SAN FRANCISCO — This year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will look different from previous events as companies shift their focus and storylines, an industry analyst group says.
Accenture, a management and consulting firm, says the Las Vegas tradeshow will feature more personalized devices while moving away from larger, more traditional CES staples such as televisions and PCs. David Sovie, managing director of Accenture’s Communications, Media, and Technology group, says the transition will call for new and innovative ways to connect digitally.
“The industry is moving to a much more personalized, much more digital, much more connected word. It is less about computers and more about personal devices, wearable technology, and sensors enabling the Internet of Things,” Sovie said in an interview with EE Times. “We will see things that are the harbingers of the future.”
Following this trend, Sovie says CES will showcase the wide variety of ways chip designers and engineers can create chipsets to serve evolving platforms.
“I think that’s going to be a combination of increasingly more sophisticated multipurpose devices, so I need to think about mobile chipsets that have flexibility plus processing power to enable a wider range of functionality than existed before.”
Chief among the evolving technologies to watch at CES is wearable technology, a growing sector due to decreased price points and increased functionality. 2014 will be an inflection point for wearables as devices leave the laboratory and become mainstream, Sovie added.
“These devices will reveal a shift from mostly niche products and interesting concepts to more broad market appeal, substantial commercial products, and growth in consumer comfort-levels with them,” wrote Charles Hartley, media and analyst relations for Accenture.
The wearable market hosts a wide cross-section of players, with traditional tech companies serving the mobile and PC markets, fitness companies, and fashion companies converging to develop wearables. Accenture cited Burg Ltd., Cookoo, MetaWatch, Pebbles, Intel, and Qualcomm among companies exhibiting wearables at CES.
Sovie addied that CES will be abuzz with “phablet frenzy,” as Accenture surveys show strong adoption of the factor size among multimedia enthusiasts and Asian populations. Thirty to 50 million phablets sold in 2013, Sovie estimated, and the number is likely to rise to 150 million to 200 million by 2016.
“My expectation is going into CES is you’ll see a wide range of companies enter into this space. Prices are down, battery life is up… phablets will likely be next wave of competition. I do think that the emergence of a wide range of sensor switches [is] enabling a whole suite of uses for phablets.”
Sensors are “the story behind the story” at CES as a variety are applied in more consumer electronics, including wearables, gaming, household appliances, and mobile devices. Sovie noted that a typical mobile phone has six to 10 sensors measuring various factors, and demand will increase as sensor technology "explodes."
Advances in MEMS technology are spawning smarter, more effective sensors, Hartley noted. Accenture expects to see more miniaturized, durabl,e and use-specific sensors at CES and listed Hillcrest Laboratories, MEMS Industry Group, and SoftKinetic as sensor vendors.
“The basic stuff like accelerometers and gyroscopes are becoming pretty ubiquitous for any smartphone. I think the eye tracking is going to be a requirement for certain types of devices,” Sovie says, adding that he also sees sensors for chemical analysis coming on line. “This is allowing a wider range of devices to be tethered to the Internet.”
As more devices become connected, Sovie says chip designers will have the opportunity to integrate a wide range of sensors into chipsets.
Sovie cited digital health and fitness products -- which are also strong players in the wearables market -- as a trend to watch at CES. The number of exhibitors at this year’s show increased by 40 percent to almost 300 companies.
“The wearable fitness boom will continue with new products unleashed from existing platforms, as well as new sensor technologies for detecting more about people’s biometrics and well-being while on the go,” Hartley wrote.
The number of 3D printing exhibitors will triple at International CES to 26 exhibitors, and Accenture anticipates the technology will be introduced for the aerospace, automotive, engineering, and medical industries. Beginning at the $500 price point, Sovie expects 3D printing to become more accessible to the general consumer.
Although CES has become less about television and more about mobile, Sovie says there will still be plenty of floor space for ultra-high-definition TVs, including 4K televisions.
“There’s definitely a hardcore group of TV enthusiasts who are willing to shell out big dollars for the newest, greatest technology,” he said.
EE Times will have ongoing coverage of the 2014 International CES, held Jan. 7-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and surrounding hotels.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times