CES technology trends for 2018

AI technologies drive innovation

Early on each New Year, technology companies gather in Las Vegas for the annual CES show. The 2018 edition brought together 3900 exhibitors displaying their latest developments. Analysts from the show organizer, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), provided an overview of the major trends to follow this year.

Example of several Leka robots
Leka robots are designed to help children with developmental disabilities (Photo: Leka)

Data will be used to fuel the next generation of products and services. From smart cities to self-driving cars, technology is needed that can allow devices and services to access great volumes of data. According to CTA market researchers Steve Koenig and Lesley Rohrbaugh, 5G wireless and artificial intelligence (AI) herald this new age of data.

Already, the proliferation of smart, connected devices has generated significant volumes of data. And these volumes will only increase. According to Intel chief executive officer (CEO) Brian Krzanich, the average person will generate 1.5 GB of data each day by 2020 compared with 650 MB in 2016. Self-driving cars with their cameras and sensors will generate approximately 4 TB of data each day.

In their presentation to the media, Koenig and Rohrbaugh identified eight key trends for 2018 that will be fuelled by access to data.  

5G – the 5th generation wireless system

Imagine loading the two-hour film Guardians of the Galaxy in 3.6 seconds compared with the 6 minutes required with the current fourth generation (4G) network  (at 100 Mb/s). This will be possible using the next generation wireless telecommunications system, 5G, which promises higher speeds, lower latency and greater capacity than the current mobile system.

Currently, 5G field tests are underway around the world and several operators have already announced plans for commercial rollout in 2019. According to Koenig and Rohrbaugh, 5G systems will be essential for wireless virtual reality, self-driving cars and smart cities. 

Artificial Intelligence

In our homes, voice activated ‘assistants’ control connected devices such as lamps, door locks, thermostats, refrigerators and washing machines. They order our groceries online and play our favourite music. The popularity of these ‘assistants’ is growing, with one in six people owning a smart speaker in the United States, according to a report from NPR and Edison Research. Recent improvements to the functionality of voice activated assistants have helped enhance their spread.

Businesses rely on AI applications to process data, detect and deter security intrusions, automate certain tasks, resolve customer service issues and personalize promotions. In a survey of 240 information technology (IT) and business decision makers, 80% reported that they are currently using AI technologies and 30% plan to increase spending on AI technologies over the next three years.

The Joint Technical Committee of IEC and ISO on information technology (ISO/IEC JTC 1) and several of its subcommittees (SCs) prepare International Standards for artificial intelligence. Given the rapid developments in AI across many industries, a new subcommittee (SC) on artificial intelligence, ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 42, was set up in 2017 with the mandate of providing standardization in the area of AI as well as guidance to other committees developing AI applications.


This year at CES, exhibitors showcased a variety of robots targeting the consumer market. Known as smart tech, these robots provide a specialized set of skills. Examples include robots that can help you sleep by mimicking the rhythm of breathing and playing lullabies, can provide home surveillance by taking and sending videos when their motion sensors are activated or can vacuum the floor and put away clutter.

Increasingly, manufacturers are aspiring to design robots with more sympathetic characteristics that will allow them to become a family friend and respond to human touch and voice.

IEC produces International Standards for many of the advanced technologies that robots incorporate, such as voice recognition. IEC work also covers the internet of things (IoT), navigation and hardware products such as cameras, lights, speakers and microphones.


Body measurements and calculations – biometrics – can be used as a form of identification. Increasingly, these measurements are incorporated into the technology we use by providing enhanced authentication and access control. Facial recognition and iris scanning can provide access to your smartphone and start your car, thumbprints can open your padlock and voice recognition can protect your wallet. 

Voice has quickly become a popular user interface. Not only are voice commands used to control various devices in the home but also to order products online through smart speakers. These applications rely upon Standards developed by ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 37 for generic biometric technologies including voice and facial recognition. Other IEC Standards that can be used for biometrics include electronic display devices (IEC TC 110) and sensors (IEC TC 47).

Biometric technologies raise concerns regarding privacy and data protection. Biometric data stored in a central database might be used for purposes other than the one originally intended. ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 27, IT security techniques, has developed the ISO/IEC 27000 family of International Standards for information security management systems (ISMS) to enable organizations to keep their data assets secure.

Virtual reality and augmented reality

The market for virtual reality (VR) has expanded from the consumer and gaming market to business applications. It can be used to model manufacturing prototypes, provide training for first aid responders or help customers make purchasing decisions by experiencing a product or service virtually. Similarly, AR is becoming an increasingly popular tool with consumers and businesses. It facilitates shopping by allowing customers to try on clothing virtually or ‘see’ furnishings inside their home.  

According to analysts at IDC, worldwide spending on AR/VR is forecast to reach USD 17,8 billion in 2018, an increase of nearly 95% over the USD 9,1 billion expected for 2017.

At CES, exhibitors demonstrated that the VR ecosystem is expanding with new products such as VR-specific headphones, charging stations, and content subscription sites. One innovative service combined a VR headset with a specialized weight resistance machine, providing the user with a complete physical workout in a video game-like environment.

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 24 provides Standards on interfaces for information technology-based applications relating to computer graphics and virtual reality while ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29 covers the coding of audio, picture and multimedia information. IEC Standards for sensors (IEC TC 47) and electronic displays (IEC TC 110) can also be applicable. 

Smart cities

With the UN predicting that 66% of the world population will be living in urban areas by 2050, governments will need to find methods of optimizing public services and reducing traffic congestion. Recognizing the growing importance of smart cities, CES focused extensively on this topic for the first time this year, attracting representatives from around the world.

According to Koenig, global spending on smart cities will reach USD 34,35 billion by 2020. Examples of smart city solutions already in use include the measurement and analysis of air quality, the monitoring of pedestrian and car traffic and the automation of street lighting. An application in London allows users to locate available parking spots easily in real time, while in Paris users can measure their exposure to noise pollution.

IEC provides many of the Standards in this area. The integration of energy generation, buildings, transportation, lighting, healthcare, and safety/security can be tailored to the needs of individual cities using hundreds of IEC International Standards (see more on the IEC Smart City page).

Sports Innovation

Highlighting how technology is disrupting sports, CES 2018 created a new exhibition space dedicated to products and services that support athletes and their fans.

Data-driven measurements, from activity tracking sensors that quantify physical activity to concussion sensing mouth guards, can help athletes and coaches improve performance and reduce injury. The data collected will provide information on athletic performance, sleep patterns and nutrition which can be aggregated to develop personalized training (see e-tech article Sensors Everywhere).

Beyond the individual athlete, technology is reconfiguring sporting venues and serving as a precursor to test the technologies which are likely to be deployed for smart city solutions. By offering real-time data on parking availability and concession stand lines, for example, these smart sporting venues can be replicated in smart cities. They will rely on technologies such as the IoT for connectivity and cloud computing for the storage and retrieval of data. ISO/IEC JTC 1  has developed International Standards that for these technologies.

Digital health

Technology can be harnessed to affect health positively. It can be used to encourage behavioural change, enhance traditional medical practices such as connecting doctors and patients in rural areas and, in some cases, serve as a therapy for a health condition (see our e-tech article in issue 02/2016).

Smart medical devices and wearables continue to be developed (see our e-tech article in issue 01/2015). Some new items showcased at CES included a ‘smart’ insulin pen that collects and transmits key diabetes data through a mobile application and a wearable device for improving sleep by reducing tension through the performance of personalized breathing exercises. Research is also underway at the University of Southern California to use VR to treat trauma.

CES blackout

With over 180,000 participants at CES this year and the largest exhibition spaces in its history, CES organizers declared the show a success. Yet, despite the showcase of cutting edge technologies and discussions about innovations for the future, the show highlighted our dependency on one basic technology – electricity.

For two hours, the Las Vegas Convention Center, which hosted the CES, lost electricity due to a flashover at one of its transformers. While no one is immune from experiencing a natural disaster such as the heavy rainfall which caused the blackout in Las Vegas, the availability of electricity remains the bedrock that underpins technology and innovation.