The first Media Day of CES 2019 kicked off in Las Vegas yesterday, rich with presentations on what’s to come in tech in the foreseeable — and at times, somewhat distant — future.
Core industry trends and patterns were presented today at the CES 2019 Trends to Watch session, given by the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) VP of Market ResearchSteve Koenig, as well as Director of Market Research Lesley Rohrbaugh and Senior Director of Innovation & Trends Ben Arnold.
In this context, the word “trend” applies to two things:
- Emerging technologies that are expected to see significant progress in unit sales and/or revenue.
- Emerging technologies that will be highly on display at CES this week, with many new products within the categories launching or receiving upgrades.
News & Trends by HubSpot will be at CES all week to bring you the latest announcements from this year’s sessions and events. For now, here’s a look at the trends that attendees can anticipate hearing — and learning — more about.
1. Even Smarter Homes
Toward the end of 2018, when we surveyed over about 2019 tech trends, 26% of them identified smart home technology as the emerging tech trend that they’re most excited to try this year.
According to the CTA’s research, it’s also likely to be on of the most important trends of 2019 — an expects sales of smart home devices — things like thermostats, smoke detectors, and home lighting – to show a 43% increase since 2017.
And while smart home also made the list of last year’s tech trends to watch, in 2019, there’s a key difference: making different smart devices from different brands work together.
That goes somewhat against much of what we’ve observed in terms of smart home and Internet of Things systems over the past year: that many companies seem to build smart devices and appliances with a branded ecosystem in mind.
It was a theme that resonated throughout CES 2018, with many product announcements coming with the (somewhat flawed) idea that most consumers exclusively equip their homes with appliances from a single brand. It proposes a world, for example, where a user doesn’t have one brand of appliances in her kitchen and a TV made by another one — and instead have one, single brand filling your home with everything.
“How can we get different platforms to connect to each other?” asked Arnold during the presentation. “The idea of a smart home is to get a symphony of devices to work together.”
2. Smart Speakers in More Places, With More Skills
Where there is a smart home, much of the time, there is also at least one smart speaker. And according to the CTA’s research, voice-controlled smart speakers — like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomePod — are expected to see a 44% growth in unit sales since 2017.
Part of this “meteoric growth,” as the CTA puts it, is due to the overall increasing ubiquity of voice; that is, consumers using their voices to control devices, conduct online searches, and more.
As a result, many users are increasingly engaging with the voice assistants that power these devices — e.g., Amazon’s Alexa — on a growing number of platforms, especially as the conversational capabilities of these assistants continue to improve.
The smart speaker trend is one that sets the potential trajectory for voice assistants to play a more familiar, potentially social role in the day-to-day lives of many users. As Living in Digital Times founder Robin Raskin put it in an earlier session, “Is she-who-shall-not-be-named be sitting at the dinner table with you?”, likely alluding to Alexa. “Is she the babysitter? Does she help with homework?”
3. Smartwatches and More Intelligent Wearable Technology
While smartwatches didn’t specifically make last year’s list of trends to watch, its broader category of wearables did.
Some might say that one of the earliest forms of “wearable” was a pedometer: an early device worn by people who wanted to count the number of steps they took in a given day. From there, the technology led to more advanced fitness trackers — like the Fitbit — the functions of which eventually became embedded in smartwatches, like the Apple Watch.
Overall, the CTA has forecasted that all wearables will see a 9% sales increase, with smartwatches in particular showing a 26% growth in unit sales since 2017.
That might not be a coincidence, especially as some smartwatch manufacturers are releasing new products with comprehensive digital health in mind, measuring more than physical activity, and beginning to incorporate such capabilities as heart rate monitoring and fall detection.
4. Self-Driving Cars and the Technology Inside of Them
The topic of self-driving cars is one we expect to hear much about at CES 2019. And within that rapidly emerging technology, new in-vehicle capabilities are those that the CTA has identified as important to watch this year.
In other words: The self-driving car is likely to become another “smart device,” according to the CTA’s forecast.
“The new Internet of Things is the ‘Intelligence of Things’,” says Steve Koenig, vice president of market research, CTA. That means that, artificial intelligence (AI) can underscore the connectivity of many smart products and services including autonomous vehicles — which will become part of the connected smart home (or life) ecosystem.
The self-driving car, then, becomes one of the many “things” in our day-to-day lives that speak to each other, influencing the type of technology users can experience within a vehicle.
5. Drones at Home and at Work
A repeat trend to watch from 2018, the CTA predicts that drones will see an 8% increase in unit sales.
That growth could come from two sectors, the CTA says: Consumers, as well as businesses. The former, according to the Association’s research, often purchase drones for such purposes as “photography and recreation.”
On the business side, ecommerce companies have been exploring the concept of product-delivery-by-drone for some time, with Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company) subsidiary wing recently deploying the testing of such services in Canberra, Australia. But it’s been met with mixed reviews — the Wall Street Journal, for instance, recently profiled the drawbacks that many Canberra residents are experiencing as a result of the growing prevalence of this new technology.
6. Smarter, Bigger, Clearer Televisions
Like so many other things in the daily life of the consumer — televisions, too, are becoming smarter and more connected. And as the quality and capabilities of these devices continue to evolve and improve, the demand for a better experience grows, as well.
That demand encompasses one for an unrivaled quality of display and detail — which is working to define the next generation of televisions. That began with the onset of 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD) TVs, which the CTA forecasts to see an 11% increase in unit sales.
But 4K isn’t exactly the “next generation,” according to today’s presentation — and that title is instead currently held by 8K televisions, which the CTA calls “the next upgrade path — and predicts will see 200,000 unit shipments in 2019.
7. Streaming Services Galore
What are people watching on these fabulous, ultra-high-definition televisions? Much of the time, it’s something on a streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu.
The CTA’s research shows that users are spending more than ever on these streaming services — not just on television, but for music, as well — with revenue forecasted to have reached $19.7 billion in revenue in 2018.
On the business side, the same is true of resources allocated to create the content for these streaming services, especially when it comes to video — with spending in that sector expected to have reached $13.4 billion in revenue in 2018.
“We are undergoing a huge shift in how people consume content,” says Rick Kowalski, senior manager of market research and business intelligence, CTA. “Video streaming services are offering an increasing amount of exclusive content, and live TV streaming options are becoming widely available this year – and that has more consumers exploring their over-the-top video options.”
Case in point: “Bandersnatch,” a choose-your-own-adventure style video that marks the first in interactive content produced by Netflix.
8. And Everything Else
While these items were the key ones listed on the CTA’s 2019 Consumer Tech Forecast, many other emerging tech trends were identified as some to watch throughout CES this week.
Among them were virtual reality (VR), which saw an interesting evolution in 2018. While its market permeation arguably didn’t witness significant progress, the potential use cases for VR — as well as its sister technology, augmented reality (AR) — continued to improve and diversify, as did the hardware developed to power VR and AR experiences.
“The hardware solution has not necessarily been settled upon yet,” notes Arnold. “There are a lot of options for consumers to get a VR experience, [but] Virtual Reality is a category that is going to be defined by applications.”
The applications are what truly create a VR or AR experience — and it’s those experiences, Arnold says, “that are going to drive the consumers into the market.”
Then, there was the discussion of 5G, which made lists of trends to watch for both 2019 and last year. Many of the items on this list — especially smart home technology and self-driving cars — have a growing reliance on wireless connectivity, which 5G will ultimately shape. Its goal: to support the rising number of mobile internet users, whether on smartphones or other platforms, by providing better speed, handling more data, greater responsiveness, and connectivity to smart devices.
But at the end of the day, all of these trends are going to be connected by a core foundation — and that, says Koenig, is data.
As we leave the connected age, Koenig explains, we’re entering the data age: where “more and more business decisions are backed up and supported by data.”
And as CES continues into the week, the prevalence of data in the strategy and functionalities of technology unveiled this week will be of particular interest to observe.
“Everywhere you go,” Koenig continues, “data is going to be the common denominator.”