5 Mega Trends from CES 2017: All you need to know

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Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot

We have been at CES 2017 in Las Vegas and wanted to share the “mega trends” we saw at the show. Instead of posting every incremental update to platforms, we decided to take a step back and look to the bigger picture. Many of the product announcements at CES were incremental upgrades and we decided against posting every incremental platform update. Here are the five Mega Trends from CES 2017 that you need to know.

Here are our 5 Mega Trends from CES 2017:

  • AI is Everywhere
  • VR/ AR is Almost Here
  • It is an IoT device
  • Drones
  • Smart Home
  • Bonus: Our biggest opportunity of 2017

We will discuss each briefly in turn.

AI Everywhere

NVIDIA Xavier Announcement
NVIDIA Xavier Announcement

Major chip vendors such as NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, Qualcomm all made a major push to AI. At CES 2016 name just about any device and there was a company trying to infuse AI to it. Much of the work has been on getting more sensors into the world so that machines will have human-like senses. Video, audio, text processing, logging, you name it and the smart devices of the future are going to have sensory interfaces.

The 2017 version of AI looks less like Skynet, instead focused on doing that next task for humans. Self-driving cars are the next step in automation from navigation systems. Recognizing images is the next step in taking images for computer vision. Translation in real-time is the next step in text to speech/ online translation. As compute and sensor prices fall, these next steps in automting what humans do today moves into less expensive devices. While automobiles have some leading capabilities required for autonomous driving, they also have BOMs that can support higher-end compute and sensor arrays. Moving into 2017 we will see this trend move to the mainstream.

VR/ AR is Almost Here

Intel Project Alloy At CES 2017
Intel Project Alloy At CES 2017

While you may take issue with the title of this mega trend, it is here. VR and AR demos are now good enough to fool you into thinking you are somewhere else or have an assisted overlay to the real world. Packaging is still too bulky for most uses. Software is getting better.

2017 CES VR/ AR demos showed a lot of promise and for the first time the leap between what was seen on the show floor and how to commercialize the technology for masses is tantalizingly close. If it is not the 2017 holiday season maybe it is 2018 but by 2020 VR/ AR will likely be as commonplace as looking at a desktop monitor is today.

It is an IoT Device

Remember when adding a clock to just about every device was en vogue? Today’s hottest trend is essentially slapping a Raspberry Pi onto devices. Have a bicycle? Add sensors and you now have a smart bicycle.  Have a toaster? Add a low power CPU with WiFi/Bluetooth/LTE and you now have an IoT device.

While most CES coverage is on the big flashy vendors, there are other halls to the show. The less expensive booth space can be found in fluorescent-lit oceans of small offshore manufacturers who make smart devices and have small cubicle booths at the show. If you were looking for a potential ODM, this is where you may stumble into. Over the past few years, devices in the rows of less expensive booths have gone from non-connected devices to smart IoT devices that are connected. If you ever wanted to get very nervous about IoT security, spend some time here. At CES 2017 these halls were filled with products that were not just smart, but looked much better than years past. This shows that the smaller manufacturers and design shops have iterated several times on their device designs.

Liftmaster MyQ Garage Door Opener
Liftmaster MyQ Garage Door Opener

This is really the vision of many companies at CES. Add compute, networking and sensors to devices as a new base-level capability. For example, think about the electric garage door opener invented in 1926. Its function was to make a door go up, then go down. By about 1931 the breakthrough of being able to use a radio remote control to open and close the garage door happened. Today’s garage door openers have Wi-Fi, they can schedule opening and closing doors, lights, make warning noises, serve web pages, have battery back-ups and you name it. The primary function is still to open and close the garage door but it is hard to overlook the complexity has gone up several-fold.

Drones

Drones were just about everywhere at CES 2017 as if the world’s engineers decided that dogs and cats would no longer be needed in 2030. There were plenty of selfie-stick replacement drones, drones to help with work, drones to explore and have fun with. Perhaps the biggest obstacle of drones in 2017 is that they do not have a great power source. Sure, batteries are great, but the endgame needs to be something better.

DJI Phantom
DJI Phantom

Drones are particularly interesting because the are platforms for other megatrends. For example, take a drone, add a 360 camera and you have a way to explore with your VR goggles. Have a repetitive task such as cooking? Make a robot with some AI and viola, you have a CES 2017 AI-powered drone.

If you do not have a drone today, or have not used one, do not worry. There is a good chance in the next few years that you will. We even have a small indirect investment in a company that is working on drone pizza cooking and delivery. Mainstream drones may not happen in 2017, but they will be a way of life in the next few years.

Smart Home – Have we arrived?

This is very close to happening. Years ago, smart home devices were extremely fragmented. Oftentimes demos and shipping products alike were one-off and aesthetically unpleasing. At CES 2017 there were so many connected devices that even smart home devices in the small booths with companies you have likely never heard of look good.

Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot

While we often make technology purchases based on specs, purchasing smart home devices requires an aesthetic element not found in many other areas of technology. If a mobile phone looks less than ideal but has great specs, it will be replaced in 12-24 months. If a smart door lock looks “cheap” it will likely either last 10 years or be so inviting that someone breaks the lock. Either way, there are larger implications at work in devices that will be around in a home versus a pocket.

It is probably too early to say we have arrived. What we can say is that with Amazon, Google, Apple, NVIDIA, Microsoft and others pushing vocal home management solutions, the ecosystem is going to converge around the big player’s solutions. Working with the existing Apple, Google or Amazon Alexa install base is now a differentiator that will become stronger over time. What we can see is that putting the equivalent of a Raspberry Pi on devices for sensors, compute, storage and networking has arrived with a fervor greater than with digital clocks.

Final Words and Bonus Opportunity

We wanted to offer a few final thoughts coming back from CES 2017 this year. First off, the traditional PC/ notebook market is fairly stagnant. Whereas we are seeing an explosion of architectures on the server side, as we outlined in Trends for Server Compute 2017, the desktop side was much more muted. We are seeing AMD Ryzen shake things up but realistically some of the biggest features we saw were high-end RGB lighting, Thunderbolt enclosures and higher-end displays. Taken in context there was no real “wow” factor on the PC side. Faster, better graphics but that is it.

On the opportunity for 2017, take a look at the top 5 Mega Trends outlined above. In 2017 the biggest opportunity for STH’s business-minded readers is to look at how these technologies will replace manual jobs done today. We have been prepping for months as there is going to be a big push in 2017 for machine learning/ AI content on STH. Hints of this have already surfaced with the starter CUDA/ AI DeepLearning01 build. Solving repetitive tasks with machine learning algorithims, using AR/ VR and drones to send workers remotely to unsafe locations, tying IoT devices into smart homes and businesses are the big opportunities for 2017.

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Patrick has been running STH since 2009 and covers a wide variety of SME, SMB, and SOHO IT topics. Patrick is a consultant in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about server, storage and networking, building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

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