Thursday, January 9, 2014

CES 2014 Focuses on Internet-Connected "Things"

The International Consumer Electronics Show comes to Las Vegas this week, and as usual starts the year off by defining the theme of the consumer market in electronics for 2014.  After the past few years of smartphones, tablets, and ultralight portable laptop computers, this year's focus is both more streamlined and simple, and potentially more all-encompassing and game-changing.  

2014 is the year where everything you use and buy begins to be internet connected.  Pundits call it "the internet of things". The last few years we have seen the connected "smart home", where home security, a/c and heating, power usage and video surveillance all come under the control of internet and smartphone apps.  That spirit has taken hold and soon everything from sports and fitness equipment to home appliances and light bulbs will be connected to the internet.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Gadget by gadget, people are coming to expect that even the most common things will be more useful when they are connected. Pets. Livestock. Sports equipment. Watches. Power meters. Light bulbs. Washing machines. Thermostats. If you can think of it, someone has probably stuck a sensor on it and connected it to the Internet.

'I think a lot of this is going to start with the smart home,' said Kelly Davis-Felner, a representative of the Wi-Fi Alliance, whose members have played a key role in enabling this connected world. 'The smart home is going to be built brick by brick until 10 years from now we're going to be looking back and saying, "Wow, I can't believe there used to be a time when everything wasn't connected.'"

This type of connectivity is already widely embraced by businesses, which use sensors to wirelessly track supplies, packages and the performance of machinery. But big drops in the cost of computer memory and sensors, coupled with dramatic improvements in battery life, are pushing the spread of connected devices to consumers.

'We're seeing an acceleration of uses with the consumer Internet of things,' said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy. 'You could have done many of these things before. But the battery life might have been one hour. Now it lasts a week.'

Thanks to the mobile computing revolution, these connected devices don't need big computer screens and buttons to be useful. And they never need to be plugged into a desktop computer to be synced. Smartphones and tablets increasingly serve as the dashboards to control them.

For instance, a Fitbit wristband that tracks the user's physical activity and calorie intake needs only a tiny LED screen. The information is beamed to a smartphone app, where it can be stored, processed and tracked.

'On many of these devices, sensors pull off the unique information and feed them to your smartphone,' said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research for the Consumer Electronics Assn., the trade group that runs CES. 'These devices don't need to be computers by themselves.'

There is no single killer app driving this adoption. Many of the devices have only a single purpose or function, which, given their low cost, seems to be fine with consumers.

Connectivity has also become laden with tremendous hype created by a consumer electronics industry that needs to continuously find new gadgets to sell. Many of the industry mainstays, such as televisions, PCs and even smartphones and tablets, are seeing their growth slow or sales decline as it becomes harder to produce breakthroughs that inspire people to replace older devices.

As a whole, connected gadgets are being marketed as devices that will help consumers lead healthier, happier and safer lives. Smart homes will use less energy. Connected cars will prevent accidents and be more fuel efficient. Wearable computers will help users stay fit and improve their moods, proponents say."

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