CES 2014 has presented the usual fanfare of technology trends and the most consumer of consumer electronics. As with the holiday season, high-tech headphones (that do little more - if anything more - than last year's headphones) and portable, Bluetooth speakers were an overwhelming presence. Being an event that is supposed to provide the latest in consumer technology innovations, colorful headphones and boxes with sound didn’t impress me.
Curved and massive-sized televisions were ever-present, but again, I witnessed little innovative advancement with these devices. This isn’t to belittle CES 2014. In fact, some intriguing concepts are floating around the floor(s). Lit Motors presented a long-developed, self-righting motorcycle, Toyota unveiled a hydrogen-powered car, and a company known as Green Driver presented an app that helps you drive greener and avoid long stop lights.
This brings me to one question: What did this year’s CES provide to those looking for the next step in innovation?
This is the tricky part about attending a consumer-oriented trade show as an editor for an engineering publication.
After meetings with a couple of more component-based companies, TDK and Green Peak, the answer to this question became far more apparent. As the consumer electronics industry is dictated by demand and the attention of the masses, wearable electronics, wireless charging of said devices, and Bluetooth audio amplification crowded the floors, but these two companies provided insight to the future of the components driving these technologies.
In a conversation with Chris Burket and Jon Nelson, senior marketing engineer and president for TDK (respectively), I discussed the frivolity of wireless charging your cell phone when it still needs to be within an inch of the induction for proper charging. Everything from charging medical sensors in shoe insoles to charging hotel door locks (a million dollar idea, if I’ve ever heard of one), wireless induction charging has a lot more potential than easing the woes of a lazy smartphone user who doesn’t want to take the extra time to plug in their phone.
At this point, wireless charging is for sheer convenience and geekdom at best and promoting lazy phone charging at worst. Like many of the consumer innovations at CES 2014, wireless charging of cell phones and wearable electronics were about the fastest selling innovations, but for the tech-savvy, they were all about the components.
Similarly, Green Peak discussed the use of ZigBee components as we progress towards the implementation of the “smart home” and beyond. Green Peak founder and CEO Cees Links believes that Moore’s Law will emerge with the ZigBee brand of low-energy WiFi, as he sees a 10:1 ratio of ZigBee to traditional WiFi by 2020.
Giant, curved displays and portable speakers may be the hip trend at CES 2014 (not to mention the numerous hipsters I witnessed wearing Google Glass), but the real story is where the components of these mediocrely innovative technologies will lead us in the not-so-distant future.