Experts Name ‘Five Innovations to Watch’ for the Near Future

What happens when devices, bandwidth and content interplay, asked CES panel moderator Wilson Rothman, personal tech editor of The Wall Street Journal. “We want to talk about the technologies driving the near future of the industry, especially where consumers are involved,” he added. “The next 12 months are an exciting mystery in that area.” The five areas driving the conversation, says Rothman are sensing and processing; natural interfaces; cloud services; wireless bandwidth and over-the-top content.

IoT, or the Internet of Things, was the first topic addressed. Intel executive Genevieve Bell agrees with Rothman that, “it didn’t take off as expected in 2015.” But, she notes, “we have been perennially disappointed and delighted about the smart kitchen for years.” Even so, she said, some of the products that are smart, connected and yet don’t require a screen and keyboard are “the beginnings of things that are fascinating.”


The Diffusion Group senior analyst Joel Espelien reports that, “a handful of gadgets that do things that people aren’t sure they need has been a tough sell.”

“But if you want a door-lock camera when you go away, there’s stickiness to that,” he said. “We’ll get incremental adoption.”

Rothman fears that the big companies are pushing consumers to wholly adopt an ecosystem. “I’d rather have an ecosystem where everything interrelates in a peaceable manner,” he said. “Will I get my wish?” CTA executive Brian Markwalter described that as “market forces that won’t go away.”

“We’re doing a lot of computation in the cloud which is what allows natural interfaces to occur,” Markwalter explained. “We’re going to have to let the differing ecosystems play out. The incessant competition is part of it.”

He also reports that, for the first time, CES has areas dedicated to different kinds of accessibility: voice, gesture, eye motion, and Espelien said that, “smartphones are a gateway drug for natural language.”

“They train people that it’s okay to talk to a device and have it talk back,” he noted. “Then it’ll be off to the races.”

From a connectivity point of view, says wireless consultant Chetan Sharma, Wi-Fi is playing a significant role in carrying the traffic. “Households are spending $1,000 a year on mobile data,” he reports. “What you’ll likely see is trying out different models.”

He mentioned Google Fiber and the possibility that Comcast could launch a national Wi-Fi network in the U.S. “ Espelien says that, if we were still at an Internet consumption level of ten years ago, the wireless connection would “be highly compelling.”

“But we have a generation that loves mobile and also Netflix, so you better have another pipeline than a pure mobile offering,” he said. Markwalter agrees. “As old as they are, TVs are still in the top three products of consumers’ planned purchases,” he noted. “Even young people tend to watch on the best screen they can at the moment. For now, there will always be pressure to get off wireless and onto the nearest wire.”

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