CES technology trends for 2020

Insights and predictions based on presentations by CTA

e-tech was present at this year's Consumer Electronics Show which took place in Las Vegas from 7 to 10 January 2020.

Bosch Light Drive smart glasses
The Bosch Light Drive smart glasses look stylish and modern (Photo:Bosch)

IoT = Intelligence of Things

The past 10 years were all about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it connects devices and people, but much of it still required some fundamental human intervention, monitoring and feedback.

According to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), IoT is now moving to the next stage. By incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), which starts to permeate every aspect of consumer technology and human lives, it is turning into the Intelligence of Things. Intelligent devices are moving from being standalone to becoming elements within a collaborative web of intelligent things, with absolute minimal human intervention. This is a trend that is likely to dominate the next decade in consumer tech.

AI in everything, out of the box

AI in the form of facial recognition, object detection, speech recognition, voice-activation, etc. will be incorporated in most devices, interconnecting with many others. In the future, your bed might inform your coffee machine that you overslept, and your coffee will be ready, stronger than usual, because it knows that you need it.

Even better customer service

Currently, several applications for AI are already being implemented. For example, McDonalds is looking at adding voice assistants to take orders at their drive-throughs. During a media briefing at CES, Steve Koenig, VP of research at CTA, took the example of the fast food industry and explained that, by adding intelligence to the initial interaction when an order is taken, this guarantees it is precisely executed and frees the human worker to focus on handling the money transaction, thus providing a better service.

Ultimate personalization

At CES, L’Oréal presented Perso, an AI-powered personalized beauty system that creates tailored skincare, lip shades or foundations on demand. Perso is a box-like device that is accompanied by an app which helps evaluate the skin and assesses basic concerns such as fine lines, dark spots, lack of firmness. The AI also considers important environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, air quality, pollen level, UV index, etc. Inside the box, a robot-driven device then mixes different ingredients to produce skincare that exactly matches the needs of the consumer on that given day. Another box can identify and mix the exact type and shade of foundation that matches the wearer’s skin. A third Perso box can colour match lipsticks to skin tone or coordinate it with wardrobe items or latest fashion trends.

Inaugural year for 5G

The intelligence of things will be powered by 5G, underlined Koenig. 5G is expected to be at least 10 times faster than 4G and can support many more connected devices.

2020 is the inaugural year for 5G – 50 network providers globally are rolling out 5G networks, which will fuel demand for 5G handsets. Shipments of 5G handsets in 2020 are expected to reach approximately 20,2 million units (vs 145,6 million for 4G) and around 106,3 million units by 2022, when for the first time more 5G than 4G handsets will be delivered.

Contrary to 4G, 5G will be led by commercial applications such as autonomous vehicles, smart cities with connected infrastructure that lowers cost, energy consumption and will produce large data streams for improved services; critical IoT such as remote healthcare, traffic safety and control or consumer safety. The advantages of 5G are very high availability, low latency and very fast transmission speeds. Together with AI, 5G is a technology that is expected to be incoroporated in most new tech in the coming years.

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality

For the first time, AR glasses resemble normal glasses: the Bosch Light Drive smart glasses look stylish and modern. They can be useful while shopping, biking, driving and allow users to check smart phones without actually looking at them. Generally, use cases for AR glasses are growing and include, for example, training of work forces, projection of repair instructions for mechanics, pre-sale of travel experiences in tourism and building designs in architecture.

Another deeply immersive experience is Teslasuit's suit and glove, which combines VR and AR. It is an extremely accurate substitute for real-world conditions and can be used in public safety training or industrial environments to provide a full-body, real-world simulation of complex situations that could under normal circumstances put human safety at risk. The suit helps ensure that people are prepared when they face a real-life emergency situation. It provides haptic feedback and captures both motion and biometrics. The suit can also be used by athletes where it functions like a built-in personal trainer and provides more effective training.

From digital health to digital therapeutics

Digital health is all about using technology to improve the health and wellness of individuals and for many people it is becoming a lifestyle. They use it to measure the number of steps they walk or to track their metabolism to learn how many carbs or how much fat they are burning. With increasing air pollution in many cities around the world, tech-enhanced anti-pollution masks had a strong presence at CES.

Modern citizens being more and more sleep-deprived, a lot of sleep tech promised a good night’s sleep to adults and babies alike. A show-stopper at CES was SNOO, a smart bassinet that plays white noise and aims to rock a baby to a calm state in around 30 seconds. It adapts the rocking to how fussy the baby is. Anyone who has had a baby knows that a full night’s sleep is something that happens only in fleeting dreams. Therefore, anything that keeps a little one asleep for an extra hour or two will give mums and dads a bit of time to prepare for another long and busy day. 

One step closer to a medical device, is AerBetic, a wearable non-invasive diabetes monitor that passively and continuously monitors blood sugar levels. It does so by using a nano gas sensor that detects the gases humans naturally emit when their blood sugar is getting too high or too low. Using machine learning, the device becomes more accurate over time. When the wearer receives an alert, they can measure their blood sugar with a traditional monitor and enter the information into the device. The more feedback the system gets, the more useful the device becomes. 

One of the fastest growing areas are so-called digital therapeutics, which consist of personal health connected devices, implantable medical devices and online telemedicine consultations. These deliver therapeutic interventions via software directly to the patient, to prevent, manage and treat a medical disorder or disease. 

According to a 2019 digital health consumer survey by Accenture, more than half of consumers now expect digital capabilities from their health providers, and these expectations start to influence how patients choose doctors. In the survey, 49% of respondents were interested in video appointments and 53% in using remote or telemonitoring devices to record and monitor health. Consumers are also increasingly willing to share their health data with physicians and are becoming more engaged in their health care.

Flying cars

Several types of aerial vehicles resembling a cross between a helicopter and a drone were presented at CES. These so-called vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) are evolving quickly thanks to many of the same technologies that are used in self-driving cars and electric vehicles. Those include sensors, computing hardware and software, batteries and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) connectivity. If promises are kept, Uber Air will become one of the first flying taxis in just four years, but others such as ASX and Bell Nexus are close on their heels. 

Transportation isn’t just about cars, it’s about platforms that move people and things, and this can include scooters, bikes, mopeds and the like. However, because of limited space for ground-based infrastructure, air mobility could be a real opportunity.

According to a 2019 Morgan Stanley Research report, VTOLs could grow to USD 2,9 trillion worldwide by 2040. It also predicts that “flying cars” could revolutionize the ride-sharing industry by making four trips for each one trip made on the ground. Challenges include battery technology in terms of limits to energy density vs weight; enough power for smooth take-off and landing as well as battery reliability since a single failure would result with near certainty in a fatal accident. Besides regulations and aircraft certifications, the affordability question persists: will the price of a trip ever fall low enough for VTOLs to become a mass transit option?

Food and urban farming

Smart fridges can tell us how long items have been in there and when we are running out of them. Rather than going shopping, technology now offers other options to ensure food supply. Take 3D food printing for example. Although still a niche industry it is growing and nearly all kinds of food items can now be printed, including dairy and meat products, and even sushi. For high-class restaurants and caterers, 3D printers simplify the production of personalized objects like logos, chocolate labels for desserts or cakes, as well as fun pasta shapes. Food can also be customized to meet very specific dietary needs such as gluten-free or vegan.

Another option is to grow your own greeneries in your kitchen or on your roof or balcony. Sensors, LED lighting, heating elements and pre-mixed seeds and ingredients nearly guarantee crop success both in terms of quality and quantity. Several tech-improved options for newbie farmers were presented at CES.   

Robots reporting for duty

Robots in all forms and shapes are here to improve our well-being. Companion robots seek to combat isolation of the elderly, manage stress or even educate children in STEM disciplines. The global market size for health care assistive robots is forecast to reach USD 1,2 billion by 2024 (Global Market Insights). While the potential for robots in caregiving and education is high, there are still barriers to widespread adoption. Many people aged 65 or older have negative associations with robots. They are concerned that robots can’t perform tasks safely and effectively. The ageing population across the globe creates opportunities for care-giving robots, but only if those negative associations can be overcome.    

Educational robots are serving as teaching assistants, enabling remote participation via telepresence and promoting STEM learning outside the classroom. Consumer studies report near universal acceptance (92%) to using robotics for education applications ranging from gamified problem solving for children to programming lessons for older users. Much like care-giving robots, market estimates for educational robots are high and growing, reaching an estimated USD 1,01 billion in 2024. 

Retail and hospitality robots, along with delivery robots represent the largest sectors for robotics. Humanoid robot Pepper, which can recognize human emotions, has been engaged as a greeter in Japan, providing information to customers. It has also been deployed in academic settings and health care, as well as a “sales person”. LGs PorterBot, ServeBot and CartBot are designed for environments such as airports, hotels, supermarkets and malls to assist customers, transport luggage, deliver meals or carry groceries.