Parth Kapadia
Parth Kapadia

Engineer & Entrepreneur

CES is the best Tech conference on the planet. Experience the future people will live before their reality becomes real”

Alright so with CES 2017 around the corner, I thought it’d be appropriate to show you a little bit about what last year’s conference was like. Overall, it was a blast and a grand moment in time. As a kid, I always dremt of attending, and through this blog, and the success of the team, we were invited as engineers to represent Chicago’s energy IoT scene. At this January’s conference in Vegas, I’ll be posting my favorite pieces of tech live on my snapchat story (@kapadia23) so be sure to snap me if you haven’t already!

Anyways, the Consumer Electronics Show is an unimaginable four day experience that attempts to define future norms far from existence. Your senses beyond inspired: see, feel, hear, smell, and taste a slice of an unknown realm where mind boggling gadgets are deployed in fashion by celebs and tech execs, almost as an act of god. Toys and trinkets designed grind your gears that pose you to question your very next disruptive innovation. This is CES!

It all starts with a rush comprised of 40,000 steps, according to Fitbit, of exploration at the Las Vegas convention center and surrounding hotels. Companies like Cisco, Samsung, Microsoft, Windows, LG, and Amazon are just a few tech ballers to mention that showcase the next 100+ years of your world to come. The celebrity parties are bumping as well and are hosted by companies like Soundcloud, Spotify, and Google that feature artists like DJ Tiesto and Steve Aoki…

CES is also where start-ups and kick-starter projects lift off the ground or crumble in flames. The best part is when they give away tech for free, like this Dodo-Case for VR, or even better, when they land multi-billion dollar enterprise level partnerships. It’s also a place where first announcements are made like when BMW and IBM, with their SmartCar and SmartThings platform combined to make “IoTivity.” It all goes down on the Las Vegas Strip right after new years and for all you car enthusiasts, there’s always at least one building dedicated strictly to concept cars.

Fluttered with hype, press, and media, CES is the biggest conference in the world that kicks-off the new year. The weirdest thing is that you’ll never so many people ignoring the existence gambling unless it’s in the form of augmented reality.  Dealers and casino employees literally yawn as entrepreneurial millennial technologists speed walk past through landmark hotels paying more attention to their iPhone’s and rooted androids than their historic surroundings. 

Check out these 6 glorified trends from CES 2016:

1. TVs, Games, Entertainment

When you imagine consumer electronics, TVs, and more so screens holistically, are primarily the console of mainstream entertainment. Touch screens and internet capabilities equip old methods of entertainment with modes of digitization and lots of firmware updates.

In the past, due to high hardware costs, screens weren’t the first thing companies would look to design-build. Although, that’s probably why we have so many apps or software for screens today – because of high hardware costs and the concept of platforms. Major TV OEMs announced exclusive partnerships with Sony and PS Now or the gaming version of Netflix. Basically, you can play PS4 games online with friends from all over the world right from your tv, no console required. Of course like all newer gaming business models, there will be add-ons ranging from controllers and web cams to in-app purchases for new levels and maps. They will also include a renting feature for in-store pickup or next day delivery to eliminate small competitors like Redbox and Gamefly.

Although, a major negative of this early stage on-demand type of entertainment are the graphics. This might make avid gamers and enthusiasts weigh the pros and cons of buying an entirely separate console that supports more powerful graphics and computing capabilities vs lighter gaming suited for co-ops. A combination user experience with convenience and low latency will be key for companies looking to embed real-time IoT into entertainment.

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2. Drones

The paradigm shift for drone applications were also showcased at CES 2016 – last mile delivery, drone racing, and disaster recovery. Drone heavyweights like Parrot and DJI displayed some future models of operation for this potentially peaking industry. Intel also showed off their Firefly that they originally had buried deep in their investment portfolio.

Remember the boom in drones a couple years ago when Amazon stated that they would use them for same day shipping? It felt like that all over again with drones at CES. A hybrid of not only the hardware itself within the technology, but new software integrations for drones that focus on augmented and virtual outputs driven to put you in the pilot seat. Some of the software being demonstrated featured the ability to program waypoints using the google maps API for autonomous flight.

Not to mention the developments on existing hardware like the possibilities of wireless charging for longer usage times, and the ability to ping off of various wifi, wimax, and telecom towers for constant connectivity.

Drones are here to stay for the long-haul and there isn’t getting any past that. Every industry can utilize drone technology at some scale. How will your company utilize drones?

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3. AR & VR

This felt like the most prominent technology that is most likely here to stay. Hundreds of exhibits from small to large companies all showing their R&D use cases for the long awaited technology. Two of the major companies in this area were Microsoft and Oculus, which is now owned by Facebook.

Samsung featured a theme park like ride that put you at the center of a radical surf session in the midst of a pipeline wave in Oahu, Hawaii. A 360 roller coaster that engages your peripherals, almost into a 6th sense. Even though VR combined with noise canceling headphones gives more of an arcade game feel, you can see the direction this technology will take over the next couple decades.

Interesting enough, Oculus had a little bit of a different sales pitch. They created an entire house that combined IoT with a touch of an augmented way of living. The line to their house was over 3 hours so I just walked and attended Microsoft’s Minecraft experience.

There was also an interesting IoT subreddit conversation happening during CES around IoT/VR/AR in the porn industry…need I say anymore? You can only assume industry giants like Pornhub are investing millions to discover the next 50 years of their aged business model.

If they don’t, someone else will and platform providers will force users to pay per use monthly as a brand new revenue stream to their already massive operation. Cortana or Alexa based virtual girlfriends have already been depicted in the movie Her, with Joaquin Phoenix Creepy. A creepy alternative to an actual reality, but with Trump as president, anything is possible.

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4. SmartHomes

As we roamed the show floors, beers in hand, we literally found ourselves walking into actual smarthomes. Many of them started with connected garages with smart tool sheds and garage openers far sophisticated than the typical MyQ by Chamberlin. The kitchens were equipped with connected refrigerators with digital screens listing  to-do lists, weather, and ingredients needed from either Amazon on demand or on the next grocery run. These homes were built by GE, Vivint, Iris by Lowe’s, Honeywell, LG, and even Coldwell Banker. All of them looked kinda similar in terms of their sales approach except only now, many companies had begun to manufacture their own thermostats, HVACs, vents, and blinds all integrated them with Azure or AWS furnished with voice control and artificial intelligence. In other words, it was all about partnerships and marketing.

Companies exclusively pitched us both with a single internet protocol, as a way of being a long term data sharing partner, and as an interoperable platform, depending on their CFO’s balance sheets. Common internet protocols being promoted included Thread, Zigbee and Z-Wave alliances along with works with programs for Nest or HomeKit in order to show various touch points all being integrated onto one cental platform (interoperability is best explained by Droplit.Io)

Obviously, the smarthome IoT market is fragmented and there a lot of products for sale out there as there are a variety of ways they can be commanded and controlled. IFTTT is also a great way for early adopters to get started, according to their VP of sales, but even with my limited attention span, I was struggling to stay engaged with his stringing together of various devices in his demonstration. You may think IFTTT is for impractical for massive adoption, but these early staged concepts are prime depictions for future value added services that will be readily available when purchasing new homes or retrofitting existing ones.

Believe it or not, the smarthome section at CES was actually a huge motivation for this blog, especially in future posts, not because the technology is practically being built for you and I as we speak, but more so because it has the biggest potential for hacking as well as new product revenue – with great power comes great responsibility. 

Although Samsung, and other OEMs do not let cybersecurity slow them down, as they had a massive showing of their new platform with Windows called “IoTivity” which I mentioned earlier, that combines smarthomes, smart cars, and a connected you. In addition, they bought SmartThings – an early staged start-up, at the time, to show how they will set the stage for a future roll-out of consumer electronics. Major tech giants are focused on Hub based services that include a push and pull platform, encrypted with proprietary security geared towards maintenance and service plans for utilities, health care, and government entities to rate-base and roll-out to their customer bases; the inevitable emergence of new supply chains and middle men.

You may have also noticed that companies are simply adding more hardware to their lineups including fitness wearables, smart clothes, and personal comfort, but are failing to really address customer pain points. Not to be a downer, but you’re starting to understand how mutilated this space is really becoming. Not to mention that all of these devices out in the world combined, also acted as bandwidth for a recent DDoS attack on major tech companies like Amazon, Spotify, and Twitter. Take it for granted now, but your emails, addresses, phone numbers, and maybe even credit cards, have already been compromised.

On an optimistic note, smart kitchens within the smart home, will become the hub of all hubs in the future. The touch screen fridge and projected back-splashes were at CES just for kicks. 

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5. SmartCities

I must say that being a utility minded engineer, it was awesome to see big Telecom companies such as Qualcomm and Ericson duking it out to get my attention. It was so cool saying that I was from ComEd, an Exelon Company and that we were already under a critical IoT deployment of technologies like smart meters, smart streetlights, and the works. Their eyes lit and lips chapped as they began to get into data packet costs and low latency based sales pitches claiming to being able to undercut their unknown competitor. The conversations were dandy until I revealed that we had already partnered with SilverSpring Networks. The sales rep from Verizon asked who they were, as I chuckled, asking the rep to google them as I explained that Silver Springs was actually a customer of theirs. The Verizon sales engineers stood in disbelief. 

I’ve said it over and over again that SSN went public under the nose of everyone in the IoT and Smart City space. Even though it may have been cheaper and smarter for utilities to work directly with Qualcomm and Erickson, they didn’t, and most are overpaying per point of connectivity. This is a classic HBR case of when your contract vendor becomes your competitor through vertical integration. I don’t expect all of you to know what that even means, and quite frankly I don’t either, but basically, there’s a supply chain within the cell tower and now two or more suppliers are competing with one another. This image paints a nice picture but still fails to clearly define how these businesses actually operate.

Today major telecom companies and consumer electronic OEMs are taking on bids from cities themselves to build our their smart mesh infrastructure. I guess I’m being biased because I’m a fan of SilverSprings but they really did a good job with their re-branding to an IoT company. Cisco was nowhere to be seen so they paid millions to acquire Jasper. Companies like Sigfox are also making a splash within this space and will directly compete with multiple networking companies.

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6. Transportation

Volkswagen officially redeemed themselves for the carbon emission scandal with their brand new smart and autonomous EV, the Budd-e as it ranges around 400 miles and seats 7. Basically, the German mammoth of an automaker will continue to just outsmart the rest of the car manufacturers, potentially even Tesla. The IoT component touches on how autonomous cars can utilize geofencing technology to predict when you’re going to be home and away and make real-time adjustments based on economies of scale and preference. 

BMW, Dodge, Toyota, Kia all had a pretty good displays about how they’re innovating in this space. Autonomous and smart cars are becoming the new norm after Tesla made a lot of money with their fleet of EVs while everyone else was just waking up (same kind of thing happened with the Telecom industry).

I assume that it’s just a matter of time until these trends become the new norm. Although, with low gas prices and the advancements in fracking, what’s the rush?

Lexus had a hover board within the transportation section that I thought was pretty neat. It goes for around 20k and reminded me of when Marty from Back to the Future II got away from the Biff on his pink hover board. “Should have bet on the Cubbies” came true in 2016.

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Conclusion

CES should be better known in the future as a conference set up to examine the possibilities life can unveil. New tech and gadgets only help people live their everyday lives more effectively. Lucky enough for us, most of these concepts eventually make it into the main stream market, so you make use of them. Being an early adopter is an understatement, if you’re trying to keep up ahead of the technology curve. So, if you’re going to be there, or just want to stay in the loop, hit me up!

What would you like to see at CES in 2017?

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