CES 2015: Brands Connect the Dots as Connected Future Arrives

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Hyundai CES 2015 Blue Link smartwatch app

With the International Consumer Electronics Show about to get underway in Las Vegas, there is no shortage of tech trend-watchers predicting what will be hot at CES 2015.

From TIME to Wired, from the Guardian to CNET, Yahoo, the New York Times and more, the world’s biggest tech gadget and geek lovers’ paradise has evolved from its days as a high tech TV-flogging showcase ahead of the Super Bowl. That said, TVs will still be in abundance, from Samsung’s curved screens (and egg-shaped speakers) to LG’s Ultra HD 4K TVs.

CES 2015 will also be filled with wearable tech, robotics, connected cars, smart home devices and Internet of Things-savvy systems and devices galore—but the fundamental question remains: do consumers want a suite of connected products, or one device that can do it all? Or are they overwhelmed, tech-fatigued and ready to be disconnected from it all?[more]

CES 2015 Internet cat

That’s why all eyes will be on a brand that won’t be found at a CES booth. While it famously shuns taking out a booth at CES, the shadow of Apple will (once again) loom large.

The highly anticipated Apple Watch, making its debut in the spring, is an elegant mash-up of performance and connectivity with a full-color screen, heart rate-reading technology, fitness/health-tracking software and a multitude of apps—all for upwards of $350.

Jockeying to get ahead of the Apple Watch, expect a fresh crop of of wearable devices with jewelry, clip-ons and embedded sensors in apparel, shoes and trackers. Luxury watchmaker Montblanc just revealed the e-Strap, its foray into smartwatch tech, which attaches to analog watches.

Montblanc e-Strap smartwatch

While the future of Google Glass is blurry, Google’s Android Wear platform, powering Samsung, LG and Motorola smartwatches, boasts game-play, note-taking app Evernote and voice commands that cue driving or walking directions on your wrist. 

With The Internet of Things (IoT) a major theme for Qualcomm and others, CES-goers and -watchers will be inundated with home automation devices including smart door locks, connected lightbulbs, thermostats and beds that gather data about sleeping habits.

Audi, BMW, Toyota, GM, Mercedes-Benz and Ford will be showing-off self-driving car technology, fuel cell technology, in-car web connectivity and smartphone-syncing features, many integrated with Apple’s CarPlay service, which will be available in 30 new makes this year. 

Hyundai will be touting its Blue Link smartwatch app, which syncs with the 2016 Elantra GT and Veloster. The voice recognition-ready app must be synced via Bluetooth to an owner’s smartphone and smartphone in order to remotely execute commands such as “Start my car,” “Lock my car” or “Find my car.” (Check out a demo here). 

With the Apple Watch absent from CES, fitness wearables and Google Glass-style headwear will dominate the floor, but 100 booths will feature wearable accessories for the iPhone and iPad.

As for TV’s, 4K is all the rage and more than 100 different models will be on display along with sound bars, small amplifiers positioned in front of the TV that deliver HD stereo and 5.1 surround sound audio, supplementing the lack of strong speakers that can be housed in a slim 4K TV.

There will also be 4K camcorders, action cameras, and camera modes from Sony, Sharp, LG, Samsung, Hisense, and Panasonic. A smattering of 8K TV’s will also be displayed, aiming to be ready by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

On the robotics front, iRobot’s Roomba will be challenged by the next gen of personal tech-servants and airborne robots, as drones move quickly from commercial use into the mainstream consumer market.

3D Printers, while filtering into the mainstream and widely displayed at CES, still have an average price point around $1,500, and still appeal primarily to hobbyists and the DIY/Maker movement.

Virtual reality has jumped an evolution due in large part to the Oculus Rift, making its debut on the CES convention floor this year, where it will keep company with Samsung’s $99 Gear VR platform.

As fashion brands morph into tech brands, adidas, Asics, Under Armour and Ralph Lauren will be in Las Vegas with devices that monitor blood, sweat and tears, via smartshirts, smartshorts, smartsocks and underpants embedded with sensors and synced to smartphones.

All told, the Consumer Electronic Association’s looming Las Vegas tech extravaganza will showcase enough products, devices and concepts to fill 35 football fields, and this year a crowd of around 160,000 has already indicated they will attend CES this year.

So as CES 2015 promises to be the year of the wearable, connected device, are consumers already feeling disconnected—and is the tech industry to blame?

“The whole arena continues to expand, but a grand vision remains elusive,”  commented Martin Garner, a connected devices analyst at CCS Insight, to the Guardian. “The market’s being held back by immature products, fragmented standards and ill-defined ideas about how we should be using connected things.”

One thing is for sure: what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas, but will be seen and heard (if not bought) by the world at large.

Click here for more coverage from CES 2015.

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