A shorter article on this subject was first published as Convergence Trends and Innovation at CES 2012 on Technorati.
The Consumer Electronics Show 2012 statistics (153,000 attendees, 34,000 international attendees, 3,100 exhibitors, 1.86 million square feet of exhibit space, and 20,000 new products) give an indication of the scale and diversity of attendance but give no color to the reality of convergence that will occur between Digital World technologies and the digital lives of consumers over the next 12 to 18 months. In the next couple of paragraphs I’ve highlighted some of the exciting convergence trends that we see emerging.
Interactive Gestures in the Living Room
TV’s seem to be getting bigger and thinner with brighter 3D Hi Def capability that in some cases requires no glasses. If you can see beyond the existing concept of the TV, you realize that the center of the living room is becoming internet connected and consequently smarter in its ability to offer a variety of interactive services to augment viewing. This increased smartness requires new paradigms for interaction with other devices and sources of information, media and preferences. Thisrequirement to share is being enhanced by the increasing use of Wi-Fi Direct in multiple devices finding their way on to the living room couch. Interestingly, the world of gaming has provided the consumer electronics industry with new perspectives of how to interact with couch surfers and their devices via gestures. Think iPhone type scrolling, pinching point and zoom capability but with hand gestures to enable scrolling through TV guides to select, explore and expand videos or TV programs.
Digital Interactive Cockpits
One really interesting demonstration was a see-through LCD TV where you could see a static bowl of fruit behind the screen as TV/video images appeared on the screen. Where could this innovation lead? Ford, Mercedes and Kia were showing the way in which new display technology and processing power will enhance the dashboard. Although it was not found at this year’s CES, the concept of a clear LCD windscreen can’t be that far off! This coupled with gesture capability being demonstrated by Mercedes and other enhanced augmented display technologies, will revolutionize the way vehicles are controlled. The real challenge that the automotive industry faces is adapting the rapid cycle of development of ICT technology into their traditional 7 year product development cycles.
The medical world is also on the verge of experiencing the power of connectivity in the form of devices, apps and cloud solutions that monitor everything from diet to diabetes to heart rate with full ECG capability built into phones. Again, the rapid pace of technology development is struggling against bureaucratic approval processes and the ability of the existing health care industry to adjust procedures and personnel to adapt and handle the opportunities that these new solutions deliver. Imagine a scenario where monitoring devices are given away to people for free as part of their health plan, with the revenue being generated from the monitoring services. The opportunity to reduce hospital visits and enhance health regimes that elevate overall health levels benefits everyone but requires structural and procedure shifts to accommodate the change.
Device Proliferation Drives Differentiation
The explosion in smartphone and tablet devices with common operating systems (Android & IOS) and brilliant high resolution screen technologies and interfaces have enabled much of the convergence technology above. Sony, for example, demonstrated their new 2 screen tablet that closes like a clam shell and which has an on screen keyboard. As usual CES did not disappoint with multiple devices being announced that continue a trend of increased thinness, lighter weight, solid state memory, and more powerful processors than were in PC’s only a year or so ago. These are seemingly available from an ever increasing number of Chinese and Asian vendors, undoubtedly increasing price pressure as they all struggle to differentiate themselves.
Differentiation is difficult but a small (Fujitsu & Toshiba) number of vendors at the show are producing waterproof phones and tablets. Equally, vendors are exploring the space between tablets and smartphone’s in the 5 inch screen category. Samsung was hyping the note with their “S Pen” where artists drew caricatures on the screen that were then printed and displayed. The introduction of natural interfaces such as drawing, voice recognition, touch and gesture will most definitely enhance our ability to better utilize the devices and incorporate them in to our lives.
Dolby & Video Chat
From a technology perspective, 5.1 Dolby quality sound was demonstrated by Qualcomm who emphasize that the processing power of their chipsets now enable HD sound processed from 5 microphones on the device. Amateur video will never be the same again! Equally, the use of 5 microphones also means that noise cancelling and filtering will in the future allow much clearer video chat in areas of high ambient noise.
Redefining Human Interactivity
This is just a snapshot of some of the convergence trends and innovative thinking on display at this year’s CES, prompted by the availability and accessibility of a wide variety of new Digital Life technologies. As one final thought for consideration, Ericsson demonstrated how the human body can be used as a conductor for transferring data from one device to another. With one touch of your smartphone, you can transfer the video that you just took directly onto your TV. With the advent of the Internet of Things, the concept of the human body as a node within the net and a transfer mechanism for data means the Digital World is fast becoming the truly interactive place we knew it would be!
Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC