Author(s): Ben Wood
Geoff Blaber, George Jijiashvili
Our analysts at CES 2018 look at the highlights from media events that have taken place in the build-up to the show.
Google Presence a Talking Point
In sharp contrast to previous years, Google — and more specifically Google Assistant — has an enormous presence at the show with its branding covering buildings, hotels, screens and even the monorail.
This is the year that tech giants reassert focus on CES in a way that's highly reminiscent of Google's investment in Mobile World Congress in 2011.
The tech industry moves in cycles. In 2011, Google was strongly courting manufacturers in a bid to build Android to the dominant presence it enjoys today. In 2018, we're firmly in the post-mobile era, with focus shifting heavily to artificial intelligence and pervasive computing. Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others are fighting not only to cement their voice technologies, but also to ensure their assistant platforms are deeply embedded across the full spectrum of consumer electronics to maintain and deepen consumer engagement. In that context, CES is taking on a new importance. The days to come will reveal the extent to which Google is challenging Amazon for hearts and minds.
Alexa Integration Reaches New Heights
Despite Google's marketing frenzy with Google Assistant and Home, which we predicted ahead of the event (see Expectations for CES 2018), Amazon's Alexa is more pervasive than ever, eclipsing the big impact it made at CES 2017.
Announcements so far have seen Alexa integrated in an electric car (Byton), with a shower (Moen), a mirror (Kohler Verdera), Bluetooth in-ear stereo headphones (Jabra), a light switch (iDevices Instinct) and more. We expect a huge number of other products to add support for Alexa during the show.
However, there's also a clear trend toward compatibility with more than one intelligent voice platform, leaving it up to the consumer to decide on their voice assistant of choice. Many devices are also supporting Google Assistant in addition to Alexa. Google's opportunity is particularly strong in markets where Amazon isn't present or Echo isn't available. That said, based on what we've seen so far, there's no question that Amazon's Alexa continues to lead the charge when it comes to voice assistant integration.
Smart Home Products Proliferate
The sheer volume of smart home solutions at the show is overwhelming, making it impossible to track everything that's on display. Once CES officially starts, our focus in this area will be to establish some key themes. A good example is the growing number of leak detection solutions, which we've highlighted in the past. There were several products at the CES Unveiled event, but the most impressive came from Flo Technologies.
We believe leak detection and water management devices will become a de facto element in many smart home installations in the future, thanks to the clear financial and environmental benefits achieved by avoiding damage caused by leaks and using less water.
Nvidia Underlines Its Self-Driving Tech Leadership
Nvidia's press conference demonstrated that the company is setting the pace in delivering silicon, software platforms and tools in the race toward autonomous driving. It highlighted that it's working with over 320 automotive partners, which puts it significantly ahead of its rivals. It has been strengthened by several new collaborations with companies like Uber, Volkswagen, and Baidu for the Chinese market. Nividia also confirmed that its next-generation Drive Xavier hardware is now available as samples, having announced it at CES 2017.
The speed of development and architectural consistency of Cuda throughout Nvidia's range of graphics processing units (GPUs) is paying dividends, as the company seeks to match the pace of progress in deep learning. The announcement of its Drive Pegasus platform, which is built on two Xavier system-on-chips and two new GPUs, is a landmark in that it has the computing capability to deliver fully autonomous driving. Although we still believe that widespread deployment of fully self-driving cars is many years away, this is a major step in enabling the technology and helping the industry accelerate the all-important process of data collection and real-time inference.
New Honor Smartphones Set for International Debut
Honor revealed that its new smartphones, the Honor 7X, priced at $199, and View 10, expected to cost under $500, will be available internationally in 2018. The phone-maker also revealed that it is now China's number-one "e-brand" and set out ambitious goals for its position overseas. Honor continues to keenly target the US market in particular. Currently, its international business accounts for only 15 percent of its total revenue, but Honor hopes to raise this to 60 percent by the end of 2022.
To achieve this ambitious goal, the company has made the US a priority, but this has been a major challenge to date. Honor is well-placed to address the growing US open-channel opportunity, but partnerships with carriers will be essential in what remains a carrier-dominated market. We expect to hear further news later this week.
Hearable Devices Under the Spotlight
The CES Unveiled event also gave an early sign that smart hearable devices will be a hot area at this year's show. Numerous companies are releasing wireless earphones with "augmented hearing" capabilities, including Jabra, Lizn, Nuheara and Orosound. These solutions offer a broad range of functionalities, such as enhancing the hearing of users and helping them concentrate in noisy environments. Other hearable devices, like Mars earbuds, claim to translate languages in real time. As demand for and consumer adoption of wireless headphones grows, we expect to see more smart hearables emerge at the show.