It's a new year, and that means the big Consumer Electronics Show will soon showcase the latest trends and would-be trends for both consumers and businesses. Speculation is already rampant about what will stand out in this year's mega-exhibition, which runs January 7-10 in Las Vegas.
One of the trends everyone is expecting is an explosion in so-called wearables, where smaller-than-ever computing devices double as watches, glasses, sneakers or other such form factors -- even, reportedly, smart contact lenses. The wearable attracting the most attention has been Google Glass, which that technology giant has been rolling out in an extended alpha/beta phase. Recently, however, there have been a number of "hey, wait a minute" reactions in online publications and forums about Glass' potential negative impact on person-to-person interaction, or its potential for privacy issues.
But that won't slow down the rush of new ways to augment your person with computing/transmission capabilities. At CES, one can reasonably expect at least some smaller companies will tout their own Glass-lookalike, and there will also be a variety of smart watches, cameras in surprising form factors, health trackers that monitor human dynamics, and more.
Internet of Everything
With computing devices going into almost everything you can wear, don't be surprised to find them showing up in almost anything else that can be counted, tracked or assessed. This so-called Internet of Things -- or, in Cisco's even more expansive term, Internet of Everything -- will place cheap sensors, transceivers and/or computing capability in a variety of objects and places.
Expect to see even-more-than-before manifestations of this Everything-ness at CES, as the pieces -- ubiquitous high-speed connections and cheap, powerful processors or sensors -- are falling into place.
After several years of trying to sell an unenthusiastic public on 3D TV-capable sets that required clumsy glasses -- especially since so many people were just getting used to their newly acquired HD sets -- the TV industry will now be pushing super-high definition, most notably 4K/Ultra HD.
While 4K has appeared before at CES, the TV makers are really gearing up for this year's annual tech extravaganza. New 4K models will be shown by several manufacturers, including mega-makers Sony and Samsung. Netflix has said it will make Ultra HD streaming available for UHD TVs next year, and Google's YouTube is expected to unveil a bandwidth-efficient 4K codec so that video providers can encode their uploads.
Self-Driving Cars, Solar-Powered Too
Having stocked up the living room and office with devices, the electronics industry is also refining its focus on cars. CES has said that car-related floor space has increased by 25 percent this year compared with last.
There are indications that some car maker announcements will follow Google's lead into self-driving cars, which should give everyone more opportunity to play with all those other great gadgets being launched at CES while the car does the hard work.
Also rumored are new announcements in hydrogen fuel cells, which Toyota is expected to launch worldwide in a year. Audi is said to be presenting its Sport Quattro Laserlight with, as you might surmise, laser-generated headlights, and Ford will be showing its solar hybrid gas/electric concept car -- the first electric car that doesn't need to use the power grid.
We'll be providing week-long coverage of this year's Consumer Electronics Show, which is officially known as International CES 2014 according to the Consumer Electronics Association that produces the event. Check back with us for all the latest news and product announcements.