Well, there's been a lot to digest from all of the gadgets, solutions, demos, and whir of International CES 2014 last week. If there ever was a week's worth of exploring what "interconnected" might mean, I think it might have happened last week. The Internet of Things (IoT) is, after all, about connecting everything to everything at every point and at any time. At CES, we saw that on display for futuristic products being demo-ed as well as those in active production and ready for retail.
Bringing all of the impressions from CES together, it really was interesting to see both the differences and similarities over the past few two years in particular. I pick that short of a time frame because what we've especially noticed is the fast-paced growth in automotive, health & fitness, and even white goods that had really been more sidelined in the past. This year, things got very lively and exiting when the goals of connecting and interconnecting included collaborating and the halls were filled with innovative designs and new joint ventures that while may be more of a novelty this year, but will likely create real product advances for CE before long.
Some examples of what I'm talking about with collaborating to "interconnect" that is more novelty now, but will likely lead to a real solution before long, are what I tweeted and reported on last week:
- There were lots of examples of driverless cars and while that's a much farther futuristic event, the assisted driver warning and safety information systems are definitely viable and will be in demand already this year. Auto makers need to provide more than different body styles and interiors to win sales, today it's about the connected car and those features have moved automotive into a major category of CES presenters.
- Safety and improved performance are the forefront for automotive electronics, supporting new ways to keep drivers alert – like Google Glass warnings – and improve efficiency and performance as demonstrated by Audi's Traffic Light Alerts (TLA), just to name two of many solutions coming out.
- Sure, hands-free pizza ordering while driving, may not be a complete show-stopper (although I can imagine times it would be a very helpful app to have), this is likely the path to innovative applications that connect mobile devices and cars to perform many new functions hands-free and safely.
- Digital Health:
- Related to the boom in wearable devices is the boom in health and fitness that could not be missed at CES this year. Although many of the devices still need to slim down to fit more than a larger adult male, there's an explosion in technology and personal data collection that can now be handled directly to smartphones through apps, unlike last year's connect and upload stumbling blocks. If there's something to measure, there's probably both a device and app for that now. Which will be a hit and which will fade is the remaining question.
- No matter what, the competition in the wearable space, especially for digital health for medical and personal fitness monitoring is going to get stiff and crowded quickly. Personal devices are ranging around US$100, which puts them in reach and allows room for some cool technology too with many designs to choose from.
One of the big news items that we can't overlook in a summary is what's going on with processors. Brian Krzanich, CEO, was the opening keynote speaker this year, and he had quite a bit to offer the audience. Intel's Quark announcements such as dual-OS for computing and the related Edison's small SoC form factor to support wearable device innovation promise real diversification options for Intel into a wider variety of mobile, wearable, and other upcoming (small form-factor) CE devices. AMD has been holding a strong position in mobile devices, of course, with low-powered System-on-Chip (SoC) designs, and there were many collaborations with major and up-and-coming OEMs big and small.
Qualcomm had an equally big presence, of course, with Dr. Paul Jacobs, CEO, joining the opening keynote for CES FutreCast. Qualcomm's leading position in all things mobile could not be missed, nor has their effort to support innovation that is "driving change in critical areas such as disruptive innovation, smart cities, transportation, healthcare and the workplace. In fact, as the IoT era moves us into more and more "Things," Qualcomm is certainly showing it has the SoC solutions to meet and match the wide variety of innovative devices, whether those devices are on your body, on your set-top box or TV, in your pocket or home, or in your car.
Nvidia is right there in the increasing competitive chip space as well, and quickly garnering positive reviews for the Tegra K1 SoC with a whopping 192 Keplar graphics cores all available for mobile platforms. Nvidia certainly knows that there is a demand for these hefty solutions to support the ever-sophisticated gaming platforms with incredible features and graphics. But it's not just about games, the new solutions from Nvidia show that it is absolutely able to provide amazing power and performance in mobile and that can and is being translated into the diverse set of IoT solutions (like Audi's adoption for their latest infotainment system) that are cropping up around us. Okay, I couldn't help but find a way to mention the pre-CES news that Nvidia scooped with their crop-circle just south of San Francisco as a hint to the Tegra K1 unveiling.
All in all, CES 2014 certainly showed that 2014 is probably going to be the year of expansion and collaboration – positive disruption is underway. Diversification is a real (and necessary) strategic element for the leading chip manufacturers as well as OEMs across many markets and that means lots of innovative products, designs, software-hardware solutions and new energy in our industry.