By Barb Jorgensen
The Internet of Things (IoT) is already passé at CES 2020. There’s a new IoT in town — the Intelligence of Things—that will drive consumer and industrial innovation well into the next decade, said Steve Koenig, vice president for the Consumer Technology Association.
This is the decade where smart homes, electric vehicles and telemedicine will hit their stride, Koenig said in his CES 2020 preview. “We’ve ticked the device-connectivity boxes,” he explained. The next 10 years will be about intelligent connectivity and devices that anticipate human needs, enable smart city infrastructure and contribute to global sustainability, he said.
Proof-of-concept already exists in agriculture where technology trims costs, labor and waste. Automated harvesters free up manpower. Drones identify dry spots in fields and automated systems water only those areas. Data from harvesters — such as daily yield– can be used by farmers to capitalize on the futures market.
Artificial intelligence and 5G are the underpinnings of the new IoT, Koenig said. 5G capabilities are so far beyond 4G that enterprises—rather than consumers—will drive its growth. The new IoT can be divided into two categories: massive IoT and critical IoT. Massive IoT connects a lot of endpoints but carries very little data. Critical IoT connects fewer endpoints with lots of data. Applications for the latter include remote surgery, industrial robotics and commercial virtual reality, said Koenig.
“5G will overlay every commercial and industrial sector,” he added.
5G networks will be built parallel to 4G to prepare for a gradual transition. This means devices, networks and base stations that are yet to be designed, built and field tested. Most devices will be 5G-enabled by 2023, according to CTA, but a complete transition will still take a while.
In the meantime, established companies and start-ups are developing products and services that will capitalize on connected intelligence. Trends to watch at CES 2020 include:
AI and everything. Artificial intelligence is being “consumerized.” Machine learning has been around awhile and is well understood in the industrial sector, but devices with embedded AI are already on the market – ovens that can identify and correctly cook food; doorbells with facial recognition and speakers with advanced voice recognition. “AI is permeating every facet of commerce and culture and is focused on enhancing the user experience,” said Koenig.
AR/VR/XR untethered. AR devices are now wireless and provide near room-scale experiences. For the science fiction fan, Star Trek’s Holodeck is – literally – closer to reality than ever before. Other AR devices have been scaled down to sunglass sizes. “The real use case” said Koenig, “is in the commercial space and B2B.” VR is training doctors on virtual cadavers. XR, a cornerstone of gaming, is catching on in the $1 billion e-sports market.
Transportation. “This is the decade for electronic vehicles,” said Koenig. There are advancements in battery technology and electric motors; charging stations are more plentiful and easier to use. Sensors and processors proliferate in EVs. “Now we are hearing a narrative about commercial EV deployment — which means fleets — and fleets mean partnerships,” he added. “Nobody can do this on their own.”
EVs are also solving the “last mile” problem in cities that are densely populated and highly congested. Electric scooters have become a popular solution to the last-mile challenge, Koenig said.
Digital health. “This becomes a lifestyle this year,” Koenig predicted. Consumer electronics are bringing the ecosystem together.
AI and 5G are moving digital health from symptom-based telemedicine to data-based telemedicine. Applications include remote bedside consultations or second opinions, and AI-assisted diagnostics. “Hospitals are going to become data centers that will need security and encryption,” Koenig added.
Robotics. Jetson’s-style robotic maids haven’t taken over households yet. Turns out such “social robots” haven’t caught on while “task-based” robots have. “Task-based robots do one thing really well, such as vacuuming, or on automated assembly lines.” If you add mobility to a robot, you add cost, Koenig said. There are few use-cases for mobile, social robots.
Stationary social robots currently teach languages, monitor health or dispense medication. “There are still humanoid robots in the mix, but people are wondering ‘what am I really going to use these for?’” Koenig concluded. He suggested mobile “droids” that can guide humans to their destination on a planet-sized star ship are much more practical.