverless vehicles will soon change how we drive. The nine auto manufacturers at CES 2016 are implementing the Internet of Things concept (see more below), connecting the vehicle to other devices. There will be safety apps that warn the driver of unsafe passing or of a potential collision ahead. The manufacturers have embraced electric vehicles (EV) — for example, Ford announced this week that it has committed $4.5 billion to producing 13 new EV models over the next four years.

Late last year, BMW introduced in-car gesture controls, whereby drivers can answer phone calls and use the navigation system. Visitors to BMW’s exhibit space this week are seeing live, driverless demonstrations, including a driver exiting the vehicle and then commanding the vehicle by gesture to park in a space between two other vehicles. The auto industry is now behind all of these innovations. There will be more and better EVs, fully connected cars will be standard, and each year cars will have more autonomous functions.

Charging stations for electric vehicles are coming to your neighborhood and home. There already is a network of open EV charging stations operated by ChargePoint Inc. Typical electric battery charging time is three-to-five hours. There are A/C charging stations and faster-charging D/C stations. The charging stations have connectors that are standard and compatible for EV’s. There are home stations with one connector, family stations with two connectors, and stations for businesses and municipalities. A retail business can buy a charging station to attract customers. (There’s an EV charging station on the first level of the University of Baltimore’s multi-level parking garage next to the student center in the Mount Royal area.)

You can download a free app to find the location of available stations and to help with the actual charging. In short, as more EV’s come on line, more charging stations will become available.

A visual representation of the Internet of Things. (Photo: Frank Gorman)

A visual representation of the Internet of Things. (Photo: Frank Gorman)

Connecting your home and appliances and your workplace to your mobile devices. The Internet of Things brings all objects together in one connected system. The smartphone is connected to the garage door, heating and cooling systems, etc., and sensors on these objects can activate communications and/or actions, such as alerting you to certain conditions or turning an appliance on or off. Almost any device could be connected to the Internet, a trend that eventually will reach into the workplace.

IoT has gained acceptance and support from industry and consumers. The challenge, however, has been lack of compatibility among the platforms and protocols of connected objects.  There is need for more standardization of connectivity and better information for consumers at the retail level as to what objects are compatible with others.

Unmanned aircraft systems (drones) will become as normal and ubiquitous as airplanes. Most of us have heard about drones, initially because they were used for military weapons and later because they were used for fun by people of all ages. While these two uses remain, many more beneficial uses for drones have surfaced, and even more will be developed in the future. A broad of array businesses are exploring use of drones, from Amazon to Wal-Mart, from real estate brokers to farmers.

A "smart" mirror. (Photo: Frank Gorman)

A “smart” mirror. (Photo: Frank Gorman)

At CES, the term “unmanned systems” is often applied in connection with these other uses. Unmanned systems can be used for search and rescue missions; delivery of medicine, food, and/or supplies to persons in need in remote areas; mapping and aerial photography; law enforcement; delivery of consumer goods, and more. CTA predicts that in 20 years, there will be two million non-military unmanned flights per day. While challenges in regulation and infrastructure are ahead, there is no doubt that unmanned systems are here to stay and will serve useful purposes in commerce, in emergencies, and for the public good.

There will be no lessening in the demand for more and faster broadband. The goal of ever-better picture quality drives TV manufacturers and video producers to develop higher standards. The standard now is “4K Ultra HD,” even though TVs with less than 55-inch screens do not benefit from 4K. Moreover, only 15 percent of the world’s broadband delivers 15 Mbps or more in connection speed, the speed measure of 4K readiness. The average connection speed in the United States for the third quarter 2015 was 12.6 Mbps, the 16th-fastest in the world.

Most Americans do not notice these distinctions when they watch their TV’s. Nevertheless, the push to increase our 4K readiness is underway. Netflix, Amazon, and TV providers Comcast and DirecTV want connection speeds increased and are pressing Internet service providers such as Verizon to upgrade broadband connection speeds.

In March, the FCC will auction TV spectrum to Internet service providers, who are eager to buy. There is no end in sight to the demand for more and faster broadband. And maybe there never will be, as long as TV and the Internet are connected.