2017 CES and the unveiling of the future

As next month’s Consumer Electronics Show approaches, my excitement grows as it does every year to see what new technologies are being cooked up by the best and brightest on the planet.

This past year has brought us some notable technologies. While self-driving cars seem to lead the technology news, just a few days ago Amazon delivered its first package by drone, Google has developed a real time conversation translator and a small startup has just created an artificial pancreas.

Beam me up Scotty

For nearly five years, dozens of engineering teams around the planet have competed to design a real-life tricorder that approximates the functions of the famous Star Trek device. The competition sponsored by Qualcomm will pay the winner millions of dollars for their creation of what just a few years ago was still considered science fiction. Always a major presence at CES, Qualcomm might just give us a sneak peek at this fascinating technology.

The robots are here

Robotics is one of the hotter tech topics. Researchers have created the world’s first completely soft bodied robot. Known as the Octobot named after the octopus, the machine’s exterior is made of silicone. Hydrogen Peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the Octobot and the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the Octobot’s eight arms; their flexing propels it through water. One can only imagine the possibilities including a more natural skin-like material for prosthetics.

Speaking of prosthetics, researchers at Cornell have developed robots that can better “feel” things by building sensors into the robot’s hand that measure optical wavelengths. The hand can guess what kind of material it’s touching, and measure how firm a surface it is. Believe it or not, researchers at the University of Tokyo have created a robot that can sweat based on the amount of its physical exertion thus creating a more effective self-cooling system.

Self-driving technologies

Sure to be prominently displayed at CES will be self-driving car technology. Google, Uber and Tesla seem to be making the headlines with their race to dominate the automated car market, but each is developing their specific role within this new technology. None of these companies will create their technology in a vacuum since developing an automobile manufacturing capability is not neither the strength of Uber nor Google.

In fact, this week Google unveiled its separate self-driving car company Waymo. The new Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the company would not be in the business of building cars. Instead, Waymo may be the newest contender to tackle autonomous ride-sharing. Waymo is currently making Chrysler Pacificas into self-driving cars as part of a partnership with FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).

Each of the self-driving players doing what they do best is ideal thinks Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. “Each can focus on its core business and advantages. For companies like Tesla, production has always been an issue. If the tech companies like Google, Uber and Lyft develop the platforms, they can have car companies supply the car. But also from an intellectual property standpoint [manufacturing their own cars] may be stretching themselves too thin and not developing the best integrated solutions. This makes more sense.”

The Blockchain

One of my favorite technologies is the blockchain – the complex code behind cryptocurrencies. While only a consumer technology for early adaptors of bitcoin and other digital money, IBM is leading the charge to integrate the sensors within shipping containers, pallets and case packs of the products consumers buy with a blockchain integration that records and stores a permanent record of location and other key factors, such as temperature, moisture, or vibration. Since sensors can communicate wirelessly, they can constantly send their readings over the network to be saved and stored.

As of the end of this year, IBM disclosed that it had more than 300 active blockchain projects underway in logistics as well as in as foreign exchange payments, credit card loyalty program tracking, contract management, trade financing, multiparty trade finance transactions, virtual currency settlements, securities lending, financial audit and compliance, and capital markets infrastructure. IBM wasn’t the only player taking a serious look at blockchain technology. VISA is completing an 18 month study and has recently teamed up with BTL Group, a digital payments start-up, to adapt its technology for processing interbank payments.

It’s only a matter of time before the blockchain begins to provide consumers with its many behind-the-scenes benefits of security, portability, and reliability.

Artificial Intelligence

As AI advances, its implementation into everyday products will become the norm. According to IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer Bernie Meyerson, “[2017] will be the year of the solution as opposed to the year of the experiment.”

We’ve begun to experience AI in language translators, search engines, spam filters and toys, but its growing implementation will soon be ubiquitous. Advanced language translators, smart home appliances, the above mentioned self driving cars, and smart speakers like the Harmon Kardon/ Microsoft Cortana are among the current consumer-oriented implementations of AI.

Over the past four years, six companies in particular — Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and the Chinese firm Baidu — have touched off an arms race for AI talent, particularly within universities. In an interesting move, this year Google and Facebook released their core AI programs as open-source software anyone can use.

Amazon Web Services, the dominant way companies tap into computing power as needed, recently added an artificial intelligence service. Those computers are ready with a few mouse clicks and a credit card.

Perhaps we’ll learn more at next month’s CES, but predictions are that in 2017:

  • Computer security systems with AI will be able to predict a security breach much earlier.
  • As AI aids computer programming, its application in game programming will speed certain tasks like scene and character design.
  • AI will begin to design advertising. Currently, the company Logojoy provides a rudimentary AI to help customers design their own logo.
  • According to Nokia technology group leader Bill Dyer, networks of computer equipment will monitor and fix themselves.
  • Further advancement in the internet of things including showerheads that track how much water we’ve used to toothbrushes that watch out for cavities, to refrigerators that order food that is running out.

The 2017 CES is sure to impress the anticipated nearly 200,000 attendees. I was so impressed by the South Hall’s takeover last year by drone manufacturers that as soon as I got home I ordered one, and my videos and photographs have never looked better! I look forward to seeing you there.

About Mike Lake

Mike is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Evergreen Trading. When not playing jazz trombone he is probably obsessing about writing content that will capture the attention and interest of business people and fellow learning junkies everywhere.

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