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What’s Hot & What Won’t Be In 2018, CES Research Boss Predicts

CES is the show where many products are shown for the first time, not all of them make it to retailers’ shelves. For Australians the arrival of Amazon could prompt retailers to take additional risk on new products set to be revealed in January.

Steve Koenig, senior director, market research, at the Consumer Technology Association, the organisers of CES has given the publishers of the show guide a rare insight into what he thinks will be hot in 2018 and what is already on the way out.

Based on CTA’s market research in 2017, some of the fastest growth categories in 2017 based on ownership include:

• 4K UHD TVs
• Smartphones
• Smart-home devices
• Smart watches
• Smart speakers (like Amazon Echo)
• Wearable activity trackers
• Wireless speakers (both portable and stationary)

Consumer tech categories that are declining include:

• E-readers
• DVD players
• Camcorders
• Portable game consoles
• Portable GPS devices
• MP3 Players
• Digital point-and-shoot cameras
• Cordless phones

When asked What he consider the main tech trends in consumer electronics to be heading into CES?

Steve Koenig: CES is the global stage for innovation and the trends we see there are a mosaic of B2B and B2C (in the market) technologies. On the B2B front, we expect 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics to be major trends. For those “in the market” trends, look for: native interfaces (which includes speech recognition and biometric technology); augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will further redefine our definition of realism. CES 2018 will also highlight major tech trends in sports innovation, digital health and automotive technology.

Q: Alexa was arguably the show-stealer at CES 2017, what do you think will wow the crowd this year?

Koenig: I think we’ll see an extension of the 2017 Alexa surprise in the broadening application of AI (including machine-learning, neural-networks and computer vision). The other “Whoa” factor related to AI at CES 2018 will be how rapidly these systems are improving. We’ll discover new capabilities and applications for AI that will amaze and inspire us.
Q: What tendencies do you expect to emerge out of this show?

Koenig: Increasing deployment of AI will further automate tasks and routines in meaningful ways — especially in the services sector. Digital assistants (e.g., Alexa, Google Assistant) will become omnipresent in our lives — from our phones, to our homes and vehicles. Wherever we are, they’ll be with us. Already this holiday, we’re seeing massive uptake of smart speakers (one vessel for digital assistants) as holiday gifts. This activity becomes the catalyst establishing voice-control (speech recognition) will become table stakes in the unfolding HMI story for consumer tech. And 2018 will be the year voice-shopping becomes a real sales channel — joining stores, online and mobile.
Q: We hear a great deal of interest in products for the home — entertainment and smart-home/automation devices. What’s next that we should watch for in this?

Koenig: The general theme across home entertainment and smart home will be greater integration and support for digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. For TVs, expect more video walls and less supersize displays. And we will probably see and learn more about micro-LED technology.
Q: What advances do you expect to see in areas of virtual reality?

Koenig: Some of the most compelling advances in VR over the next year few years will be in content — that is, storytelling with this (still emerging) medium. Expect more short-form content across entertainment and brand-marketing. Also look for longer-form content stories to emerge that will totally transform “movie night.” On the hardware side, I expect more wireless solutions for headsets, but more significantly we’ll have new ways to sense and experience the virtual world; begging the question: What is reality?
Q: Cyber safety seems ever more important, yet one gets the feeling that the presence of smart devices in our lives is growing so fast that privacy and cybersafety can’t possibly keep up. What comfort can you offer to a consumer who wants smart devices but worries about this loss of personal privacy?

Koenig: As connections in the home rise so does the importance of practicing good online hygiene. This means putting the appropriate security measures in place to protect the home network (e.g., firewalls, security passwords, etc.). But also securing PCs and mobile devices (that can control smart-home devices). Lastly, users should practice safe online conduct and remain vigilant to ostensible threats—become healthy sceptics—given most threats come through common channels like your email inbox.

Q: For readers working specifically in the “home and business computing sector,” what new directions are you seeing?

Koenig: Expect to see new entrants in the server space and GPU arenas for high performance computing to support machine learning endeavours. On the consumer front we’re expecting to see more solutions like Samsung DeX that enable smartphones to function like PCs when attached to an external display and input devices (like keyboard/mouse).
Q: How do you interpret the growth of streaming video and its impact on shrink-wrapped product (DVDs, CDs, etc.) … and where is that trend going?

Koenig: The growth of streaming media services (both video and audio) is a function of consumers’ on-demand expectations for access to content anytime and anywhere. That said, we still see demand for physical media for library content or high-quality versions (like 4K HDR). However, some consumers (typically older adults) still prefer physical media on principle.

Q: What about the decline in sales of TV sets?

Koenig: Year-to-date shipment volumes of LCD TVs through September were up 5 percent and we expect annual 2017 sales volume growth to remain positive. Where we are seeing decline in TV sales is in the under 40-inch size categories, which our current forecasts predict will fall 22 percent on a volume basis this year.
Q Where do you see drone-technology headed?

Koenig: While we continue to see drones marketed in consumer sales channels for hobbyists and enthusiasts, drones are beginning to take flight in commercial and industrial applications to perform tasks with greater speed and efficiency than humans (like search/rescue operations or package delivery) or fill roles that are dangerous (such as building or bridge inspections).


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