5 min read

CES 2016: Fear And Excitement In Las Vegas

CES brings new products that are exciting -- and some that are very, very scary. Here's a look ahead at what we'll be covering at CES 2016 this week -- and what we'll most definitely avoid.
Tech Fail Forecast: Bursting The Next Bubble
Tech Fail Forecast: Bursting The Next Bubble
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Starting today, roughly a quarter-million people are gathering in the desert to see the latest in electronic products and services at CES 2016, Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas. InformationWeek associate editor Kelly Sheridan is here, as is contributor Eric Zeman. So am I. And we'll use our time to bring as much of the splendor to you as time and human stamina will allow.

What sort of products will we be covering? As of this writing I've received more than 750 press releases about products, services, and events at CES. These range from products with clear applications in the enterprise, to ones for which I really can't imagine an application.

Every day this week we'll bring you information on what we think is important at CES -- and at least a little bit of what we think is plain old fun.

[Follow the money. Read Top 10 Tech IPOs Of 2015.]

To prepare you, here's a rundown of the product categories in which we'll see a lot that's important -- and a few that may be mentioned here today for the first, and last, time ever. Let's start with the exciting stuff:

Internet of Things: I've received sneak previews of news regarding building control, connected automobiles, connected lighting, and much more. We're finally hitting "critical mass" in the market, a point at which many product categories carry the assumption that products will come with sensors, control mechanisms, or embedded intelligence. At other conferences this year we'll hear about enterprise systems that collect and analyze the data from all these sensors. For now, let's sit back and be amazed by the Internet of Everything.

Drones: If it flies, you buy. That's the message from scores of companies making their way to CES. I'll be looking for drones carrying a growing number of sensors. I'm interested particularly in those operated by pilots using virtual cockpit equipment that offers a "pilot's point of view" at the controller. All of the hobby platforms are stretching the technology and making it more likely that operators of drones for business purposes will have more features and functions to work with in the near future.

Remote Healthcare: I've seen a number of releases from companies willing to talk about where they are in the process of having their products approved by the FDA. That approval is critical for companies that want the data from their devices to be used by doctors (and paid for by insurance companies). Healthcare at this level is a subset of the wearables market, and a small piece of the remote system world. Still, it's critically important subset if the market for wearable health devices is expected to grow.

Virtual/Augmented Reality: I know we've been hearing about these technologies for a few years (and yes, I know that they're two quite different things), but 2016 is beginning to feel like the year when each of the video platforms becomes useful. I started to see a bit of that last year, but the vendors are getting much, much better -- and the software has become compelling.

All right, now that we're done reviewing the products and technologies that make sense, let's turn to the CES announcements we find frightening, confusing, or simply odd:

Tiny Wearables: Companies are talking about rings that you talk to, use to control your smartphone, and glance at to see who is calling or trying to get your attention. Now, my problem with this category isn't the ring, per se. It's having to deal with the products that are sure to follow. Can you image the conversations that will arise around other, smaller pieces of personal adornment? "You control your smartphone by talking into your what?" I really don't want to attend that press conference.

New Social Media Platforms: When I hear pitches for these new services, they always sound as though they've been developed to solve a very particular problem -- one so particular it might not extend beyond the platform's development team. Social networks require critical mass to be valuable. It's possible to develop a platform that is so specific to one problem that it never achieves critical mass. Sigh.

Connected "Personal Pleasure" Devices: Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Just no.

Taking IoT Too Far: I like the promise of IoT. With that said, there are some things that don't need to be connected to the rest of the world. Refrigerators, for example. Or toilets. Because a company can connect something to the Internet doesn't mean it should.

There's a lot at CES that didn't make my list. We'll be reporting on what automakers are up to at the show this year, for example, as well as the latest in mobile device technologies. Is there anything on your list of products you'd like to see covered -- or those that should never again see the light of day? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.

**Elite 100 2016: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JAN. 15, 2016** There's still time to be a part of the prestigious InformationWeek Elite 100! Submit your company's application by Jan. 15, 2016. You'll find instructions and a submission form here: InformationWeek's Elite 100 2016.