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#sowhoknew: The ABC of CES 2014

Courtesy of our friends at CNET we had the luxury of a guided ‘tour of the floor’ early yesterday before the crowds descended upon CES 2014 in Las Vegas. As an overall assessment, I would say that this year the tech was slightly underwhelming with nothing truly revolutionary. What was very clear is that some trends are beginning to really establish themselves most notably the emergence of sensors on pretty much anything and everything. From your car to your clothing.
So here goes, a whistle stop tour of the best and the rest from CES:
Wearable Tech
Possibly the most prevalent trend this year was wearable tech beyond the limited functionality of existing offerings such as the Nike Fuelband and Jawbone offerings. The most notable were from Cityzen who debuted their Smart Fabric which is a textile that is able to monitor people’s temperature, heart rate, speed, acceleration and GPS location. All very exciting although I have previously seen similar (and arguably much better) sensor embedded sports related garments from SmartLife.
We also saw SmartEye Glass which is Sony’s response to Google Glass but has the added dimension of being able to overlay additional content when viewing content on a primary device.
Fashion Tech
Clo 3D is an interesting proposition which basically allows you to design your own clothing online and get it easily manufactured. Brother have a similar solution but based in the home which is effectively a printer which can print cut outs on material based upon your own designed template. And the strangest of them all? That award has to go to the Navigate Jacket which has sensors built in the fabric, linked to the GPS functionality on your smartphone. Basically the shoulder pad in your jacket will vibrate to indicate which direction you need to turn. The mind boggles where that technology might end up.
Sensor Tech
Sensors and associated apps in pretty much everything you can think of are huge this year. Inspired by last year’s HapiFork (which was my favourite piece of tech from last year) which measures how many mouthfuls of food you are eating, this year’s spiritual successor is the Kolibree a connected toothbrush which gameifies brushing your teeth. Added to that we have Teddy the Guardian a smart cuddly bear which can help monitor a child’s temperature and heart rate. The Intel Onesie for babies pretty much does the same with the technology packed into a baby grow. For medical professionals, there is the Scanadu Scout which resembles a tricorder from Star Trek and an intelligent stethoscope called the Ekoscope.
Connected Home
We saw the first moves towards connecting the home last year with a few smart fridges/ ovens from the likes of LG. This year, the game has moved on significantly and we now see a whole range of connected appliances from the likes of Samsung with sensors/ cameras/ touchscreen interfaces added to everything from washing machines to microwaves. Talking of microwaves, Whirlpool showcased their latest piece of kit which reads the barcode of your ready meal and knows exactly how long to cook your dinner and on what power setting. By next year, maybe it can even feed you as well.
In other areas of the home, we have smart locks from Goji which are opened/ closed based upon the use of your mobile phone. Canary introduced a home security system which tracks the usual sensors on doors/ windows but also monitors changes in air temperature and movement to detect intruders.
Automotive
We saw the car makers and technology companies getting in on the act at CES in 2013 but this year they have made huge strides. There were plenty of cars on view from BMW to Infiniti. The pick of the bunch? Audi have reinvented the design of the car cockpit with a funky new layout and interactive interface powered by the latest NVidia N1 chip. Google have partnered with various manufacturers to provide an Android based operating system in cars which will automatically sync with your Android phone. And GM has gone with a great idea for their Chevrolet brand to effectively turn their cars into 4G LTE WiFi hotspots.
Robotics
No earthshattering developments but some quirky ideas on dumb robots to carry out mundane tasks such as the Budgee (a robot trolley to carry your shopping), the Grill Bot (to clean your BBQ) and the Jeva (a voice controlled robotic arm which can lift your Martini to your mouth for you).
Random Tech
As ever there is always a slew of rather odd technology which may not necessarily be huge money spinners but do raise a wry smile. What about the Fitbark? A GPS tracker for your dog which ensures your pooch gets a regular walk? Or maybe the Onewheel which is a self balancing uni-wheeled skateboard which is guaranteed not to fall over no matter how unbalanced you might be. And the best of the bunch is the Oculus VR which is a 360 degree virtual reality headset which was originally designed for gaming but the applications into travel and retail are evident (if they can get the rather clunky looking kit redesigned).
Bendable / Curved TV’s and Phones
If last year was about 4K and the previous year was 3D, then 2014 was all about bendable technology. All the manufacturers have figured out how to curve or bend OLED and even LCD screens. I must admit they look pretty cool although I am not entirely convinced that the viewer experience is enhanced dramatically by having a curved screen. The same treatment has been added to phones and again it looks funky but I am not entirely sure it adds anything significant. The LG bendable phone screen also has the added function of a self-repairing back. Don’t ask me how it does it but apparently if it gets scratched or even lightly gouged the material will repair the damage itself!
Gesture control has also moved on. There is now no need to wave your hand or other appendage in front of the screen. Now you can control your TV using just your retina. Great for couch potatoes who need their hands free for fries and beer.
The author, Steve Blakeman, is the CEO of OMD Asia Pacific
Mr Blakeman is a Contributor to Digital Market Asia’s editorial commentary; more of his views can be found under his column #sowhoknew

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.
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