This was my first year visiting CES and I went expecting to learn about which kinds of consumer electronics gear might be making its way into the realm of enterprise use. I saw some of that, but what I found really interesting is the amount of raw technology that is seeking to go straight into the enterprise.
If I go to CES again I think I will shorten my trip to two days. I spent three days there this time around, but I think two days would have still been enough time for me to get everything in. I had plans to attend a number of the talks but never actually made it to any. That ended up working out fine because it takes so much time to look at the majority of booths and carry on conversations that can last a while when you find something interesting.
The following is a brief summary of my highlights from the more elemental electronics level that I ran into and the higher level concepts:
There is a lot of overlap in AR/VR at CES and I think that is a good thing. A lot of the people are likely competing on price and that will ultimately drive costs down.
- There was a truly immersive driving simulator by Sigma Intégrale that used real vehicles in the simulation on a physical platform that gave you the sensation of driving. One was a passenger car and the other was a semi. This appeared to be similar technology to what is used in the more advanced flight simulators. I believe this is an indication that what used to be specialized equipment is making its way into more use cases. Imagine this same thing but connected to a forklift or backhoe where you can give a worker training before they are on the actual machine.
- On a bit of a smaller scale, there were multiple devices that work to extend the VR experience such as treadmills that give you the sensation of walking.
- There were multiple VR platforms on display. These platforms are going to help with the simplification of generating VR and eventually AR content. The standout in booth area for me was Wakingapp.
- 360 degree cameras were definitely not lacking at the convention. This technology is rapidly progressing and looks like something that will be much more approachable for everyone in the next couple of years.
- AR glasses are getting smaller and more wearable. While these smaller glasses may not be as feature-rich as something like the Hololens, they are more manageable for real world use where a user will be putting the glasses on, taking glasses off and having to hold or otherwise store them while doing other tasks. The ODG glasses are a good example of this wearability. This being CES, a company called Lumus Optical that makes the lenses that go into AR devices like those by DAQRI was there as well showing off a new lens that promises to make AR even better.
- Magic Leap’s absence was noteworthy, especially given how crowded the space is becoming. If they have a product they may need to show it soon.
If there was one thing that I expected to see a ton of it was IoT devices and I wasn't disappointed. There was a lot of home automation equipment—rows and rows and rows of home automation equipment. What I realized however is that some of these home automation companies are rebranding their hardware to be used in the enterprise. Between all the larger booths of home automation hardware there was a sprinkling of what I will call other IoT devices.
- There were a number of what I would call rapid hardware prototyping systems on display. I noticed them in both the Eureka Park area in a more hardware hacker oriented form and in the IoT area in a more professional form.
- ODM/OEMs with Apple HomeKit, Alexa and AWS IoT compatibility. A lot of unbranded equipment has started integrating these big names and it will certainly help widen the adoption of each.
- There didn't seem to be many gateways being showcased, or if there were I missed them. However, I did notice and stopped by to check out was the Gigabyte series of IoT gateways. These have Pentium procs, a small amount of internal stateful storage that can be expanded and would be perfect for edge processing.
- At the Nordic booth there was a Bluetooth 5 demo put together with the nRF52 series devices. They had both the existing nRF52832 and the newer nRF52840 that can take advantage of the Bluetooth 5 extended range. Later we ran into the Fanstel booth that had prototype boards using the nRF52832 and a flyer saying they would have nRF52840 in March. It will be exciting when we can get our hands on one of those.
- We got to see a number of interesting devices at the Microchip suite, a few of them stemming out of their purchase of ATMEL. One that stood out is a new spacial 3D "touch" controller that can be used to control a device without a screen, using only gestures. They also had a demo of their Zero Touch provisioning for AWS IoT.
There were a number of things that I found interesting that may fall into a specific consumer area but otherwise aren't specifically usable in the same way for our clients. Some of that was display technology and some of it was very specialized.
- There were a number of innovative displays that caught my eye. One booth had a massive LED mesh that was transparent in between each LED with each LED being addressable so they could create any number of designs by using each LED as a pixel.
- There were a number of laser projectors that I found interesting for potential use in interactive displays. One of the upsides of a laser projector is that they are usually very small with the downside being that the projection they create isn't very bright. If you look at the old version of one for example, it was 50 lumens and the new version that was on display at CES is 200 lumens.
- GPUs are finding a new life. Probably one of the more covered aspects of CES this year is the NVIDIA self autonomous vehicle announcements. While the whole of self driving cars is interesting, some of the specific technology is going to have a lot of uses. Specifically the driver monitoring parts of what they are working on are some of the most interesting for use outside of vehicles. For instance they had a lip reading demonstration that was shown in the context of driver monitoring that will surely find a lot more uses.
- We came across an interesting haptic company called Ultrahaptics that gave us a demo. They are able to project the sensation of touch without physical contact using ultrasound. Imagine this type of system in use in a medical setting where a surgeon doesn’t need to touch an actual device to get feedback.
- We happened across a company called Tag Optics that has created a varifocal lens that is very fast. This type of lens can be used to survey defects in a manufacturing line among other things.
- 2D/3D position tracking from Chirp Microsystems similar to Leap Motion and the 3D "touch" sensor from Microchip demo that we saw.
- There were a lot to see in the robotics area as well.
- I think a lot of the focus was on "social robots" like the Ubtech Robotics Lynx that has Alexa built in. While these social robots are interesting I found the robotic arms created by Bosch and the AVG robots by Nidec more interesting.
- There were a number of wearable ring devices and wearable BAC devices that were interesting. Some took measurements and some were input devices. I think this shows the ever expanding wearable space has yet to find a limit.
- Holographic displays
- Drones/quadcopters seemed to be everywhere.
- There are the normal flying quadcopter drones but also some underwater drones as well. While the majority of these drones were consumer-based there were plenty that would be usable in an industrial setting. The most impressive had to be the one large enough for a person. [embed image]
- We went by the Mastercard and Capital One booths where they were trying desperately to show some type of innovation but I feel like there isn’t a great story in embedding a traditional payment system into your refrigerator.
- While there were lots and lots of 3D printing devices on display the most innovative are the ones that have moved beyond printing in plastic to printing metal or even printing food like pancakes and candy.
A lot of what I found interesting in this “potpourri” was in the Eureka Park venue where there was row after row packed with tech. This video will give you a good idea of the diversity of technology that could be found there.
While roaming around in the home automation area, we ran into a local GE First Build group that was showing off a connected wine fridge. It was great to talk to them for a bit about all the interesting things going on at First Build. And finally there was the Smart Cities Hackathon that resulted in a lot of interesting projects with the final winner being a street light analysis project.
My first CES experience was very enjoyable. Having been to several other major conferences, like SxSw, I can say that the CES atmosphere was similar. I fully enjoyed the CES experience. The thing that stuck out to me as much different than something like SxSw is the diversity of attendees at CES and that it feels a lot more rooted in reality. If there was anything I might change if I go again it would be to go to the C-Space venue on the first day because by the 3rd day it seemed to be dead. Additionally I’d spend less time in some of the country-oriented Eureka Park areas because it was repetitive after a while.
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This post was originally published in our journal over at medium