Brett Sappington’s Top 5 Things from CES – 2019 Edition

by Brett Sappington | Jan. 15, 2019

Any time you ask someone about the great things they saw at CES, you need to take their response with a grain (or heaping tablespoon) of salt. The issue is scope. The Consumer Electronics Show is far too big for any one person to get an accurate perspective given all of the keynotes, workshops press events, booths, theaters, and corporate suites to be navigated over a handful of days.

For me, I try to sneak away from the suites for a few hours to track down major trends, look into cool technologies, and scope out any new players with something interesting. On the way, I often spy a few unexpected “Wow” items that have nothing to do with my focus on consumer entertainment (such as a drone the size of an Escalade -- Thanks, Bell!)

So, here are a few items of note:

  1. The Flood of IoT and Smart Home. If something is in the home that can be tracked, watched, measured, monitored, automated, or controlled by voice, there was a booth and multiple vendors for it at CES. They were all either self-distributed or in intense discussions with Amazon, Best Buy, and/or Home Depot. Fortunately, I have rather exhausted colleagues that address this space better than I can, and with corresponding research, leaving me to watch…
  2. The Rise of the 8K TV. At CES 2019, several TV makers were showing their smartest, largest televisions ever.  For those of you just coming to terms with 4K (and HDR), say hello to my little high-resolution friend – presented on massive screens. Fear not, your recent 4K TV investment is safe. We are a long way off from having 8K content available. For those interested in the not-yet-mainstream, you can also watch something on…
  3. New Alternative Form Factor TVs and Displays. Samsung had previously displayed their wall-covering “The Wall” configurable TV, but the company’s latest version includes components with 4K resolution. Many companies were displaying laser shooting short throw projectors, including LG. These boxes can produce up to 120-inch images in 4K and sit only a few inches from the wall. A business-oriented version from Adok projected the image onto a desk, providing touch-based interaction for individuals or groups – just like James Bond movies. Hypervsn has promoted its LED-pinwheel 3D displays in the past, but they can now link together dozens to make a massive 3D display – ostensibly for in-or-outdoor advertising. For gamers, NVIDIA showed off their Big Format Gaming Displays as well as their GEFORCE RTX graphics cards, which make gameplay so realistic that you can see things behind your character in the reflections on car windshields (which is pretty amazing).
  4. Audio Innovations. Several companies have been working to improve the audio experience. Dolby is launching its first consumer project – Dimension. This product is a set of noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones. Their secret sauce is in a feature that allows users to dial up (or down) outside audio to allow you to hear people talking to you (or eliminate it). It’s an interesting solution for gamers, or music fans, whose spouses or roommates are losing their voice trying to shout over your 160 dB audio track. Other companies were promoting solutions to offer 3D sound out of fewer, and smaller, speakers.
  5. Solar / Sustainability Tech. This one is totally outside of my research area, but cool nonetheless. For several products, smart people took existing technologies and used them to solve real world problems in emerging markets. Zero Mass Water offers a self-contained solar panel that produces 3+ liters of drinking water per day by pulling moisture from the atmosphere. Solar Cow helps children in underdeveloped nations receive an education by providing free electricity. The kids return to school each day and receive a rechargeable battery that the school refreshes by solar power.


Each of these categories point to a longer term set of trends in where consumer technology is going - more connected, greater realism, higher quality experiences, greater configurability, and solving real-world problems. While not all will be market-shifters in 2019, all will continue to have an impact in the longer term.

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