Five Trends and Observations From CES 2019

Every CES has its particular flavor, and the 2019 edition was no different. With that in mind, I have five trends and observations from January's huge show—after a few weeks to think it through.

1) Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are now so prevalent that they were generally less mentioned than in previous years. Most products and technologies are back to being described as "smart." This doesn't mean that AI wasn't an integral part of almost every corporate strategy—just that you had to dig a little deeper to find it.

2) 5G was much less of a real thing than many had hoped and/or expected. Despite the earnest protestations of many cellular vendors, there just wasn't that much actual functioning product at this year's show. Moreover, when 5G was demoed (as in Verizon's keynote), the results weren't that impressive. We'll see what MWC Barcelona brings in late February.

3) CES continued to be a voice battleground in 2019. Amazon's Alexa still leads—both in mind and market share—but Google Home once again had a huge presence, with white-garbed Google personnel at many individual vendor booths in the Sands Expo. Build-out of voice capabilities in different product lines continues. One example was that, after car manufacturers introduced Alexa-based car services last year, aftermarket vendors released Alexa-savvy car stereos this year.

4) Automotive manufacturers have retreated from significant introductions at CES. After only three years, far gone are the days of Mary Barra's Chevrolet Bolt introduction in 2016. Manufacturers satisfied themselves with largely incremental improvements, with many showing transportation boxes of various sorts. At least we could count Toyota's always interesting press conference, featuring Toyota Research Institute CEO Dr. Gill Pratt.

5) There's certainly still room for "clever, clever, clever" products at CES—and I saw a few this year. I really liked the LifeinaBox portable medicine refrigerator, the PrintBrush XDR handheld inkjet printer, and the Swidget smart outlet.

John Mulhern III, Posted 2/4/2019