Jan 04, 2016

    Smart homes, cars, drones at 2016 tech show


    FROM drones, cars and robots to jewellery, appliances and TVs, the new technology on display at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) promises to be smarter and friendlier than ever.

    The annual tech extravaganza - with more than 3,600 exhibitors set to formally start on Wednesday in Las Vegas - is likely to see innovation across a range of sectors, from healthcare to autos, connected homes, virtual reality and gaming.

    "There are always a couple of winners at CES, and sometimes there are the sleepers that turn out to be the cool thing," Gartner analyst Brian Blau told Agence France-Presse. But Mr Blau said the innovations are "often evolutionary, not revolutionary".

    Televisions will play starring roles at the show as usual, with giants such as Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio among contenders in a market rapidly shifting to ultra-high definition.

    NPD analyst Stephen Baker told AFP while discussing CES: "We are in the sweetest of the sweet spots in the TV market.

    "Sales of 4K TVs are exploding right now," he said, referring to the popular new high-definition format, that's said to offer a screen resolution much sharper than that of current 1,080p HD displays.

    Drones are also expected to make a splash at CES, where an Unmanned Systems Marketplace has doubled in size from a year earlier to cover 25,000 sq ft.

    Mr Blau expects the drones on display at the show to be more sophisticated, with easy controls and even applications that let them be operated using smartphones.

    Electronics makers are also building smart technology into all manner of devices, allowing them to adapt to how people use them, responding to voice or gesture, for example.

    The trend of once-dumb devices getting smarter will continue to include light bulbs, remote controls, thermostats and other devices in the home, as well as "wearables" such as jewellery or clothing.

    "We are going to see a lot of wearables, and more smart clothes than last year," Mr Blau said.

    Apple does not officially attend CES, but smart household products, tuned to the technology giant's HomeKit and controlled by iPhones, are expected to be plentiful.

    Samsung and Google-owned Nest are also expected to make moves to be at the centre of smart homes, where the market is vexed by the lack of a single standard or system for devices to speak with each other.

    Cars rolled out at CES may also showcase the potential for digital technologies enhancing consumer goods, according to Mr Baker.

    Mark Boyadjis of IHS Automotive referred to cars as a "core pillar" of the show.

    Innovation in cars is changing the way people interact with vehicles, as technology handles more and more aspects of driving.

    "In the long run, it means maybe delivering cars without steering wheels, or steering wheels that can be moved or put away," Mr Boyadjis said.

    "It means physical buttons may all but be gone, being replaced by display, gesture recognition, speech recognition."

    A record 10 carmakers will be showing at CES along with at least 115 automotive tech companies, according to the Consumer Technology Association, which organises the show.