The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has taken place in Las Vegas this week, drawing the world’s leading consumer technology brands all showing off their latest and greatest inventions.
Details and Implications
As always, there was almost too much to take in – AR, VR, AI, Blockchain, Roll up TVs, Nano technology and much, much more. Here were a few of the highlights:
Alexa Vs Google – The omnipresence of Google at CES is a marked change from previous years and the focus – Google Assistant – is a statement of intent. The entire city was draped in the words ‘Hello Google’. Digital ads, human signage, the branded monorail, the huge slide and ball pit (well it is Google) all focused on making it clear that Google Assistant is the future of voice, not Alexa. Googlers in branded jumpsuits could be found at every booth where there was a Google Assistant integration, so as you walked the show floor you had a clear visual indication of the extent to which Google Assistant is being integrated into future home, health, auto and entertainment tech. Alexa integrations were also huge in number, but much less obvious. The battle for the control of our homes, cars and lives through voice is well and truly under way.
China – Almost a third of the exhibitors at CES this year were Chinese companies – 1,300 of the 4,500 companies according to the Consumer Technology Association – and 500 companies had the word ‘Shenzhen’ in their name (that’s a tenth of all exhibitors). Well known Chinese companies like Baidu, Huawei and Alibaba were of course in town but were joined by new players such as electric car company Byton. At every turn you came across another Chinese company, some riding the wave of existing technology trends and others innovating into new areas. CES has always been primarily a tech show that was US focused, this year it felt more like a Chinese export show.
Beginning of the End of the Phone? – In isolation, the technology on the show floor is amazing and some products will go on to be huge successes. Combined, it’s just possible that they could change our lives. Wireless earphones / buds were all around – including those with built in AI to help with simultaneous translation. The Mars earbuds (from Korean company Naver) will automatically translate English, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian. They do this using an AI called Clova (owned by Naver parent company Line). Add voice control, phone calling and a host of other services and it’s a really smart product. Pairing these with one of the host of smart glasses at the show – all also with built in voice control and AI using Alexa, Google Assistant etc. and many also with HUDs (Heads Up Displays) built in for viewing content – and you could be getting closer to a future without the need to have a phone in your pocket, especially if you also add in a smart watch (there were hundreds). That body-based ecosystem can do pretty much everything you use your phone for today, barring watching content on a screen.
The show is growing – both in terms of visitor numbers (circa 180,000) and global reach (exhibitors came from over 150 countries). It may not be the place where you will see the latest digital innovation, but walking its floor you will understand the way the tech winds are blowing and where you should be able to take advantage. Expect the voice war to be long and loud and don’t rule out a big Chinese player getting in on the ecosystem war.