Connectivity, healthcare, and automotive ecosystems – CES 2023 showcased where communication is moving next, and in a tangible way
After a two-year pause button, the drum roll at the world’s annual tech mecca was quite audible, even if you are sitting miles away. There was a flying electric boat and wireless surprises – TV and other boxes. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2023 also showcased eye-glass size Virtual Reality (VR), a BMW with an Augmented Reality (AR) display, a Mercedes with Dolby Atmos, and pee sensor analytics for home toilets. Visitors also got a whiff of the digital scent wearables and witnessed the power of smart John Deere excavators. On the smart agriculture front, there were fertiliser analytics, crop-watching robots, and smart sprinklers. Impressively enough, Indian innovators were betting high on the future too with 3-D printing, e-mobility, drones, audio wearables, and mixed reality.
Devices and communications
Communication devices and gadgets rule the roost in the new digital world and the CES 2023 had several innovations to showcase. While satellite innovators like the Bullitt Satellite Connect presented satellite messaging solutions, Qualcomm displayed its satellite offering for Android phones with two-way messaging via the Snapdragon Satellite tech. We also had a big disruption in the ‘black rectangle’ form fatigue of smartphones with a new era of foldability, like the Samsung promise of Flex Hybrid.
“We hope to see more technology focusing on delivering purely emotional comfort, which is lacking from the mostly performative tech world.”
Kwame Ferreira, Co-founder, Impossible and Bond Touch and CEO, Impossible Group
There was, of course, a separate space for 5G and Smart Cities, showcasing the connected ecosystem that brings together the technologies, solutions, players, and audiences in the smart city sector. The focus was clearly on the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G connectivity, transportation and smart automotive, energy and utilities, health and public safety, artificial intelligence, and data analytics.
There was a lot of buzz in the accessibility area too, with screen and text readers to speech input software, voice activation, advanced screen readers for Braille displays, and adaptive devices for gaming. This space also talked about how Microsoft and Google are working to fully unravel the tech marketplace for people with disabilities.
Interestingly, however, a lot of curtain-raisers this year were from industries like automotive and digital health. Nevertheless, their trickle-down effect would show in communication and connectivity areas sooner or later.
New sectors, more innovation
There were splash-making exhibits by BMW and Stellantis along with a lot of eye-popping material on self-driving technology, electric vehicles, and personal mobility devices for land, air, and sea. Delivering the keynote, BMW AG Chairman of the Board of Management and CEO Oliver Zipse talked about how the future of mobility can merge the real and virtual worlds with BMW’s vision of the ultimate digital driving machine.
“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we can exploit the full potential of digitalisation to transform the car into an intelligent companion. That is the future for automotive manufacturers, and, also, for BMW – the fusion of the virtual experience with genuine driving pleasure,” Zipse said.
Analysts have also singled out communication-related leaps this year. We saw, for instance, digital cockpits in EVs, and also a big move towards text-to-speech technology. Besides, there were a lot of offerings in digital therapeutics, mental wellness, women’s health technology, and telemedicine.
The hardware swaggers
The tech-innovation Mecca with exhibitors from over 170 countries and regions also saw the emergence of third-party chips which can pose as better alternatives for devices that come out of Apple’s stable. Incidentally, in a keynote, AMD CEO Dr Lisa Su highlighted AMD’s vision of high-performance and adaptive computing.
And then, there was the IoT aisle which was packed to the brim with new announcements and handshakes, like MediaTek which introduced the Genio 700 IoT chipset targeting the industrial, smart home, and smart retail applications and is expected to be available by Q2 2023. It also gave a peek into the Wi-Fi 7-supported products like gateways, mesh routers, televisions, streaming devices, smartphones, tablets, and laptops along with partners like TP-Link, Lenovo, Hisense, ASUS, Buffalo Inc, Skyworks, AMD, Qorvo, LitePoint and MAC MLO among others.
“A lot of work is shaping up on connectivity and how various devices, vehicles, and home appliances can talk to each other and create a luxurious environment.”
Muzammil Hassan, Head - IP Licensing and Commercialisation, GreyB
Another one of interest was the paper-thin smart label tracking device from Pod Group. Launched in partnership with SODAQ and Lufthansa Industry, the device utilizes low-power cellular connectivity (LTE-M) to offer a battery life of up to six months. It aims to disrupt the tracking and logistics industry by improving supply chain efficiency and reducing operational costs. This is in line with similar efforts by SODAQ with Vodafone and Bayer by utilising NB-IoT technology. The use of a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) here could be path-breaking for telecommunications operators.
Then there was Quectel, partnering with Skylo to integrate satellite connectivity into its 5G-ready BG95x/BG77x series of LPWA modules. It claims to improve network coverage and usability for applications, such as trackers, wearables, smart cities, and smart meters.
As pointed out by Counterpoint Research, the satellite-related announcements made by chipset and module players were salient for IoT companies as a way to focus on new use cases. What could not be missed was the sense of Wi-Fi 7 becoming mainstream and roll-outs of Matter-certified home products being rolled out, leading to an uptick in demand for smart home products. “These developments and more continue to shape the future of IoT and solidify the role technology plays in our daily lives. With more innovation, the possibilities are endless and we are excited to see how the industry will continue to evolve,” its analysts noted.
Connecting the Dots
For Kwame Ferreira, the Co-founder of Impossible and Bond Touch and CEO of Impossible Group, voice and foldability were hard-to-miss colours in this year’s splash. “We loved to see voice everywhere. We feel the way we interface with technology is becoming increasingly natural, like Fufuly, a pillow that pulsates as though one would be hugging another human. It was a nice outlier in the emotional wearable space. We hope to see more technology focusing on delivering purely emotional comfort, which is lacking from the mostly performative tech world,” he said, adding that foldable have become more common and as the technology evolves there is little reason why most phones won’t become iPads and vice versa.
Apart from the domino effect seen in other industries, two patterns stood out this time. And when we look at the way innovations are moving, it’s hard to ignore the leitmotif of Design and Talk-ability. Muzammil Hassan, head of IP licensing and commercialisation at technology research firm GreyB augurs that a lot of work is shaping up on the theme of connectivity, and how various devices, vehicles, and home appliances can talk to each other and create a true luxury environment for the user. What is also worth noting is how the latest standards have kicked in for WiFi, 5G, Bluetooth, audio, and video encoding. Hassam finds it remarkable how the layman today is aware of the latest developments.
He also pointed out that environmental sensibility would be a dominant theme this year and ahead. “We will see batteries with environment-friendliness, or re-usability elements and overall innovations that can create better environments than before for plants and animals, apart from making life easy and fun for humans.”
Omdia’s Principal Analyst for Data Center Compute and Networking, Manoj Sukumaran points out to the hype around the metaverse losing steam. “There were quite a lot of AR/VR headsets and holographic displays were showcased, but broadly the vendors accepted the fact that the metaverse is a long shot than an immediate opportunity,” he said.
Well, overall, we can only hope – what happened in Vegas, does not just stay there.
By Pratima Harigunani