CES 2014: Day 2 Report

Day two of CES began with aching legs and feet. My pedometer reported around 4 miles walked in a 7 hour period, which gives you some idea of what it takes to get around the record 2 million square feet of floor space.

Still, no pain no gain and so the second day was about trying to cover the remainder of the central hall, where many of the leading consumer manufacturers are, and the car-orientated north hall.

I’ve talked before on my blog about the wider connectivity that the digital age has provided us with. Literally, your refrigerator could talk to the watch on your wrist if needed; the technology exists to support it. The billions of combinations this provides is being explored, with Samsung, for instance, demonstrating how a smartphone can connect to a DSLR camera to retrieve and manage your photography. They also had a bespoke bicycle with a mounted smartphone. This not only provided the usual cycle computer data, such as speed, calories burned and so on, but used a dynamo integrated inside the front well to charge the phone too.

Samsung’s domination of the consumer world is impressive. It’s said that they have filed more patents than their competitors in recent years, which perhaps explains why their stand had items as diverse as washing machines/dryers fighting for space with collaborative virtual meeting software. Their latest Android tablets look good too. I can’t make a call on the curved screen displays though. The flat screen in my opinion has a better form factor. Will we really buy curved displays for our homes?

Sony were in a similar boat with connected devices, housed within, in my view, a nice big, well-designed stand with a circular projection boad running around the top. I’ve long been a fan of their brand, having bought stereos, TVs and car audio from them over the years. All have been solid, reliable and easy to use devices. I’d read the reports with some concern that they were in trouble a couple of years back; well, they certainly look in the ascendancy at CES.

Just when you thought the southern and central halls were big enough, the northern hall beckoned. I’d say that day two was busier than day one actually, with the Audi stand particularly busy alongside Mercedes, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota and Mazda that we saw. Most manufacturers were demonstrating more device connectivity, with Mercedes demonstrating a predictive journey system. This learns your driving habits over a period of time, and using satellite navigation helps plan journeys, timing and traffic avoidance. The guy walking us through it said that numerous people were trialing it and it could be ready by early next year.

Audi also showed off a virtual cockpit concept, again with smartphone connectivity, but also advanced Human Machine Interface (HMI) controls. BMW are also at CES, but not in the halls. Outside in the main car park, they laid on demonstrators of their new i3 all-electric model, which I was lucky enough to test drive. To say it was deeply impressive is an understatement. If our motoring future is all-electric, then it looks promising. What struck me most is just how well-developed the car was, like BMW had been making them for years.

Indeed, Ford showed some of their hybrid and electric tech, including an MPV with a solar panel on the roof, while Toyota had two of their hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Incredibly, since the Japanese manufacturer built their first concept in 2002, they’ve reduced component build costs by an astonishing 95%, and we haven’t even seen a commercially-viable model yet.

The remainder of the north hall included a great deal of car audio, several of which were using Android as their user interface. As a car fan, I thought that this industry had peaked in the late nineties, especially given how good the quality of stock in-car entertainment is these days, but clearly it remains strong. The other section of the north hall showcased a large number of vendors producing very similar mobile device protective gear. This was less interesting and not particularly innovative, especially given the duplication of the products, and when you threw in some of the conference rooms set aside in the nearby Las Vegas Hotel for more of the same, there will be little reason to follow up on day three.

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