Before the industry’s attention shifts to the next big international tech conference, MWC, I wanted to share some insights about CES. This year’s event was a record-breaker, with more than 3,800 exhibiting companies covering more than 2.6 million net square feet exhibit space. In addition the show welcomed more than 600 startups at the Eureka Park Marketplace – all showcasing the connected future of technology.
Here are a few top trends and takeaways from my experience walking the floor at CES 2017:
1. The connected home gets smarter, and more focused
Compared to CES in years past, this year appliances have gotten smarter because electronics companies are betting on consumers embracing smart personal assistant technology for the connected home such as voice activated appliances and smart LED bulbs that change color/ambience/intensity via a phone interface. Several companies were offering “smart home kits,” and a few products on display included smart speakers, smart lighting, smart appliances (white goods), home robots, even a smart mirror that will scan your face for wrinkles! Amazon’s Alexa was prevalent in several appliances.
Multi-node WiFi, also known as “whole home WiFi,” systems are becoming part of the “smart” home infrastructure as they can spread a WiFi network over a large area by simply adding a node where necessary without the need of an additional gateway or router. With the onset of Bluetooth 5.0, coupled with Bluetooth Mesh technology, the indoor wireless signal range can be quadrupled (from Bluetooth 4.x) to nearly 120 feet, essentially blanketing a home with coverage via multiple Bluetooth devices.
2. Virtual reality getting real
AR/VR/MR was everywhere! CES was the best place to get hands-on experience with some of the newest AR/VR devices. We saw everything from boots that enable you to feel the digital worlds you’re walking through to a candle that lets you smell.
At the forefront of mobile AR/VR was Qualcomm®’s Snapdragon™ 820/835. The 835 was being promoted for AR smartglasses for mobile entertainment and computing. VR is also one of the key areas that requires extreme performance PC designs based on faster and more advanced architectures.
3. Smarter, smaller drones
Drone technology can now support more advanced tech features such as real-time obstacle detection and avoidance during flight.
Many drones supported 4K camera, 10-30min flying time, 2.4GHz WiFi, high-precision GPS modules with improved location accuracy (some support Follow-Me mode), some with 360 degree view. Battery life is being continuously improved by advances in battery management design as well as software algorithmic implementation in drone architecture. Some drones displayed included more advanced features such as real-time 3D terrain/surface mapping that can be used in in industries such as agriculture, land/resource management and building/architectural visualization.
Today toy drones for recreation/hobby are available for less than $100 as well as high-end and advanced functionality drones (with longer flight times and operating ranges) that exceed $2500.
4. Electronics merging with automotive
This year there was a real synthesis between the automotive and electronics industries, with hundreds of automotive companies showcasing their new automotive technologies ranging from self-driving systems and electric cars to new user interfaces.
Digital know-how is now required to implement autonomous driving. New platform highlights included integrating gigabit-class LTE connectivity to the car with high-bandwidth in-car connectivity over WiFi, ethernet, BT and BLE. Other show “drivers” included top-tier auto-makers announcing integration of a new UI concept which is a virtual free-floating display controlled via finger gestures and new partnerships for an AI-powered car by 2018.
Audio and speech recognition technologies will play a huge role going forward – as showcased by the integration of Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant by a variety of automakers. Moreover, the car is an extension of a user’s digital and social connectivity, and vehicle infotainment (IVI)bsystems require additional storage space for rich multimedia data and advanced software and applications. GF’s FDX technology platform empowers IVI systems for automotive.
5. Wearables grow up
The wearable market has spread well beyond the confines of wrist-based technology. We saw smart hair brushes that coach you to be a better brusher to a new line of clothing designed to improve sleep quality to headphones that claim to prime your brain for faster adaptation to exercise – a lot of cool digital-health tools on the horizon.
Wearables along with other electronic devices are a big part of IoT, and they will play the role of data producers. An example would be wearable health devices. Since the physical data collected by the things at the edge of the network is usually private, processing the data at the edge could protect user privacy better than uploading raw data to the cloud.
Consumer electronics have become increasingly important in driving the entire global tech industry, and CES is the place that points to a more connected future. With increasing numbers, various devices are going online and networking with each other as well as users interacting with their devices in new ways.
Networks which carry the data traffic and Data Centers that harness and transform the raw data to faster decision-making insights and outcomes are driving new requirements for semiconductors that are power efficient, optimized, and cost-effective for IoT nodes. We are starting to see the shift to leading-edge 28nm, 22nm, and 14nm (and beyond) process technology, and a growth in edge-node computing. GF’s CMOS, RF and ASIC technologies address this leading edge shift. Specifically, our FD-SOI (FDX) and FinFET platforms target both the high and mid-end markets.
Critical to this is the ability to sense, process, control, and communicate in a highly energy and cost efficient manner. Some essential requirements for IoT devices include low power, cost-effective performance, RF connectivity, superior analog/power integration and smaller packaging. All of these IoT trends play well in the direction of GF’s technology offerings –low-cost, efficient, scalable and reliable solutions. Our unique FDX portfolio supports multiple wired and wireless products across a range of applications includes the industry’s lowest power RF solutions where GF is the established market leader in RF SOI, to serve the demanding needs of IoT.
Semiconductors have a tremendous role to play in enabling these cool, new devices we see every year at CES — a technology opportunity of a lifetime.
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All photographic images provided by Nitin Kulkarni, GF.