CES 2016 in Las Vegas came to life for media attendees with a preview event -- CES Unveiled -- on Monday night. The event was set up for vendors to show off their products in hopes of attaining media attention. It also served as a glimpse of the broader products and trends we'll be talking about throughout 2016 and beyond.
After walking around a crowded ballroom for a couple of hours checking out gadgets of all shapes, sizes, and functionality, here are the major trends I saw observed that I think are likely to have long-term impact on our lives and businesses.
From products promising to grow hair to gadgets that track your calories and movement, there are many companies that want to help you be healthier. There was no shortage of exercise, sleep, and nutrition products on display at CES Unveiled.
There are two trends within health and fitness that have been building and continue to grow. The first involves products that communicate with your healthcare provider. The second revolves around devices that analyze the data they gather to offer prescriptive solutions for better living. Both types of products face a challenge in that they're becoming so good the FDA is taking an interest.
I'm using this term to encompass virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D images. It seems we've talked about virtual reality becoming "the next big thing" for most of this decade. This year, the price points, quality, and ability to create software are coming together in ways that will bring immersive video to more projects.
One of the big changes is in the number of affordable virtual reality cameras coming onto the market this year. When 360-degree cameras are as ubiquitous as GoPros, I expect virtual reality glasses -- from Google Cardboard on up – will start to keep pace.
All of these mobile devices we're using require energy. At the same time, electricity for our homes and offices is becoming more expensive in terms of dollars and carbon footprint.
[ Guess which companies Microsoft is partnering with now. Read Microsoft Partnerships Drive Connected Cars: CES 2016. ]
As a result, manufacturers are pushing for batteries that are energy-dense, photovoltaic systems that are more cost effective, and alternative energy options that don't carry with them the lingering scent of granola and patchouli. All were on display here. Auxiliary battery packs are ubiquitous, products to help you monitor and control the energy use in your home are common, and even solar stoves are becoming more heavily instrumented.
The new FAA registry doesn't seem to be doing anything to slow the growth of the drone market. There are still companies aplenty selling copter platforms with three to eight rotors, and a small but growing number with fixed-wing drone airframes.
I'm keeping my eye on the "micro-drone" category, which comes in below the FAA's cut-off weight. I see those becoming more capable and far more common in 2016.
Consumers and business executives alike are becoming aware that all of the sensors, controllers, and connections in the Internet of Things provide attack vectors for hackers. They also see vulnerabilities in systems both electronic and physical. So at CES Unveiled there were a number of companies touting their solutions for security. In addition, there's an entire Cyber Security Forum going on at CES this week. One of the unanswered questions is how much inconvenience or reduced functionality people will accept in the name of security. This might well be the year we begin to find out.
Apparently, humans lose stuff. And we hate that. I saw several solutions that provide some combination of wireless doo-dad and smartphone app to help you keep up with your stuff.
At least one of the companies is suggesting that businesses can buy these in bulk and put logos on them, so that every time a customer uses one to find their stuff they'll think kindly of the provider. It might work.
There will be much more this week at CES. These are the opening trends. Come back often as InformationWeek brings you the latest from the show.
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