CES - and the fruits of the smartphone revolution
- 6 January 2014
- From the section Technology
"Oh my dear, the noise and the people…" is how a British actor supposedly described the experience of war on returning from the trenches. Visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas may feel much the same, as thousands of new products battle for attention.
And the noisiest most crowded event of all is CES Unveiled, a preview show in the Mandalay Bay's giant ballroom, where journalists fight to get a glimpse of what could be some of the hottest new products of 2014. Wandering around the ballroom, past the free food and drink, I tried to work out which gadgets told the story of where technology is heading
Two big companies were getting lots of attention - Lenovo for its new Windows 8 tablet, LG for a giant curved smartphone. "Why is it curved?" someone asked me, and I struggled to find an answer.
Then there were any number of devices to monitor what is happening to you and your home. With wearable technology a big theme, a French company was showing off something called June, a bracelet which monitors exposure to sunlight and gives advice on keeping your skin safe. There were lots of connected cameras, used to log your daily activities or watch over your home, and plenty of wireless lighting, allowing tablet and smartphone users to change the mood in the living room with one tap of the finger.
Out of left field, came the connected toothbrush which monitors your family's dental hygiene via a smartphone app. Then there was Mother, a system which collects data from sensors which you can stick on anything from the front door to the coffee machine and presents it to you on a tablet or smartphone dashboard.
Drones - or UAVs as we must learn to call them - are also much in evidence this year. Just a few weeks ago Amazon's plan to deliver parcels via drone was met with a wave of scepticism. But companies like China's DJI are showing more immediately practical uses for drones, from aerial filming to monitoring crops. We took their Phantom drone outside to put it through its paces, and watched as it hovered three hundred feet above the Las Vegas Convention Centre sending pictures direct to a smartphone.
So, lots of interesting new ideas, but nothing that stood out as a real game changer but then I realised that there was something nearly everything I'd seen had in common - they were connected devices. Just about every new gadget at CES this year is either connected directly to the internet or talks to it via a smartphone.
Just a few years ago much of this show was about products that were either aimed at the super-rich or were vapourware, destined never to make it into the shops. Now most of them are available to anyone who has a smartphone - and that's rapidly becoming the majority of the population in many countries.
We've gone through an extraordinary revolution over the last five years, but sometimes when you're in the middle of fundamental change it is hard to spot.