CES 2019: Day 1 Report

5 years is a long time in technology. In fact, it’s almost an ice age; CES 2014 was all about 4K screens, drones and health trackers, and that these things are more or less embedded in our lives now shows the rampant pace of change.

I’m back at the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES to use its more popular acronym, to research what will be around the corner next and become our staples for the next five years. I first visited in 2014 and learnt some valuable lessons in finding my way around this leviathan of a conference – more than 2.7 million square feet this year, about the size of a British town probably – namely that there’s lots of walking and nothing is done for you.

Myself and a colleague concluded that in 2014, CES was worth a visit every 5 years or so as the internet covers it pretty well in between, so each visit ought to bring about a step change each time.

Thus we’re back, where day one yielded around 18,000 steps logged on my smartwatch. Let’s start with what I didn’t like: speakers with LEDs. Although they create a nice effect, continually finding them scattered around CES like it was a breakthrough in technology was disappointing. Come on guys, humanity will not advance with these products.

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LEDs and speakers combined won’t change the world unfortunately.

What was big so far is driverless vehicles. There was tonnes of it; working self-driving cars, visions of our utopian future from OEMs and, more interestingly, other companies looking to take a slice of the autonomous vehicle stack. We still may buy cars in the future from regular manufacturers as we have done for years, but you might instead purchase a chassis and then configure some payload options instead.

This could bring about something of a car-making renaissance; in the very, very early days of vehicle manufacturing, you purchased a chassis, engine and running gear first and then worked with a coach builder to build something that suited your purposes. At CES, there are a number of companies operating in either the chassis, AI/machine learning, battery and LiDAR/vision systems. This tech stack will evolve but it is exciting.

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Modular autonomous vehicles systems could be an exciting development in this space

CES wouldn’t be CES without some screens, but they weren’t as prevalent this time as I recall. Of course, we’re all going square-eyed over 8K now, where apparently the human eye shouldn’t be able to distinguish an individual pixel. The displays are smooth and vibrant as a result.

Other stuff? Well, I really liked the LiDAR people tracking system from Quanergy. You can’t identify individuals from LiDAR scans, so little or nothing in the way of privacy issues, while their algorithms can spot vehicles and other objects too. The beauty of it is that you don’t need many LiDAR scanners either to cover a wide area.

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Quanergy demonstrated an anonymised people-tracking solution using LiDAR

HERE Mobility were also in town out in the parking lot, showing off a superb crowdsourced Mobility-as-a-Service solution called SoMo. This crowdsources journeys between friends, family or even work colleagues to coordinate their trips. The outcome can be with liftsharing but also public transport too, so as much of the journey is shared as possible.

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HERE Mobility used an innovative backlit projected model city to show how their MaaS app SoMo works

Finally, worth adding that the roads were particularly congested today. Our courtesy bus took an hour to get from Mandalay Bay to the Convention Center. We purchased a 3-day Monorail pass ($29 for all three days) instead to overcome the traffic, so our precious time at CES isn’t lost.

Legs and feet are holding out well and looking forward to day two!

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