The very best from CES 2015

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Moving Brands’ Nick Monkhouse is back from Vegas after his trip to this years ‘all things tech’ CES conference. Read more below for his personal experience and highlights including his opinion on the collision of tech and the automotive industry, IoT and the home and finishing off with things to keep an eye on.

 

The future of driving might be ‘not driving’

Mercedes Benz unveiled the ‘F015 Luxury in motion’, a prototype for their car of the future. The whole concept was designed around Mercedes’ prediction of what the future technological landscape might be and how the automobile will fit into that landscape. The F015 was a rethink of the car, designed to be aligned with a future where cars drive themselves and the passengers’ biggest concern is how to get the best out of the copious amounts of technology built into the vehicle. Driven by a hydrogen fuel cell, fully autonomous, and containing gestural controls, eye-tracking, HD projection systems, “smart learning technologies” and an interior that looked like a luxurious pod hotel room, Mercedes did a fantastic job of imagining the future of mobility.

Tesla partnered with Panasonic to unveil a pre-production version of their Model X. The new AWD SUV follows the Tesla design language closely, but offers ‘Falcon’ doors which hark back to the old Mercedes gullwing, opening directly upwards and offering passengers an easy way to not bang their heads. The interior is similar to the Model S, offering a giant ‘iPad screen’ to control the key functions of the car, as well as a fully digital driver display.

Tesla and Toyota’s power struggle

Panasonic’s involvement is to supply over 2 billion lithium-ion battery cells to power both Tesla’s Model X and Model S. The Model X is expected to be available in 2016.

Toyota also followed Tesla’s lead by opening up their new fuel cell technology to the masses, making its patents royalty free and available for anyone to access and use. Toyota made a big bet on the future of the car being hydrogen driven, showcasing the Toyota Mirai, due to be released this year.

Swipe for sun

One of the focuses for Volkswagen was the Golf R Touch concept which showcased touch controls and haptic feedback. The car featured 3D cameras which were used to track hand and finger movements allowing passengers to control everything from lights and entertainment to the sunroof and seats. This is conceptually similar to how Leap Motion works, but with an interface that allows passengers to control physical as well as digital things. We’re not sure how useful things like swiping to open the sunroof really are, however VW did a great job of making everything work seamlessly.

The Internet of Industrial Things

Outside of the connected home, the Internet of Things made an interesting appearance through GM’s ‘OnStar’ driver assurance product. The introduction of 4G LTE into GM’s 2015 range has allowed the OnStar service (through a network of tiny sensors) to constantly monitor all key parts of the vehicle, predicting and alerting the driver when a problem is likely to happen. This sort of feature is more in line with the industrial usage of the IoT, an application that often gets overlooked by manufacturers in favour of more consumer friendly Wi-Fi washing machines. Monitoring industrial machinery and manufacturing processes is a massive part of the IoT, and the idea of self diagnosing and self repairing machinery isn’t that far away.

One other thing to note is that OnStar did a fantastic job of showing off and demonstrating their products using Oculus Rift. The ability to immerse yourself inside a fully interactive environment, experiencing what OnStar could offer, was truly incredible. As someone who has been a little suspicious of what Oculus Rift could do before having used it, I have to say I was a little disappointed to come back to reality. As a platform it offers endless possibilities for brands to showcase their products and experiences, offering consumers all kinds of interesting immersive experiences.

The IoT gets practical

Sensors and constant inter-connectivity are becoming more and more commonplace. With the ability to put cheap and accurate sensors in or on pretty much everything, it’s not hard to imagine a time in the very near future when everything is connected to everything else. This will orchestrate an existence where every device is alert to its surroundings and decisions are made and problems solved before we are even aware of them.

The last few CES events felt like they were forcing the IoT agenda prematurely, with brands showcasing various user applications that felt nebulous at best. However, CES 2015 was the first time we saw some relatively clear use cases for connected devices, as well as a level of design and platform integration that meant it might actually be worth the effort to integrate these devices into your home.

Qualcomm did a great job of showcasing the connected future. Using the ‘Why Wait’ concept they showed off their connected technology platform across cars, smart cities, health care, the home and robotics. Their Snapdragon chipset was central to powering this intelligent world, although the focus was very much on the benefits and consequences of the technology rather than the technology itself.

Connect the dumb dots

Intel focused on the Broadwell chip within the ‘Next Unit of Computing’, as well as their new ‘RealSense’ technology. NUC’s are basically small form factor computers (thumb drive sized) that can be connected to monitors as well as various other devices, offering levels of computing power that not long ago were the realm of powerful desktops. RealSense allows you to use gestures to control your computing devices, a 3D camera to provide an immersive experience and an SDK to allow developers to create and build.

Samsung recently acquired SmartThings and started to showcase the technology for the first time this year. The SmartThings Kit contains a set of different sensors that all connect to a central hub which allows you to control the various functions and devices in your home remotely. Think alarms, moisture sensors, door locks, lights and even people. Belkin tried to compete with their WeMo range, a set of customizable sensors similar to SmartThings, allowing previously dumb household objects to attain enlightenment and connect to each other.

The webOS platform (previously owned by Palm and HP) was used by LG for both their Smart TVs and new smart watch. The watch was seen in various guises, including a collaboration with Audi that allows you to connect to your car and even unlock it without a key. Expect to see the device develop into a central controller for the connected home, allowing you to control your toaster, dishwasher, heating, fridge, TV, and maybe even dog.

Also watch out for…

The Airdog, an auto follow drone. It tethers to you wirelessly so you can record your life surfing, skiing, Mountain biking or going to the shop to pick up the groceries…

The Air2, a levitating bluetooth speaker.

The Subpac, an audio amplifying backpack that adds an extra bass dimension to your music experience.

 

The CES experience in general was an exciting development in the world of smart, connected ‘things’. It’s clear that the Internet of Things isn’t just a dreamy concept anymore – it’s getting increasingly tangible – and kits like SmartThings and WeMo mean consumers can make their homes more connected without spending a large stack of money on shiny new gadgets.

The Internet of Things also extends way beyond the connected home. Smart, connected vehicles powered by sustainable fuels are becoming increasingly attractive to the average consumer. We look forward to seeing how connected products and smarter processes continue to impact a wide variety of industries.

 

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