CTA’s Steve Koenig Offers A Market-Based Preview Of CES 2018

With CES 2018 right around the corner, TWICE spoke to Steve Koenig, senior director, market research, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), about trends and highlights visitors can expect from CES 2018.

TWICE: What do you consider the main tech trends in consumer electronics to be heading into CES?

Steve Koenig: CES is the global stage for innovation and the trends we see there are a mosaic of B2B and B2C (in the market) technologies. On the B2B front, we expect 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics to be major trends. For those “in the market” trends, look for: native interfaces (which includes speech recognition and biometric technology); augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will further redefine our definition of realism; we will get a view of smart cities through a blend B2B and B2C technologies that will shape the future of urban life. CES 2018 will also highlight major tech trends in sports innovation, digital health and automotive technology.

TWICE:What tendencies do you expect to emerge out of this show?

Koenig: Increasing deployment of AI will further automate tasks and routines in meaningful ways — especially in the services sector. Digital assistants (e.g., Alexa, Google Assistant) will become omnipresent in our lives — from our phones, to our homes and vehicles. Wherever we are, they’ll be with us. Already this holiday, we’re seeing massive uptake of smart speakers (one vessel for digital assistants) as holiday gifts. This activity becomes the catalyst establishing voice-control (speech recognition) will become table stakes in the unfolding HMI story for consumer tech. And 2018 will be the year voice-shopping becomes a real sales channel — joining stores, online and mobile.

TWICE:Alexa was arguably the show-stealer at CES 2017, what do you think will wow the crowd this year?

Koenig: I think we’ll see an extension of the 2017 Alexa surprise in the broadening application of AI (including machine-learning, neural-networks and computer vision). The other “Whoa” factor related to AI at CES 2018 will be how rapidly these systems are improving. We’ll discover new capabilities and applications for AI that will amaze and inspire us.

TWICE: What advances do you expect to see in areas of virtual reality?

Koenig: Some of the most compelling advances in VR over the next year few years will be in content — that is, storytelling with this (still emerging) medium. Expect more short-form content across entertainment and brand-marketing. Also look for longer-form content stories to emerge that will totally transform “movie night.” On the hardware side, I expect more wireless solutions for headsets, but more significantly we’ll have new ways to sense and experience the virtual world; begging the question: What is reality?

TWICE:What will we see at the show in regards to artificial intelligence/robotics and autonomous vehicles?

Koenig: AI is the driving force behind the current robotics trend of migrating from task-based systems to those with a service orientation, which can range from companion robots in the home to systems design to function in a commercial setting. At CES 2018 we will learn about new use cases for these service robots and how in some cases they are automating certain tasks or just filling a role like a family companion. CES 2018 will initiate a new chapter in the evolving story of AI’s role in the self-driving vehicle. We will witness improvements in computer vision but also the processing power of AI systems enabling faster learning of the driving task but also decision-making on the open road.

TWICE:Do you think the development (and application) of blockchain technology will bring major changes to the tech sector?

Koenig: Blockchain technology holds some near-term promise for the financial sector in its ability to create an open source, secure and verifiable chain of transactions that, by design, is exceedingly hard to alter or defeat and eliminates much of the vulnerability inherent in introducing one or more intermediaries into an otherwise direct exchange of currency for goods or services. In establishing a peer-to-peer trust ledger in this way, blockchain also holds great promise for Internet security by, for example, helping a network of distributed IoT devices establish a private blockchain amongst themselves. By requiring each device on the network to constantly update, store and solve the next block in the blockchain, only computers that can decrypt and verify the next block in the chain will be allowed to connect to this private network.

TWICE:Do you expect quantum computers to become a short-term reality?

Koenig: Quantum computing is a reality but unfortunately at such a small scale to be of no use to the average person. Researchers have worked with quantum computing for 30-plus years and have proved that what was once theoretical is, in fact, possible. Currently, quantum computers can do fairly rudimentary math problems quickly, but scaling a quantum computer to a point where the greater speed would justify the expense and effort is, according to many in the field, at least 10 and perhaps 20 years away. So in the most literal sense, quantum computing is here, now. But building a universal computer capable of harnessing the power of quantum computing by running any code thrown at it (versus doing one specific type of calculations) is billions of dollars and several technical hurdles away from being anything more than theoretical.

TWICE:Cyber safety seems ever more important, yet one gets the feeling that the presence of smart devices in our lives is growing so fast that privacy and cybersafety can’t possibly keep up. What comfort can you offer to a consumer who wants smart devices but worries about this loss of personal privacy?

Koenig: As connections in the home rise so does the importance of practicing good online hygiene. This means putting the appropriate security measures in place to protect the home network (e.g., firewalls, security passwords, etc.). But also securing PCs and mobile devices (that can control smart-home devices). Lastly, users should practice safe online conduct and remain vigilant to ostensible threats—become healthy skeptics—given most threats come through common channels like your email inbox.

TWICE:For readers working specifically in the “home and business computing sector,” what new directions are you seeing?

Koenig: Expect to see new entrants in the server space and GPU arenas for high performance computing to support machine learning endeavors. On the consumer front we’re expecting to see more solutions like Samsung DeX that enable smartphones to function like PCs when attached to an external display and input devices (like keyboard/mouse).

TWICE:We hear a great deal of interest in products for the home — entertainment and smart-home/automation devices. What’s next that we should watch for in this?

Koenig: The general theme across home entertainment and smart home will be greater integration and support for digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. For TVs, expect more video walls and less supersize displays. And we will probably see and learn more about micro-LED technology.

TWICE:CTA does research into what are the most (and least) commonly owned consumer technology products, from 4K Ultra HDTVs to wearables and in-car communications. Where are you seeing the biggest growth right now? Which categories are lagging?

Koenig: Based on CTA’s market research in 2017, some of the fastest growth categories in 2017 based on ownership include:

• 4K UHD TVs
• Smartphones
• Smart-home devices
• Smart watches
• Smart speakers (like Amazon Echo)
• Wearable activity trackers
• Wireless speakers (both portable and stationary)

Consumer tech categories that are declining include:

• E-readers
• DVD players
• Camcorders
• Portable game consoles
• Portable GPS devices
• MP3 Players
• Digital point-and-shoot cameras
• Cordless phones

TWICE:How do you interpret the growth of streaming video and its impact on shrink-wrapped product (DVDs, CDs, etc.) ... and where is that trend going?

Koenig: The growth of streaming media services (both video and audio) is a function of consumers’ on-demand expectations for access to content anytime and anywhere. That said, we still see demand for physical media for library content or high-quality versions (like 4K HDR). However, some consumers (typically older adults) still prefer physical media on principle.

TWICE: What about the decline in sales of TV sets?

Koenig: Year-to-date shipment volumes of LCD TVs through September were up 5 percent and we expect annual 2017 sales volume growth to remain positive. Where we are seeing decline in TV sales is in the under 40-inch size categories, which our current forecasts predict will fall 22 percent on a volume basis this year.

TWICE:Where do you see drone-technology headed?

Koenig: While we continue to see drones marketed in consumer sales channels for hobbyists and enthusiasts, drones are beginning to take flight in commercial and industrial applications to perform tasks with greater speed and efficiency than humans (like search/rescue operations or package delivery) or fill roles that are dangerous (such as building or bridge inspections).

This article originally appeared on TVT's sister publication TWICE