For the 50th time, innovators from all over the world have gathered in Las Vegas for the 2020 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show. From big companies to small startups, the show was overflowing with tech concepts and bright ideas.
Good! But as a Telecom expert, what should you take away from it? Here is our pick.
Will 5G bring new revolutions?
5G is now a commercial reality in the US but the public still struggles to understand its real added value. It's time for a reality check! This CES was haunted by one question: will 5G become more than just a marketing tool? When listening to the experts present at the show, the outcome is clear: the impact of 5G will rely on the app developers’ ability to create new usages (and some of them could be in the room...).
"Quibi”, new content King?
Obviously, the data-demand boost is expected to come from content (as it did for 4G). But who will be the new players fostering this demand?
This year’s CES gave a first clue with the announcement of “Quibi”, an ambitious mobile-only video-platform that recently raised $1bn. Quibi (abbreviation for “Quick-bite”) was created by Jeffrey Katzenberg, ex-CEO of Disney and co-founder of Dreamworks, and will gather short video-contents of maximum 10min. These contents will be available only on your smartphone, with both a portrait and a landscape view. This is said to be very differentiative from its counterparts (Netflix, Prime, Disney) proposing multi-device streaming and long formats.
Another drive, often advertised by operators, could be mobile gaming.
However, in a keynote on this matter, Ben Arnold (industry Analyst at NPD) insisted on demystifying the use of 5G for VR. Indeed, Virtual Reality is mostly a home-based usage and is unlikely to truly need 5G. On the contrary, he says, the real potential of 5G lies in Augmented Reality. According to him, AR could significantly improve the gaming and shopping experiences thanks to the low llatency of 5G. Why not? Niantic’s “Pokemon Go” might have been just a glimpse of AR’s capacity…
Nonetheless, will the lust for content justify the colossal investment on 5G all by itself? Probably not. We will need more.
The “everything connected” world
More than content, the CES 2020 was all about connected objects: smart cars, smart homes, smart plants, smart clothes, smart yoga mats, smart toys and smart sex toys… Hundreds of start-ups have been showcasing products making a clever use of data & connectivity.
As the CES is also an occasion for specialists to debate on stage, many experts wondered: how many of these smart devices will concretely need 5G?
With most smart-home devices being already connected to a fixed connection, the relevancy of 5G is in mobility. However, in the meantime, wearables do not need a tremendous amount of data nor the low latency of 5G. Therefore, what are the real use cases? Davie Sweis, VP Global Digital Business at Bosch, sums it up nicely: “The arrival of 4G was all about social media experience. But my kids don’t need a faster snapchat! 5G can unlock other fields, especially on machines and manufacturing”. Indeed, the potential of 5G in machine-to-machine (M2M) is quite undeniable. Its low latency could be a key advantage in industry, enabling autonomous machines in factories. Above all, the connected car has been the star of the show, with pretty much all the big names advertising their innovation on that field. However, once again, it remains a B2B topic.
In the end, 5G is an anticipation. It is a huge increase of capacity that will (one day) find its use thanks to the breakthrough inventions of future innovators!
Voice: from home to work
Voice was the other buzzword! Obviously, we are not talking about “voice” as we usually do in telecoms (to describe phone calls). Here, we are talking about the flourishing market of voice assistants: Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant, Cortana (Microsoft), Siri (Apple), Watson (IBM)…
Be it in your home, your car or your meeting room, the new vector of command will not be a tactile screen but your voice. At least, this is the vision of tech giants. And they clearly inteded to use the spotlights of the CES to demonstrate its potential. Voice is not a new topic, of course, but it is clearly getting on the market for real.
Google, for instance, has been notably aggressive at the CES 2020. Under the “Hey Google” brand, the Silicon Valley giant unleashed a colossal marketing force. Not only did they create a whole smart home on their main booth, but they also partnered with a complete eco-system of smart-home start-ups throughout the CES. These partnerships enabled them to illustrate the wide potential of voice assisted home-automation.
Amazon, on the other hand, chose a cozier display in an isolated room, to showcase the potential of Alexa (at home or in your car).
Why does it matter in telecoms?
Because voice could become the number one vector of employees to control their devices. Not only at work but also at home, when working remotely. First and foremost, they could trigger calls through their assistant (“call dad”, “open conference”) but there is much more! Their assistant could also automatically transcript a meeting’s minutes, read messages at loud or -one day- instantly translate conversations.
Which one to choose?
Nowadays, the competition is fierce between the various voice assistants. In this context, an innovator could find it hard to decide which Voice assistant(s) he should partner with. This is the observation made by VoiceMarket, one of the cleverest concepts of CES’s “Eureka park” (start-up hall). This early stage start-up offers you to integrate with all the assistants, from a single platform. A good way to be part of the voice revolution without being tied to a single provider.
Although the CES is mainly retail driven, some companies have been standing out with devices for professional use. The most striking example was the “team player”, presented by the collaboration trailblazer Klaxoon.
Klaxoon is a SaaS solution for teams that want to engage in more effective and more creative meetings. Worried about meeting procrastination, Klaxoon wanted to push people to close their laptops and really engage in the conversation.
Their brainstorm gave birth to the “Team Player”. It is a set of devices that allow you to launch digital actions without your laptop: ask and answer questions, vote, open a new tab, display a video. They are less intrusive and more user-friendly than having one laptop per person.
Klaxoon’s “Teamplayer” devices have been honored in the “Computer Hardware & Components, Mobile Devices & Accessories” section of the “CES 2020 innovation award product”.
See you next year!