"Smart connectivity" was a major trend at this year's CEATEC. You can’t but help notice whacky prototypes like Toyota’s "Insect" EV or NTT Docomo’s video phone designed to be worn like a pair of glasses. Still, the underlying theme is finding an efficient way to connect a device or appliance to other devices or to services.
Notably, Toyota’s Insect wasn’t pitched as a car. Instead, Toyota touted it as a “platform” -- or even “an accessory” to smartphones -- to connect the car with information scatter around the home.
All this illustrates how we are seeing near-field communications and Bluetooth used widely in connected homes and appliances.
This stars are now aligned for Chinese consumer electronics vendors and fabless companies to leverage "frugal innovation" as a way to make smart connectivity ubiquitous and cost effective.
Look no further for an example than Japanese embedded software developer Gaia, which demonstrated at CEATEC a way to unlock smart connectivity: not by re-designing a whole appliance, but by coming up with a small, low-cost M2M wireless module. The device can can be embedded into an appliance and connected to a smartphone. Raw data then travels via the cloud to the user’s smartphone for further data processing.
Pondering Gaia’s M2M wireless module, I recalled an Android-based HDMI (or USB) stick I’ve seen in China. Plugging the stick into a regular flat panel TV transforms it into a smart, connected TV.
Both are examples of frugal innovation: They strive to deliver more value to customers at less cost.
Shanghai-based ApexOne recently demonstrated a device it calls muPad; Nufront (Beijing) and other China’s SoC companies are also furiously working on a similar HDMI stick designed to turn a regular TV into a streaming TV. Aside from Roku in the U.S., which reportedly has a similar product, we have yet to see similar products entering the global market.
But rest assured they are coming.
I anticipate the day when Chinese consumer electronics companies will "wow" the rest of the world us at “CES China." It won't necessarily have Las Vegas glitz, and shiny new appliances. Instead, the show floor is likely to be full of intuitive products based on frugal innovation. We'll look at them and say, “Why didn’t we think of that?”
Hi Junko, you may be on to something here... do you think it is foreseeable that in a few years CEATEC will be the show where the big crowds gather as opposed to Las Vegas / CES?
Toyota's "Insect" brings back memories... years ago as a high school student, I used to read Toyota's "Wheel Extended" magazine where they were discussing the town spider concept to address vehicular congestion in metropolitan areas. Looks like Toyota's affinity to arachnids is hard to erase!
Actually, CEATEC has already become a big show in Japan where a lot of exhibitors and attendants gather. The curious thing about CEATEC is that it's been always a CE show combined with component suppliers. So, it is more than just a consumer electronics show.
That said, I find it fascinating that more and more automotive manufacturers began participating in CEATEC this year.
I think you are right on the money on Toyota's Insect. Toyota is rolling out a special program this fall to let those tiny EVs be the answer to solve the last one mile problem for commuters. While one can take a train or a bus (or both) to get home, and yet, lot of times, there are still a few miles from the train (bus) stop to their own home. Toyota thinks tiny EVs can help...
Junko, EV's for last mile is a great idea for metropolitan areas where they can be less idle. I have seen many cities (Portland for example) use the free version of this model with bikes (which are clearly painted / marked as city property) for commuters to use in busy districts. Certainly beats congestion and pollution.
Consumerization of the automobile market (a la electronic gadgets & mobiles) is inevitable as more and more of gadgets find their way into automobiles. What has begun at CEATEC will no doubt carry over to CES.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.