CES - and the fruits of the smartphone revolution

 
Lenovo

"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.

Toothbrushes connected to internet

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.

Mother

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.

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

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    The curved phone is useful because you canmake a phone comfy to use and put in the pocket, you can put Buttons on the curved edges etc etc.
    Connection is not anything new, we at Symbian had heaps of useful connected devices years ago, and some fun ones.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    @20 John_from_Hendon - Reading's fine - just depends on (1) your eyesight and (2) the size of your smartphone screen. 8-inch screen is NOT required!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    @ 17. Kiwi Diablo

    +1 from me, a lot of these "innovations" are indeed gimmicky, but they DO give others inspiration to make something genuinely useful. I had an early mobile phone for business which, whilst handy, was limited in its use. That paved the way for the smartphone; now it's easier for me to keep in touch, manage my personal life and be more productive at work.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 21.

    Looks like Bale isn't the only one to lose direction. So far all indications are of an industry desperate to think of something to use the astounding advances in electronic manufacture, seemingly oblivious to the privacy and security implications of these devices. Many of the companies mentioned have had appalling security issues even before the NSA revelations. Smartphone open my front door?, hmm

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    18 cont.

    As to 'reading' anything on one! (like a book!)

    don't try, the screen is too small or if it isn't you need a specially designed back-pack to carry your large screen (>= 8in ) reader - it isn't a smart phone!

    And what ever you do stop playing computer games on your smart phone it is destroying both your brain cells and giving you the almost certain 'gift' of arthritic thumbs!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 19.

    An article without Rory without one mention of Apple - now that is a true development!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    Smart-phones are entirely anti-social if the user is not alone and only useful to facilitate meeting-up. They are an outward demonstration of inner loneliness, personal inadequacy and isolation. Their boom is the direct result in the growth of isolation and life in mega cities.

    Just carry a simple mobile phone! (then only to make calls -not to receive them /check transport data (perhaps) !)

    !!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 17.

    Oh pish to all you people knocking this. Yes I agree a lot of these are gimmicky and commercialist, but from out of these developments will come valkuable real imnportant technology. It takes lateral leaps of inspiration from things like these to do that. Celebrate vision and development - not just the product.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    Amongst the noise of many innovations will be a few genuine advances. The question is will it be recognised and used.

    The thing about connected devices monitoring dental health might lead to fewer visits to the dentist and connected home medical devices might reduce the need for visits to doctor surgeries. It could lead to significant savings for running the NHS.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    6 updates waiting for your toothbrush when you try and use it....just what we need (that's coming from a software developer)/

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 14.

    "Once you've seen one electronics trade show, you've seen 'em all" - Tron

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 13.

    The Drones (sorry UAV) have practical use in search and rescue and other monitoring tasks when helicopters cannot get there fast enough or it is too dangerous.

    The rest is just polishing past products or trying to create a first world problem that doesn't exist.

    Were there any British innovations there?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    I can see a lot of the connected development here is done because 'they can' rather than 'they should'- I mean a connected toothbrush to anyone has to be as handy as a fart in a spacesuit.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    How long after a revolution does it take for stagnation to grip the market place I wonder.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 10.

    Sounds like the Orwellian nightmare takes a step closer - yet more electronic gizmos to nag you when you're not doing what they think(?) you should do and online cameras monitoring your every move at home. I'll pass on all that thanks!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 9.

    Most of these thnigs are just gimics marketed with lots of promise, in an attempt to get our hard earned funds from us.

    Life is too short to spend so much time trying to read manuals, download apps, fix broken software or hardware.

    Jeez. Get a life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    Personally I would be satisfied just to have the phone actually Make and take phone calls. Turning home heating on off up or down, or allowing viewing of the Net too OTT IMO!
    Get back to basics and get fitter!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 7.

    6. Donkzilla
    The only real advances we're going to see in future are in software.
    ---
    This is an article about "Consumer *Electronics*" so this year's advances look very similar to last year's advances. There are some huge advances in hardware waiting for a good 'consumer' application to feed money in. Danny Choo's Smart Doll might enjoy similar success to the smart phone.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 6.

    Hardware has had it's day. The only real advances we're going to see in future are in software.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 5.

    I think this years CES is going to go down in history for exhibiting the most tech which will either NOT be put to market, or will simply be shunned by consumers.

    A complete waste of time........and money.

 

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