New at CES – The Mercury News


January 5, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Alternative Energy,Cloud Computing,DIY,DIY Project,Internet Of Things,Linux


LAS VEGAS — In case it wasn’t clear before, TVs are no longer the main attraction at CES.

Oh, they still have a prominent place. But a host of other smart products, from connected refrigerators to self-driving cars, are elbowing their way into the spotlight as the industry seeks the next hot growth market.

This transition has been years in the making, but nowhere was it more clear than on Wednesday, the day before the showroom floors open at the annual consumer electronics show.

In years past, the biggest electronics conglomerates from Japan and Korea would give their presentations, one after another. Although each company tended to tout new appliances or other products, the highlight of each news conference was new, gleaming TVs.

This year, some of the big electronics giants were still on hand to tout TVs, but much of the day was filled with nontraditional CES companies touting a whole new era of smart products.

Bosch, for example, showed off a new robot that can check on the dog when you are away from home and relay a message from you to your kids. It also talked about a pilot project where cars using its sensors and systems could detect empty parking spots as they are driving around a city and relay that information to other drivers looking for a place to park.

Continental — yes the tiremaker — talked about new car technologies it’s developing, including an augmented reality system that projects information onto a screen in the drivers’ line of vision to highlight road signs or conditions not easily seen otherwise. It also unveiled a concept for a smart tire — one that would use sensors to “listen” to the roadway to determine what kind of surface a car was driving on so that the car’s systems could adjust automatically to it.

Meanwhile, medical device maker A&D Medical showed off a new connected blood pressure monitor and a connected scale.

But even some of the big consumer electronics companies that are CES regulars spent less time talking about TV and more talking about other gadgets. LG showed off a smart speaker system that looks and works much like Amazon’s Echo, with the ability to control smart home products. It also touted a fridge with a screen and Amazon’s Alexa voice control technology built into it, which would allow users to tell their refrigerator to play music or order from Amazon.

Samsung, which introduced a refrigerator with a built-in screen last year, showed off a new set of them this year that has voice-control built in.

These types of Internet of Things products were everywhere at CES Unveiled on Tuesday night. That event is CES in miniature, where show organizers display some of the more interesting and innovative technologies. If you wandered around CES Unveiled, you could have seen other smart speaker systems, an app-connected beer brewing system, a smart toothbrush, a mirror with a camera system that can tell the condition of the skin on your face — and even a smart hair brush, which can tell you if your hair is damaged or breaking.

Sure, some of these new “smart” products sound ridiculous. And many of them pose privacy and security concerns. But it’s no wonder that they are becoming pre-eminent here at CES.

As the Consumer Technology Association reported this week, industry sales worldwide have fallen for three years straight and are expected to decline again this year. Sales of the devices that make up the bulk of electronics spending — smartphones, TVs, computers, and tablets — are either flat or declining.

Electronics companies have been searching for ways to boost spending. And they’re starting to find it in the Internet of Things. What growth the industry has seen lately is largely coming from these new classes of products. Global sales of wearable gadgets — like smartwatches and fitness bands — alone grew 59 percent last year to $15 billion, according to the CTA, and are expected to grow another 41 percent this year to $21 billion.

All that is largely a consequence of the popularity of smartphones. Smartphones created a mass market for cameras and other sensors; wireless radios; low-powered processors; and digital displays. Thanks to the economies of scale that were created by that market, it’s now relatively inexpensive to include such radios, sensors and even processors inside everyday devices — including hairbrushes.

If anything, this movement toward smart things is just getting started. LG announced Wednesday that all of its appliances going forward will be able to be connected to the internet. And self-driving cars — which rely on many of the same sensors and processors being built into other Internet of Things gadgets — are just starting to roll out.

A smart hair brush may not offer the same excitement as a jumbo-sized TV. But it’s likely a better indicator of where the electronics industry is heading.

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