The canvas of the future on display at CES 2016 could be painted in broadly five themes:
OTT: Start of a global revolution
CES 16 saw the announcement from Netflix on worldwide rollout, with massive excitement across markets for real-time access to original content at affordable prices. With the introduction of 4K and 8K TVs, there's much to look forward to as the OTT players create and deliver content in Super Ultra High Definition, as Samsung terms it 4K.
Wearables step into the medical world
Wearables have gained much traction since the last CES, with Fitbit taking the lead with the fitness-driven while Apple and Samsung cover off the fashion-first individuals. A notable development over the last year is the introduction of wearable technology in the area of high-grade medical care approved by FDA. As this space gains momentum, it will significantly impact real-time monitoring of blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions, with implications for healthcare and insurance sectors.
This CES in parts looked more like an automotive show than an electronics show, with all the auto majors having huge presences at the convention centre and the keynote addresses. Their vision for the future of automotive and their investments in the area of connected and self-driven cars, though, didn't seem anything like a gamble. Even as self-driven cars are a few years away, the work in this area will bring to us, in the near future, much more intuitive user interfaces in the people-driven cars, displacing analogue dashboards with touchscreens, heads-up displays and remote climate control.
With the auto industry being rather bullish on self-driven cars, with the aim to eliminate accidents and increase passenger comfort, the industry is also reinventing the way cabins are designed for this future era of cars. By the time my now 8-year-old daughter turns 16, likely she won't need to worry about a driver's licence.
Never home alone
If cars are our second home in Southeast Asia, with people spending long hours on the road due to traffic, our first home is not very far from becoming connected and smarter. At display in CES were some awesome technologies from Panasonic and Samsung to make our homes intelligent. Examples include a refrigerator scanning its contents and alerting you to place an order on the local grocer's e-commerce site via your smartphone or the touchscreen display embedded on its door, or unlocking the door to your apartment for your friends because you are late, stuck in a traffic jam.
Virtual gets real
Although VR and AR have been part of CES for sometime, 2016 saw a significant increase in floor space, with the presence of companies like Samsung, Sony, Facebook and NASA. With Virtual reality evolving from mobile to PC and consoles, 2016 is expected to see an increased focus on investment in content and accessories. With 360-degree cameras, drones and 3D sound systems, VR and AR are primed to go mainstream towards the end of 2016. With wearable and virtual reality converging, there will be a natural evolution to an enhanced user interface between humans and machines in the coming years.
Internet of things, the key enabler
Smart homes and smart cars, combined, will be awesome. But for now, the IoT is a tad frustrating given multiple vendors and a lack of integration. Quite a lot of heavy lifting will have happen to provide a truly seamless experience in this area of world-changing but monotonous stuff—enhancing battery life, improving processing power and integrating the various ecosystems. The dominant presence of Intel and Qualcomm demonstrated their wish to play a big role in realising this potential.
From a consumer behaviour perspective, even as we enjoy the benefits of new technology, we will always have to ask how each new piece will help on a daily basis without taking over our daily life.
Ranga Somanathan is Starcom Mediavest Group's COO for Southeast Asia and head of global network clients in Southeast Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand