Braving blizzards and blackouts, companies from all over the world gathered in Las Vegas at the technology industry’s leading showcase event, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to brandish their latest innovations. This was the biggest CES event ever, with over 3,900 exhibiting companies and over 170,000 in attendance. At the core of many of their products, was connectivity. Here are our major takeaways from this year’s CES.

CES 2018: Show review of the latest innovations in consumer tech

By William Braterman

5G goes into overdrive at CES 2018

The pending arrival of fifth-generation wireless technology has got industry leaders very excited about the potential for expansion in the Internet of Things segment, and the possible business models as a direct result of 5G. At CES 2018, the key message was that 5G will make the IoT far more relevant, particularly in difficult locations and with regards to automation. 5G’s impact on industries, especially those highly dependent on connectivity, will be significant. Private networks will also be enhanced creating far more personalization and intelligence for the workplace and home.

Racing to voice-power our homes

From voice-activated toilets to smart mirrors that guide the entire bathroom experience, virtual assistants and smart speakers were prolific at this year’s show. Tech companies showcased smart products offering increased connectivity and innovative user experiences. Kohler’s Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror turned heads, with its purpose of improving the comfort and functionality within bathrooms. Yet, as the race to dominate the in-home experience becomes muddied with an abundance of devices, a few voices stand out as louder than others. Makers are placing their bets and ensuring that their devices connect to Amazon Alexa, Samsung Bixby, Google Assistant, and Siri (Apple was present through third parties despite its habitual absence).  If firms want to monopolize their consumers’ homes, they must ensure they create a holistic ecosystem. The challenge then is not only figuring out what aspects of the home life consumers are keen to go digital with but also, whose voice will be the one we choose to power our smart homes.

Wearables went further to show health benefits

Wearables went far beyond activity trackers this year. Health tech firms showcased a myriad of exciting new products aimed at raising the bar for the wellbeing of their consumers. Digital Health is leading to exciting new models across the healthcare industry: from fitness to sleep, diabetes to breastfeeding, consumer empowerment is at the core of new health tech. Sleep sensors were especially popular at CES 2018, with Philips showcasing it’s Smartsleep – a smart headband worn whilst sleeping. Meanwhile the Nightingale uses sound-masking technology to reduce ambient sounds that keep us awake and Nokia Sleep even offers a ‘sleep score’.

Moving beyond HD, TVs slim down

LG, Sony, Samsung and TCL all showcased impressive TVs this year with 8K and rollable-screen teasers and 4K, finally, in the mainstream. Ultra-HD 4K content is now in full swing with OTT providers ensuring all new content can be displayed in this format. Among the most interesting products were The Wall by Samsung, the world’s first consumer modular MicroLED 146-inch TV. Alongside this, Samsung featured their QLED TV with 8K AI technology that will aim to maximize the consumer’s viewing experience. Also on display was LG’s rollable LED TV – this 65-inch 4K screen can literally be rolled up like a poster. It wasn’t just TVs that were bending however, phone and smartphone OEMs are also jumping on the trend. The potential use-cases for these screens will increase innumerably as users attempt to form shapes and sizes that suit them.

Automated cars

Autonomous vehicles were the buzz all of 2017 and they made a big dent into CES 2018. There were many impressive vehicles on show: Toyota presented its highly customisable e-Palette concept car; Nvidia displayed its highly anticipated Drive Xavier, a processor built for automated vehicles; and Panasonic unveiled its owned luxury fully autonomous car. Experts estimate it will take at least a decade to get autonomous cars out on our streets, yet governments and industries will need to think long and hard about ensuring safety for users when autonomous vehicles are rolled out en masse, and the connectivity investments that will be required for effective operation.