Kiwi companies trending at CES

02 February 2016

Jon Davies / Business Development Manager / North America

For a few days in early January, Las Vegas becomes the centre of the technology universe with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This year the event drew massive crowds, with around 175,000 people converging to see the latest in innovative devices, gadgets, software and services. 

It’s hard to stand out among the almost 4,000 exhibitors, but this years’ keynote speech featured a demonstration of wearable technology from StretchSense and a number of other Kiwi companies were also flying the flag, including Parrot Analytics, Performance Lab, Syrp and MeMini.  Walking the halls of the conference can be sensory overload and a variety of products can be found across all industries. I found a robot to clean your bbq grill, a wrist band to help with the nausea caused by your virtual reality headset (among other, smarter applications) smart sensors for your pets and drones that can carry people  (I think that used to be called a helicopter?). But, rising above all of the noise, here were the emerging trends I took out of the event. 

Top 5 CES trends

  • Virtual reality
  • Drones
  • Internet of Things goes mainstream
  • Car manufacturers and their tech partners
  • Cybersecurity  

Earth will be a shady place if all the drone manufacturers at CES manage to get their products into the sky. 

Jon Davies NZTE Business Development Manager North America 

Virtual reality is back  

An entire section of CES was devoted to augmented and virtual reality, and the line around the Oculus Rift booth was by far the longest. Some companies showed off technology that combined augmented reality (which superimposes digital images and text on the real world) and virtual reality, (which is a completely immersive environment via headsets and headphones). New Zealand's 8i  was one such company with their technology showcasing three short video demos at CES: of which, a short film called #100humans will be premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival later this month. 

When it comes to a renewed interest in technologies like virtual or augmented reality, content becomes a requirement to drive market adoption. Nick Underwood, CEO of GoPro and YouTube, revealed that GoPro will now be delivering “immersive” content through their YouTube channel - promising an immersive-capture GoPro Camera device later on this year. All of this will be viewable via Google Cardboard  - which was embraced during last years Rugby World Cup with the Haka 360 experience and is very inexpensive to manufacture. 

Drones, drones and more drones 

Earth will be a shady place if all the drone manufacturers at CES manage to get their products into the sky. These new drone products will be much more autonomous and versatile and make huge leaps in the areas of photography, video recording, measurement and navigation - literally changing the way in which we view and measure our world. It was also interesting to see major technology companies like Amazon and Google planning to use drones in their distribution and delivery networks. In talking to drone manufacturers on the floor, they also see a future for the unmanned aerial vehicles (which is what they have to be called in America, due to the militarisation of the word “Drone") in security surveillance and artificial intelligence markets. 

It’s worth noting that almost everybody involved in commercial drone usage is working together with NASA and the FAA on the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) project.

Normalising of IOT 

After viewing all of the available products for IoT at home, I’m pretty sure our house will be smarter than us very soon: In good ways, with products designed for smarter water usage or a bed that will tell you how well you are sleeping, to more questionable ways, such as Fridge Selfies and knowing how much tomato sauce is left in the bottle (actually NZ could be a prime market for this kind of sensor!). 

The abundance of all this tech is indicative of the ever-falling price of the underpinning technology - and validated by players such as Intel, who have just released a $10 sensors called the Curie, which will be featured in the upcoming Winter X Games.  

The wearables marketplace on the CES 2016 show floor has apparently more than trebled since last year. With New Zealand companies such as VX Sports and Swibo out on the floor and in booths, we realised that it’s not just about fitness anymore - wristbands, smartwatches, jewellery and embedded clothing are transforming baby care and parenting, health and fashion. I also noted that much of the health tech on display that is sensor-based is negotiating a fine line by selling as consumer devices, not as health tech device (thus avoiding FDA approvals). According to CCI Insights, this wearable technology industry is projected to grow 64 percent over the next three years. This market segment will likely become heavily saturated before consolidating across a few platforms. 

An emerging technology that was announced at CES - and likely going to be a key player in the growth in the wearables and IoT space - is collaboration between Lenovo and Google called Project Tango.  This sensor-based tech is designed for any small device that provides the ability to perceive depth and space in similar ways to how humans do. So a phone or car with this tech will know where your hands are in three dimensions. Gesture control, spatial mapping and hyper-local location tracking are just some applications of this kind of technology. Minority Report tech is not far away.

Car manufacturers out in force (with their tech partners) 

I counted 10 major car brands plus dozens of auto tech firms at CES this year, including one that may be the much rumoured and anticipated Apple Car. 

Major car companies such as Audi, Volkswagen, BMW and Toyota all unveiled new car concepts. But surrounding these is a bunch of complimentary technology and emerging collaborations, such as Self Driving Tech (Jaguar and Qualcom), Telematics (Toyota, Ford and Livio) and the connected car (Nissan and Microsoft). 

And the final takeaway from CES……………...

Everything is trending 

CES is increasingly becoming a platform for smaller startups and companies to show entirely new types of products - smart home security systems, fuel-efficient delivery drones and self-driving cars. As mentioned, major car manufacturers as well as internet companies like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon are increasingly attending the show as well. It’s a noisy place with plenty of chatter, enthusiasm and jazz hands. 

One thing is clear though, everything is connected. With literally all devices on display being smart, connected and/or self-learning, and with us all being immersed into a new kind of visually augmented world, it's critical that the looming cybersecurity challenges that these new technologies may introduce are considered. CES went as far as even hosting its first ever CyberSecurity Forum this year and John Curran from Accenture actually summed this sentiment up well, warning the industry that connectivity would start to stagnate if security issues were not addressed.