10 unmistakable trends at CES 2012
Apexone: Here comes muPad from Shanghai
M2M-smartphones enable barista-free coffee makers
Sharp tackles reflected light with 'moth eye' LCD
NTT Docomo rolls hands-free videophone
Toyota's Insect EV: Car or gadget?
"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?”