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CES 2017: The Smart, Connected World Around Us

Connectivity of devices to the cloud has been a focal point of CES for a number of years as the largest annual gathering for innovation in technology is flooded with the latest and greatest in sci-fi-like product showcases. This year marked the 50th anniversary for the international show and boasted a Las Vegas exhibit space of more than 2.6 million net square feet, over 3,800 exhibiting companies, and more than 175,000 professional attendees from January 5-8, 2017. This year’s show brought the 1960s Jetsons cartoon a little closer to reality through numerous “smart”, cloud-enabled consumer product introductions. Cloud connectivity went far beyond the home at CES 2017, with demonstrations of self-driving cars, smart TVs, and wearables – all point to the connected cities of tomorrow. All the while the most buzzed about thing at the show was the next era of cellular networks, 5G, that will be the backbone for fast, anywhere connectivity of all smart, connected technologies.

In his keynote presentation, Qualcomm CEO Stephen Mollenkopf stressed the impressive advancements that 5G connectivity brings to the table. This next generation of mobile connectivity is significantly faster and more versatile, combining multiple wireless high-speed and low-bandwidth technologies that enable communications across an array of spectrum bands. “5G will have an impact similar to the introduction of electricity or the automobile, affecting entire economies and benefiting entire societies,” said Mollenkopf. New 5G networks are expected to be deployed as early as 2020.

The Internet of Things (IoT) received a lot of attention at the show and will benefit further from faster 5G connectivity. IoT is projected to be a multi-trillion dollar industry that is connecting devices faster than ever in our everyday world. This mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection of machines and networks of data-gathering sensors is hardly new (in fact we’ve talked about it here at Tuesdays with Tukaiz) but as seen throughout the show floor is finally ready for prime time. Intelligent voice recognition technology from companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google was one of the key missing components to enable consumer-ready IoT devices, but now we can see a future where every digital device can communicate with us and each other.

Specifically, Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa, stole the show. Alexa now tops 7000 skills, a 7x increase in 7 months, and reigned supreme over the growing consumer market for artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The show floor was littered with dozens of new Alexa partnerships to control and interact with everything from refrigerators to cars. According to Juniper Research, the number of connected IoT devices and sensors is expected to reach over 46 billion in 2021, up 200 percent from last year.

Alongside the many Alexa products were also the next generation TVs, including the most talked about OLED and flexible screens from LG and Samsung’s new QLED (quantum dot) technology, several new wearable products, virtual reality (VR) technology, as well as self-driving cars. Talk about a smart, connected world. Technologies like 5G and IoT are rapidly driving us into that sci-fi world of our childhoods.