My Delta app tells me that there are only ten days to go until I head out to Las Vegas for CES 2018. Trying to game what the central theme of a particular CES before it happens is always going to be a losing play, but I do have ten things I'm looking for at this specific show:
1) Some clarity on where voice interfaces are in the overall market and who the notable participants will be in that market going forward. At CES 2017, Amazon absolutely dominated, with Apple, Google, and Logitech following (in that order) from a distinct distance. Will Google's Home devices move into second place with Apple's HomePod delayed? Will Microsoft make some kind of appearance? Will Samsung jump in?
2) More attention paid to Internet of Things (IoT) security. A bunch of IoT vendors got burned in 2017, and I'll bet some (many?) more will have security issues in 2018. Will IoT vendors finally start to use some of the third party security services and will these services truly be useful?
3) New battery designs and applications from Panasonic. I see Panasonic as the unquestioned technology leader in batteries, from those in a Tesla on down. I'm expecting them to have something interesting—perhaps actually bringing their flexible battery to market?
4) Increased precision when describing self-driving cars. I expect more quoting of the SAE's six levels of automation and more auto manufacturers stating which of those levels they plan to participate in. Perhaps Ford's Jim Hackett will give some hints at his keynote on Tuesday morning?
5) Mesh, mesh, and mesh-related. After the success of the WiFi mesh kits such as Linksys' Velop and Netgear's Orbi (which we've reviewed), expect many newly announced products that use mesh in their description—both appropriately and inappropriately.
6) Augmented Reality (AR) hits the market—for real this time. After being a step-child to Virtual Reality (VR) for several years, both booth count and floor space allocation are up sharply for AR at CES 2018. I expect to see more products at more price points with more (hopefully interesting) applications.
7) Products that make older cars smarter. With the average age of an automobile on the road in the United States now approaching 12 years, there's a huge market (perhaps 200 million vehicles) for devices that make your older car at least a little bit smarter. Most of these products connect through the ODB-II connector that's been around since 1996—expect that to become a limitation, as I believe you can only attach one thing at a time …
8) Thunderbolt 3/USB C docks that really work—at least most of the time. Docking for the Type C connector has been a mess, but companies are slowly figuring things out (I have my eye on a product from Other World Computing). I'm hoping for more and better devices at CES 2018. What would be genuinely surprising (perhaps worthy of the highly-advertised CES "woah") would be an actual cross-platform dock.
9) A few camera introductions. Yes, people still buy cameras, even in this era of highly capable smartphone sensors. Canon, Casio, GoPro, Kodak, Nikon, Panasonic, Polaroid, Ricoh, and Sony will all be on-site, making announcements likely from at least a few.
10) 5G comes into focus. There's been a lot of loose talk and looser specification about 5G over the past few years. I'm hoping that the many 5G-related events, including Wednesday's Mobile Innovation keynote, will add more clarity to what our cellular future will be and how soon it will actually come.
John Mulhern III, Posted 12/27/2017