Wearable Tech, Connected Cars, the Internet of Things and Other Highlights from CES 2014

Todd Marks is the CEO and President of Mindgrub.

This was the first year I had the opportunity to go to CES.  We have recently been doing a lot of development for Google Glasses and signed up for CES thinking they might be showing the latest and greatest there.  Google themselves was a no-show and we’ll have to wait for Google IO to know what is coming out next, but there were droves of people walking around with their Glasses on.  We also went to see all the other innovations in Wearable Tech, hoping to find a few other hardware platforms that we might be able to develop software for, and the conference didn’t disappoint.  Below are the highlights we came across as well as a few other innovative technologies that seemed to make the most headlines this year.
 
1 Photo: Todd Marks2 Photo: Todd Marks
Wearable Tech 
We primarily wanted to go to CES to check out the Heads up Displays (HUD) and smartWatch advancements, as these platforms are the next in line to open the market up to 3rd Party apps.  The shocker to me was that the Fitness Market seemed to dominate the Wearable area.mIn Fitness, there were connected bikes, helmets, and exercise gear- you name it, they had it. There were also a lot of fitness trackers.  Fitbit, as expected, seemed to steal the show with their display and cases showing all the versions of their products. Fitness also seemed to extend well into the Smart Watch category and had seemingly far more fitness watches then regular smart watches. I thought  Kreyos Fitness Smart Watches had a good display, and I also liked the  4iii’s smart biker helmet,One area I was not expecting fitness tech to run into was the kids market, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a cool fitness tracker for kids made by  Club Penguin. They had an app that allowed kids and parents to set goals and add incentives that I thought were a spot on idea.

3 Photo: Todd Marks4 Photo: Todd Marks

5 Photo: Todd Marks

Heads Up Display (HUD)

After spending some time at the convention center, we jetted over to the Venetian where they had several areas dedicated to even more emerging technology.  That is where we came across the bulk  of  the  Heads Up Display companies.  
The Heads Up Displays came in many shapes and sizes and are starting to become specialized for particular uses. I am thinking the generic glasses, like the early prototypes for Google Glasses, will go the way of QR Codes and Segways- something that everyone assumes might get mass adoption, but which ends up better for specific use cases, like the Police having Segways at airports and QRCodes being great for ticketing, but not much else.

There were plenty of people walking around with their Google Glasses, but I still tend to keep mine in my backpack unless I need to take a few  seconds of video or try out the latest  viaPlace.com  tour.
 
Several companies, such as  XOEye and  PivotHead had displays that were more specialized for streaming video.  You could stream video and images to the cloud and get audio feedback through the glasses.  Neither glasses were connected to the internet or your smartphone, but it was interesting to see the different direction they were taking.  Their primary use cases seemed to be for businesses that do a lot of inventory management.
They are a good fit for workers who have to move items around and do inventory control, and places where it helps them to be hands free of other devices.
 
There was additionally a lot of Virtual Reality and Immersive Interfaces that were dedicated to watching video and interacting in 3D space, but did not allow you to see through to the physical 
world.  A few of these were starting to pair with your smartphone for browsing the internet as well, but were mostly cabled and certainly did not allow for you to get up and walk around.
 
Overall, I was impressed by the number of HUDs that are starting to go to market, but still think it is early on and we are a ways away from seeing the pair that will grab a mass market.  Maybe it will go the way of the MP3 Player and Smart Phone, with Apple putting a killer product out there. If only Jobs was still with us.
6 Photo: AFP7 Photo: Polk Audio's DJ Stream App Icon
Internet of Things
One big disappointment I had is that I missed seeing Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers, doing a keynote with comedian Sarah Silverman.  I still need to thank her for tweeting the site we launched for  Catapult, in conjunction with the  Bill 
and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Her fan base brought it down in no more than 5 minutes.  Lucky for us, that helped us prepare for the bigger hit at the “ Chime For Change Concert,” founded by Gucci, where Beyoncé and Madonna also announced the site.  This time it took an even bigger hit and didn’t come down, mind you after we quadrupled the servers and distribution.
 
I did swing by the Cisco booth at the convention center to see their talk on the Internet of Things. 
They had some great demos of grocery finders in the grocery store, empty parking space finders, and campus device tracking.  They discussed the little things such as knowing when you run out of milk in your fridge, or remotely controlling your dog’s food bowl.  They also brought up the explosion of fitness tech and postulated on what you could do if you aggregated everyone’s Fitbit data, such as predicting levels of cardiovascular 
disease for communities.
 
The Internet of things definitely had a presence at CES, not just with Cisco, but with several vendors including a very large display by iHome.  They had nearly every household product wired and hooked up to your smartphone.  We also swung by our clients booth,  Polk Audio, where they were demonstrating a new App we developed called  DJStream that lets you push music to any number of 
connected speakers in your home or office.
8 Photo: Patrick T. Fallon
Automotive Technology 
A big focus of CES that I should have spent more time looking into was the latest and greatest in Automotive Technology.  There seems to be a big push toward industry standards for connected cars and mobile app integration.  Several manufacturers 
such as BMW, Audi and GM were represented showing the latest in digital car dashboards.  Those same manufacturers, with the leadership of Google, have created a new organization called the Open Automotive Alliance
. This organization is planning to pave the way for open standards and 3rd Party Application development.  I was thinking Mindgrub Labs would be developing refrigerator apps next, but 
Automotive Apps would be much cooler.  It’s really nice that 
several cars are now running Android, and it is only a matter of time before there is a 3rd Party Store.
 
 
Also, in the automotive sector of CES, there was a lot of talk about self-driving cars.  Audi had a test
 vehicle there, but I think we are still several years away from having anything consumer ready.
 

There were 3 other major take-aways from CES that are worth mentioning, but they were not as 3rd Party developer-friendly so I didn’t end up spending as much time researching them. They include Drones, upgraded Televisions and 3D Printing.

9 Photo: Adam Turner
Drones   
First, Drones were a newer edition to the show this year and the market in general.    If you haven’t seen some of the new Drone and Go Pro footage on 
YouTube, you are missing out.  For relatively little money paired with the available do-it-yourself kits, it seems like every homebody will soon be flying a drone, much like launching model rockets
 or flying kites.  The major difference is that we can now add cameras and easily capture everything that goes on at those altitudes.
 
 
10 Photo: TVNate Lanxon
UltraHD Televisions 
Next, as with every year it seems, TV’s took a step forward.  The major release was that every manufacturer seemed to have UltraHD displays that  boast 4000 dpi displays. Samsung even had a 
number of curved 4k displays that allowed you to get 
intical-align: top; width: 940px;credibly high resolution pictures from nearly any angle.
11 Photo: Todd Marks
3D Printing 
Last, but certainly not least,  Makerbot and other 3D printers where there in force.  There were several new home and consumer 3D printers that
 made any number of tchotchkes in plastic or metal.
The coolest thing discussed however, is that if you can bring 3D printers to a large scale, you could 
essentially print the foundation and walls for a house in a day.  Hopefully this will allow for greater artistry and flexibility in home design, as opposed to having rows of cheaply stamped houses one after another like we had in the 50’s. But I think we’ll need to wait a 
couple of years before we start getting those in a neighborhood nearby.
In all, CES was well worth the visit to get a first-hand look at some of the new technologies coming to market.  It solidified that we have been doing the right things with our research group, Mindgrub Labs, and are really looking forward to not just developing Google Glass Apps, but now Apps for Smart Watches, The Connected Home, and Automobiles.

 

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