Now all the hype is over I’ve had the chance to reflect on the technology trends at CES 2019. Then my colleague Martin reminded me that I wrote a blog last year predicting what would be hot at CES 2019. So, how did I do?

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I predicted that AI would go mainstream - that many new products would include a machine learning element, enabling new consumer experiences. In some ways I was right. The BBC reported how Alexa and Google Assistant are “carving up” the market in a big rush for Internet of Things (IoT) and connected home products to add voice interfaces. But voice is only one step and, as my colleagues Dylan Garrett and Eric Cohen pointed out, there’s still a long way to go on the path to zero UI.

Also we haven’t seen “explainable AI” emerge yet as I predicted - the idea that the real power of AI will be unlocked when what’s happening inside it becomes clear, which will be essential for decision-support applications. So, more to come on this next year as new AI technologies are adopted, such as our Gerard and DeepRay concepts, as Richard Leyland evangelised.

Ruth Thomson predicted before CES that beauty tech would grow fast and indeed it has. P&G and Clarisonic, alongside CES stalwarts Philips, showcased not only innovative skin products but also the process for innovation behind them. Women’s health tech also featured strongly - check-out my colleague Erica Kantor’s highlights.

Of course there were many other exciting launches - robots and helicopters to name but two… The variety of categories now represented at CES continues to amaze me, spanning everything from tractors to beverages. Some of these represent the convergence of industries, such as medical and consumer where consumer brands can take advantage of emerging regulated categories, and medical companies can transform the experience for patients with something barely discernible from a discreet and intuitive wearable. This is something Jacquie Finn spoke about at the Digital Health Summit. This trend is going to continue apace.

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So, my predictions for CES 2020? As well as more explainable AI, it's clear that the industry is more than ready for 5G, if it can deliver on its promise (and I know who to ask). Early adopters are going to find high value use cases and unlock significant consumer experience innovation. As the proliferation of voice interface shows, 2019 is going to be the year where our dependence on screens for UI fades and 5G will only expedite this as our dependence on smartphones for an internet connection decreases.

I’ll just put a calendar entry in for this time next year to see if I was right…

Duncan Smith
Head of North America