For the first time in 54 years, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) went completely online. Originally being held in New York, it moved to Las Vegas where it normally is the first major conference to look forward to at the start of the year. It is a time for companies to showcase the latest and greatest they have been working on. Notable tech like the first computer mouse to the first DVD player to the first iPhone among others were announced at CES. When companies aren’t showing off tech, they are showing off their philanthropy and sharing their partners like it’s a MySpace Top 8 list. Given the year 2020 was, there were many opportunities for the private sector to support humanity from making PPE, to Covid-19 testing, to supporting racial justice causes even if this required them to pivot. The silver lining to 2020 was that everyone was forced to digitize and adapt to the times. Through an IoT lens, here are some of the things that most stood out at CES 2021.
Year of the Home
For many, home is not only your sanctuary, it is also your office, classroom, gym, movie theater, and everything else. 2020 was the year of the home no matter how you look at it. Being in quarantine brought a whole new set of challenges but also created more time for people to invest in their homes. Smart home device revenue was up 8% over 2019 to $26.5 billion last year (CTA). Among these devices, the most popular was still the “smart home gateway drug”, smart speakers/displays. There were, however, new killer apps in town. In prior years, the focus was on smart home devices for when you are not home like security cameras. Being stuck at home last year, the killer apps were modularity of your home seeing an increase in smart lighting, personal and home health, as well as home networks to meet the demands of a one size fits all work, study, sleep, etc spaces.
Now here are some numbers:
- Smart home security devices made up 43% of combined shipment revenue with 38 million Americans expecting to buy more security products (CTA).
- Having to share bandwidth with more devices plus online classes and meetings, there was an increase of 23% in home network solutions (CTA).
- 77% of adults said they would be spending more time at home after restrictions are lifted (P&G)
What does all this mean? You might ask. Well, besides it meaning that I took really good notes during CES, it means there will be a lot of growth in this space going forward. With an onslaught of new devices introduced like Kohlers Stillness Bath, Schneiders Wiser Energy Smart Home Monitor, and Samsungs Bot Handy, this bodes well for integrators in this space like, shameless plug, Swisscom. Their role of holding the average users hand through this digital transformation is of the utmost importance. Speaking from personal experience of being everyone’s tech support, even the smartest people I know are tech-illiterate. They are, however, more and more interested in optimizing their house and health. 60% of adults are concerned with their health which is an increase of 55% over years prior (CTA). 86% of adults have concerns about their homes air/water quality (CTA). This creates new/more opportunities for smart water/air filters or devices as well as in the health wearables space. With 2021 already dubbed “the year of travel”, new smart home opportunities will present themselves.
5G Home Internet
This is definitely not a new idea, as fixed wireless 5G has been worked on for some time in Swisscom already, but an opportunity to make more of a case for it. With the performance capabilities of 5G, we have been wondering what a world would look like without WIFI. That’s definitely too drastic of a change as every device is going to need mobile connectivity. A happy medium is 5G WIFI. Verizon in the US has started rolling out 5G WIFI to the home in select areas. In the US, where fiber to the home seems like an impossible endeavor, leveraging the 5G network many operators have invested in makes sense. In doing so, there would be infrastructure savings, reduced complexity, and one resilient core network to focus on.
AIoT was the buzzword bingo winner of CES 2021. Not to undermine AIoT by calling it a buzzword, AIoT is actually the best power couple since Brangelina. If you haven’t guessed it already, AIoT is AI + IoT. There are 20B connected devices that created 50 zettabytes (1000^7) of data in 2020 (BCG). This is the natural progression as data creation grows, so does the need for better data consumption especially closer to the edge. This is made possible by other buzzwords like 5G, AI, and Big Data. AIoT will bring us from obedient devices to smart ones in the future like home robots and autonomous cars. A company that stood out in this space at CES is Avalanche Computing with its one-click through AI framework that is designed to increase production speed for edge implementations.
CES gives us an opportunity to look into our crystal ball and see the future. Some interesting tech to keep an eye on going forward:
- Ultra Wideband (UWB) and Bluetooth (BLE). BLE is a household name at this point while UWB is only available on the latest phones. The new BLE 5.1 standard and UWB bring interesting use cases when it comes to navigation or how you interact with your house or any device.
- Like the Universal Translator from Star Trek, Timekettle’s Language Translator Earbuds were well received and available to purchase.
- Just when you thought we had enough smart things with AI, L’Oreal launched a personalized smart lipstick maker called YSL Rouge Sur Mesure.
- A big fan of energy harvesting myself, Samsung announced a solar remote control. Reminiscent of solar calculators of old, the remotes will be able to harvest energy from any light source but will also have a USB port in case it needs to be charged.
- Rollable screens made another appearance at CES. From TVs to phones, it seems this tech is closer to primetime.
- Straight out of Minority Report, transparent screens present interesting displays.
- A sign of the times, Razer announced their smart mask, Project Hazel, which is N95 grade, has a mic and speakers to solve the mumbling problem, and a disinfecting case.
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