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News and Top Trends From the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show

Monday, February 10, 2020

The 53rd CES wrapped in Las Vegas earlier this month, and among the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show takeaways were driverless car cities, foldable digital screens and the high-speed network that enables it all — and how it will arrive next.

One can be forgiven for thinking one of the top trends from CES 2020 is bathroom tech. From talking faucets to a voice-directed toilet paper delivery robot, the bathroom is a place leading developers believe can be — should be — outfitted with the latest tech.

But showpieces don’t track consumer trends from CES 2020 like contrails from a jet. Many of the narratives — such as Samsung’s STAR Labs “NEON” project, promoting artificial human companions — are concepts. Much of the buzz is brand positioning and audience testing.

Still, the smart technology behind many of the big-splash CES stars is real and developing swiftly. If developers can’t deliver every promise, CES 2020 trends are clear, and gaining momentum.

Wireless High-Speed Internet

One of the headlines that dropped Day 2 of CES was “The long-promised ‘Year of 5G’ arrives with more promises and little 5G.” Between the bait-and-switch marketing of some carriers a year ago to the limited (and expensive) lineup of 5G-enabled phones, 2019 felt like the year that 5G lost. The truth is that 5G (fifth generation) wireless technology is being built as it’s being deployed by all four major wireless carriers. It will bring faster speeds, but it will also change the nature of smart technologies. 

Its backbone is a terrestrial fiber internet network capable of bitrates measured in gigabits per second. Windstream itself is expanding fixed wireless broadband internet in parts of its footprint where truly high-speed internet can be brooked for far flung residents and substantially lower costs.

While tech early adopters may be no more impressed with 5G technology this year than they were last year — some pundits say 2021-2022 will see more widespread evidence of 5G wireless networks — one of the clear 2020 Consumer Electronics Show takeaways is the number of connected devices, and the kinds of smart technology being connected, requires a vast expansion of America’s high-speed internet infrastructure, both fiber and 5G.

Driverless car cities

Automotive innovation will be on display at the North American International  Auto Show in Detroit this summer, but it’s not the only place showcasing the cars of the future. Cars were a top trend from CES 2020, largely for their autonomous engineering, gadgets and screens, battery technology and other features. But consider — Sony turned out a fully formed electric vehicle concept incorporating its sensors and infotainment, in a very conventionally designed sedan no less.

Without question the visioning winner was Toyota’s Woven City, a prototype community of the future that’s planned for a 175-acre platte near the base of Mount Fuji. Called “an experimental laboratory of future technologies,” the plan includes self-driving cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells (long Toyota’s alternative fuel of choice) as well as new forms of human mobility such as the solar-powered Wello enclosed tricycle). The entire concept is predicated on the desire to wed transportation and autonomy so that driving is no longer required — indeed, prohibited — and sustainability and safety are raised to near 100%.

Health wearables

In health, the CES news out of Las Vegas was the Withings ScanWatch (on sale later this year) that can deliver wearers an electrocardiogram reading (Apple’s latest Smart Watch can also do this) and monitors for potential sleep apnea.

Increasingly, so-called “wearables” will marry the incredible power of smart technology to America’s rising demand for health monitoring to stave off crisis care.

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects some 22 million Americans. An estimated four in five have obstructive sleep apnea and are undiagnosed, and apnea is linked to heart disease.

Another wearable is the H2-BP, a wristband blood pressure monitor smaller than most watches that takes pressure readings throughout the day from a signal of the radial artery.

Such wearables will play a substantial role on the front end of what health professionals call the care continuum. With monitoring, doctors and professionals can guide patients to managed conditions instead of visiting them in the ER.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

VR/AR technology is, in what only sounds like a punchline, about halfway real. As one writer put it, “VR and AR have been about five years from the mainstream for the last two decades.”

But one of the top trends from CES 2020 has to be VR/AR, also called “mixed reality.” From streaming companies to established automakers, showcases made profound use of mixed reality. “This show was easily the best VR and AR event I’ve attended,” a VentureBeat.com writer concluded. Korean carmaker Hyundai used eight Pimax widescreen VR headsets to let booth guests experience a ride in its prototype flying taxi. Meanwhile, around Audi’s terrestrial prototype, screens had AR icons pop up to indicate how a windshield heads-up features could display live points of interest, even guide a passenger through a breathing exercise (presumably based on biofeedback).

By one firm’s estimate, there will be 2.5 billion AR-capable devices by 2023 worth $70 billion and perhaps 30 million VR devices worth $10 to $15 billion. These will revolutionize video gaming, sure, but they’ll also be integrated into our work lives and health maintenance.

Privacy

Among the top trends from CES 2020 is digital privacy — not from consumers as much as Big Tech.

Google announced it added two new voice commands for people to deploy to hone privacy using Google Assistant, it’s voiced AI. And Facebook announced an update to its Privacy Checkup aimed at educating concerned users about their own privacy settings (such as who can see their actions and content on the platform) and how they can boost their account security. And Facebook’s own chief privacy office along with Apple’s senior director of global privacy headlined a panel discussion called “Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable: What Do Consumers Want?”

By now, most Americans have experienced a nefarious breach either of their email accounts, bank accounts or both. Now, we have cameras in our homes connected to online accounts, enabled by equally vulnerable wireless routers in many cases. (A Wi-Fi network security failure could conceivably lead to a physical breach of our very homes.)

This year Windstream releases its new home network security bundle, Kinetic Secure, home network protection designed for a vastly more connected space that demands layered protection across devices, your wireless modem and your network connection.

The trend in connected devices is only inching up while security sits in limbo. The only certainty is that technology isn’t reversing course.

To tap into the connected consumer devices of the decade you’ll need future-facing internet — fast, reliable Kinetic Internet.