Earlier in January, Las Vegas hosted the world’s largest trade show, presenting all things Tech, known as the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. This year, the global trade show attracted over 3,000 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees. Having been to the show a number of times over the years, I can attest to the sheer size and breadth of this geek-fest. Imagine 35 football fields full of the latest technology from names you’ve heard of, and many you haven’t. While many of the attendees are buyers from retail stores and websites, vendors normally release announcements and hold press releases to give the public a preview of what will be available for purchase later in the year. The consumer electronics market is $208 billion in the US alone, so there is certainly a lot at stake.
Major trends over the last few years have appeared show after show, while some others gained significant momentum in 2015:
- Connected home – Take any object in your house that has a function– oven, thermostat, toothbrush, anything. Add Wifi, mix with software, a pinch of analytics and presto — mundane tasks such as remembering to turn the heat off before you leave are now automated. Imagine a world where as you pull into the driveway, the garage door opens, your lights turn on, and your heat has already been warming your house for just the right amount of time for you to walk in and relax after a long day. While this is a personal example, how can connecting other objects used in your office or products enable innovation?
- Automotive – While car tech has been around ever since the radio was invented, manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and others are taking it to the next level with self-driving cars. In fact, Audi sent an A7 sedan from San Francisco to Las Vegas to be put on display. The kicker? It traveled most of the 550 miles all by itself, without a driver even touching the steering wheel. This tech has been pontificated for years and demonstrated by Google in the past few, but legislation and testing are the only remaining barriers before we can plunk down our wallets and buy one ourselves. Perhaps this is the ultimate solution to avoid texting and driving incidents? Could we potentially turn “lost” hours spent commuting into work time?
- 3D Printers – Warehouses shuttering. Custom stents saving patients’ lives every day. Parts needed for the ’57 Chevy you’re rebuilding magically appearing out of thin air. The on-demand economy has indeed hit a new level. With 3D printing, a computer model can be printed into an actual “thing” made of plastic, metal, even chocolate! As the printers used to create anything from car parts to custom pastries continue to evolve, the price to produce these “things” on a massive scale continues to decrease. It won’t be too long in the future when mass production moves to small scale production, adding in the benefits of ultra-customization.
- Virtual Reality – Yes, of the creepy kind. Platforms such as Second Life have been around for years, where participants can take on a persona and interact with other virtual people in a curated world that exists only on computer screens. The next iteration of this technology involves full immersion into these types of environment. Recently acquired by Facebook, Oculus VR has developed a head-mounted display that can bring a virtual world to life, fully recognizing body movements to make you feel as if you’ve left your chair and instantly transported to somewhere that doesn’t actually exist. Is this the next evolution of video conferencing?
As Andrew McAfee, a well-known management theorist, has been saying for years, “Within our lifetimes, we’re going to transition into an economy that doesn’t need a lot of human workers. Managing that transition is going to be the greatest challenge that our society faces.” Thinking of your own industry, what tasks could be automated? If the trends at CES are any indication, your ideas plus 100 you haven’t even conceived yet will become a reality. We see automation in Infrastructure advancing every day, but the “real world” is next. How will your industry/company/job be affected?