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Takeaways in the Aftermath of CES 2019

Jan 31, 2019

Energy Cloud

In the aftermath of CES 2019, I have taken a moment to reflect on the sheer madness of more than 188,000 people gathering to talk tech, and some of the most interesting trends on display. Here are some of my key takeaways.

Overall, the Tech Was Incremental

Not every CES can offer some mind-boggling revelation in tech. At my first CES 3 years ago, I got to see the emergence of a device that’s now increasingly ubiquitous—Amazon’s Alexa. Watching the emergence of voice activation has truly been a tech revelation that has increasingly become a fundamental part of our lives. But these revelations are years in the making; it is not a year-over-year occurrence. At CES 2019, tech has simply been incrementally improved. There have been marginal achievements, and everything is slowly but surely starting to work better. For example, Ossia’s booth in past years offered a staged demo on wireless charging, but it became real this year when the company plugged my iPhone X into a phone case that started charging it when I walked into the room with the receiver. That said, Stacey on IoT points out that CES 2019 was another year where the smart home still isn’t that smart, so there is a ways to go with these incremental improvements.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Stole the Show

As CES, I heard vendors in conversation after conversation say their devices were enabled with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s clear that Wi-Fi is a winner in the smart home and that devices need to speak the IP language to participate in this market, but it is not the be-all end-all. Stakeholders recognize the potential future bandwidth and reliability issues associated with Wi-Fi and believe there is a need for multiple communicating solutions. Bluetooth has made significant strides to become a preferred technology in the smart home, perhaps due to the requirement of a gateway with Zigbee's and Z-Wave’s focus on security.

Alexa and Google Thrive, While Apple Lurks

Amazon and Google dominated CES with impressive displays, advertisements, and integrations with just about every smart home-related product at the show, while Apple lurked from a distance with its giant, taunting advertisement about user privacy. These tech giants flexed their strategies at CES, and the battle over owning the smart home was evident (see my accompanying blog to learn more). 

A Big Year for Automotive Tech

CES has an entire area of the Las Vegas Strip dedicated to automotive tech, but this year it was prevalent across the show, including the smart home area. The car is becoming an extension of the smart home, a message that was clear at Amazon’s and Google’s booths which both displayed connected vehicles. Automated, electric, and connected cars were hot topics, and I even got a chance to take my first automated vehicle ride with Qualcomm—which as it turns out, is not much different than being a passenger in a normal vehicle.

5G, TVs, Samsung, and Home Healthcare

In addition to these major smart home trends, 5G, TV tech, Bixby, and home health also had a presence at CES. 5G was (as expected) a bit over-hyped, though many of the vendors we spoke to realized that it is still developing and on the backburner for now. TVs made a lot of noise, with big companies displaying roll-up, laser, and wallpaper TVs. Samsung continues to cling to Bixby despite obvious domination from Alexa and Google Assistant, though the company is embracing more integrations with these assistants.