CES: The selling starts

 

Some the gadgets on show, including smart cars and TV screens that let viewers watch more than one programme in 3D at the same time

If you don't like capitalism at its most flamboyant and brash, don't come to Las Vegas - especially in the week of CES. Most conversations involve selling you something - and this week that means technology. And the spirit of salesmanship even affects the usually shy Brits who come here.

Whether it was checking in at Gatwick, on my 10 hour flight, or standing in the two hour immigration line at Las Vegas's woefully inefficient McCarran airport, I found myself on the end of a series of pitches. From wireless charging to consumer telematics, from new gaming platforms to a hi-tech smart bicycle, all the ideas pressed upon me by their eager supporters sounded impressive.

But last night at CES Unveiled, a preview event in a vast, noisy hotel ballroom, there were plenty more suitors for the attention of the hordes of technology journalists. LG's 84 inch ultra-high definition television was the most eye-catching product on show - though with no broadcast programmes to show off its capabilities for some while it's unlikely to be in your front room soon.

LG's 84 inch ultra-high definition television

But all kinds of connected devices were on show which will be making an impact on our lives soon. Many were to do with health - from the pulse monitor you plug into your smartphone, to a fitness monitor, the Fitbug, which sets you exercise goals after monitoring your physical activity. Most bizarre was the smart spoon, which is designed to encourage you to eat more slowly - if you spoon food into your mouth rapidly the spoon handle throbs with a warning signal.

It all chimed with the narrative outlined at a press conference by Shawn DuBravac, the chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Association. He described "an age of algorithms" where connected sensors digitised all kinds of data about an individual's health and daily activities, and then provided them with useful material. One example - taking data from a blood pressure monitor and cross checking it with a user's calendar to find out whether particular meetings caused stress.

For consumers, there will be the promise of benefits if they share their personal data.

CES Unveiled

One US insurer is offering discounts to drivers who share their GPS data with the company. Lots of privacy issues, of course, but those who choose to cover themselves in sensors or internet connected watches may not worry too much about that.

Amid all this innovation, you might think that the global technology industry was in fine fettle. Not so, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. While sales of smartphones and tablets exploded, the market as a whole actually contracted by 1% in 2012. Even in China, where the new middle class is rushing to buy every gadget imaginable, sales of TVs fell.

For Japanese manufacturers in particular these are stressful times. Sony, Panasonic and Sharp all had a dreadful 2012 - and will be hoping to prove at CES that they can still deliver innovative products in the face of stiff competition from South Korea and China. Perhaps strapping a few of those health sensors to their CEOs might deliver some interesting results by the end of this week.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    36.Piestall_Fred
    "What's 'stupid' about the spoons and the blood pressure monitoring? They're trying to keep you alive! Or don't you care?"
    ---------------------
    Funnily enough, I do care
    A good diet, exercise and a job where you don't get wound-up in meetings tends to work for most people. The need to blame someone else or rely on fancy gizmos for self-inflicted poor health is "stupid"

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 43.

    Will it blend?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 42.

    Looks like 2013 people will be wondering how to get food on the fork then buying an ifork.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    The ultimate gadget?

    That would surely be a device that zapped politicans' brains to make them see that Neo-Liberal economic policies when a nation is in debt do make the debt problem better.....

    ....they make it worse.....hence why no one can show even one measly example of severe austerity making debt reduce.....because it always makes debt go up.....

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 40.

    Going by the number of posts, people are really interested in what's in the latest gadget's pipeline, aren't they.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 39.

    Rory where is the actual tech news from CES?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 38.

    @33.1whdg

    >Why can't we have good tech shows in the UK?<

    The UK uses tech industry as a cash cow, always seeking to gain as much revenue as poss. Re: the 2G/3G/4G license auctions which nearly crippled the industry, netted the government billions and stuck the UK behind developing nations as far as tech is concerned.

    It is not about how good we are, just how much can be fleeced from it.

    Shame.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    29.
    AAC was developed by Sony, Dolby, and Nokia, amongst others. Nothing to do with Apple. Apple simply adopted it, as it's superior to MP3. Sony are the kings of proprietary software, despite your obvious antipathy towards Apple. Betamax, MiniDisc, 3.5" floppys, SDDS, Memory Sticks, S/PDIF, SACD, ATRAC etc. Sony have consistently flouted industry standards time and time again. Stupid, really...

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 36.

    What's 'stupid' about the spoons and the blood pressure monitoring? They're trying to keep you alive! Or don't you care?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 35.

    On gadgets

    I'd just love a direct brain interface so I could do such things as think about chatting to colleagues and be doing so...

    Watch telly without the need to be in front of the screen etc etc etc.

    The ultimate gadget or what!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 34.

    33.1whdg "Why can't we have good tech shows in the UK?"

    Exhibition space is far far too expensive - because the property(hall) is far too expensive - so blame the bankers who created exponential debt, as encouraged by Mervyn King/HMG just to foist it on stupid borrowers who grossly overpaid for property.

    On the other hand have you ever walked around Cebit, CES or NAB - a bad pain in both feet!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    Why can't we have good tech shows in the UK? Growth measures please.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 32.

    That table thing reminds me of pub games in the early 80s - Space Invadres and Galaxians.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 31.

    Smart spoons? algorithms to tell me if a s****y meeting was stressful?

    Stupid people.

    I actively embrace positive / useful technological advances, but some of these developers really do need to get a life...

    Only in America eh, Rory?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 30.

    The picture is LG's 84" Ultra-Def TV. If you hover the mouse over the pic you'll see the tag...

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 29.

    @5 Graphis. The king of propriety formats was Apple with AAC. While they have bowed to pressure and allowed other formats now, they continue to build the walls around the garden in which all Apple device owners sit. Sony were bad but Apple is on a whole different level.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 28.

    The big corporations have invested big money developing technologies and applications for them without really knowing whether they will be adopted by the consumer. When they hit on a good product, of course they want to milk maximum profit from it, but it's often not the product they imagine will be the sure fire winner.
    The largest sunk costs carry that risk to the point of financial catastrophe.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 27.

    22.kram70
    30 Minutes ago
    @20. Why would you ever need your lights controllable over your wi-fi network??


    So you can turn them off when the blinking kids keep leaving them on :)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    @22

    I started X10 was my parents are not that mobile, lighting in the living room (that they will accept) is difficult because of a "barn like" roof and mostly relies on standard/table lights, positions of sockets impossible.
    It offered an easy solution with possibility to expand.

    Wireless LAN enabled seems a better way to me than say a mix of different wireless signals and powerline signals.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 25.

    It also still appears that so many apps, services, software solutions etc seem to rely on the assumption of constant internet connectivity that we still seem a long was from (I do a lot of work/writing etc on the train and end up offline for most of the journey so cloud options are not possible).

 

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