Author(s): Ben Wood
As we head into the first major tech event of 2018, CCS Insight shares its expectations for this year's CES convention. Our team of analysts will be attending the show, which takes place from 9 to 12 January in Las Vegas. We'll publish a full report on the event after it closes.
Intelligent Voice Assistants Lead the Charge in Smart Home
We expect a huge array of smart home devices and solutions to be on display at CES, with voice control becoming a mainstream element of many devices. Our recent survey of technology enthusiasts in three countries underlines the mounting interest this area (see below and Survey Signals Appetite for More Devices).
However, for most consumers, smart home products will continue to be isolated responses to a particular need, rather than fully connected and managed home integrations, despite the slick showcases at CES.
We predict that Amazon's Alexa will be more pervasive than ever, cropping up in numerous device categories, including cars, computers, fridges, lights, radios, TVs and more. Rival voice assistants such as Apple's Siri, Google Home, Microsoft's Cortana and Samsung's Bixby will be on show, but will significantly lag Amazon's Alexa, which will be the dominant platform for voice at CES 2018.
Artificial Intelligence Everywhere and Nowhere
We expect another deluge of pseudo artificial intelligence devices at CES 2018, continuing the theme of faintly ridiculous products such as the "intelligent" toothbrush that emerged at last year's event.
The term "artificial intelligence" will be more nebulous than ever and its widespread use in efforts to enhance the perceived value of a product is reminiscent of the way the "Internet of things" moniker has been used to grab attention even if the definition of the category remains opaque.
We believe most solutions on show will be closer to limited-function algorithms than general-purpose artificial intelligence. Furthermore, despite big progress in this area, growing privacy concerns and misleading claims of "intelligence" will ensure that plenty of scare stories in this area emerge during the event.
Smartphones Scarce as PCs Enjoy a Renaissance
Despite smartphones' continued importance, their prominence has diminished. They've become utilitarian devices with a crucial role as an enabler and platform for services. More than 1.5 billion smartphones are expected to be sold in 2018, and their sheer scale remains unrivalled when it comes to components, supply chain and distribution, but they're unlikely to make the headlines at CES 2018.
In contrast we believe that the PC, once a mainstay of CES, will be a big news item again and we expect more PC-related news than smartphone news.
So-called "two-in-one" PCs have grown from an experiment to an established category; a major theme at CES will be the emerging battle between Intel and Qualcomm as more devices running Windows 10 on Snapdragon chipsets are unveiled at the show.
Emphasis Shifts from Virtual to Augmented Reality
Given the significant progress with augmented reality, notably with Apple's ARKit and Google ARCore, we expect this area to be a bigger theme at CES than virtual reality, with lots of smartphone-based demonstrations at the show.
In our view, the two technologies will blur as they start to become different dimensions on the same spectrum offering a broader experience that we term extended reality.
We expect to see many early examples of augmented reality glasses, but also several stand-alone virtual reality headsets following the entrance of Oculus and HTC into this product category in 2017.
Car Makers Feature Prominently at CES Again
Over the past few years, the automotive industry has become a significantly bigger part of CES. We expect a broad showcase of electric cars and lots of partnerships between automakers, semiconductor companies like Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm, content providers and mapping companies.
An important trend will be the shift away from a preoccupation with completely autonomous driving to more emphasis on driver aids. This will provide much-needed balance and offer a more realistic vision of the car of the future.
Robots Provide Eye Candy But Limited Utility
Numerous companies will be demonstrating robots with bold claims about the role they'll play in the future of society, be it looking after or providing companionship to the elderly, or educating children. Unfortunately the technology remains at a very early stage, so in spite of some fun examples that will get plenty of media coverage, the realistic benefits that consumer-centric robots can deliver at this stage will remain limited.
Another Quiet Year for Wearables
Although sales of wearable devices continue to grow, we expect limited news at CES. The biggest announcements are likely to come from Fossil, which will have a large showcase at the event. Other developments in wearable technology are more likely to be centred on health-related applications, with devices that monitor hospital patients, the elderly and various aspects of health, fitness and well-being.