By now you probably know the basics of CES. It’s huge! It’s overwhelming! There are 150,000 people! There are a lot of polo shirts! That’s all true and the scale is vast. As a product development engineer, one of the most compelling parts of CES is walking the show floor and taking in what’s new, what’s evolving, and what trends are emerging.
CES really puts the “consumer” in Consumer Electronics Show. This show is designed for products you buy off the shelf. There is very little altruism, and most products are smaller than a breadbox. While it’s hard to imagine that what the world really needs is 20 different smart pillows, the show can provide interesting insights into the state of current and future technologies.
The most apparent movement in technology — it’s getting ever smaller. Miniaturization means hardware can fit in novel places. For example, Vuzix glasses are a wearable glasses with a great heads-up display and basically a full Android phone built into the earpieces. Flexible and ultrathin batteries are a miniaturization technology that has taken a big step forward this year.
Temp Traq is a product built around the BlueSpark flexible printed carbon battery, which is a disposable adhesive thermometer for use with sick infants. The ultra-thin battery can fuel a Bluetooth connection to your phone for 24 hours, which is pretty impressive!
Personal health, home medical, and wearable devices were all big at CES this year. One area where these three come together, and my personal “best in show” vote, was the Willow wearable breast pump. I had the pleasure of working with the Willow team earlier this year, and it was a bit of a passion project for me. As a new mom, the first time I used a breast pump I thought “Seriously?? We MUST be able to do better than THIS!”
The architecture and implementation of Willow is radically different from anything else on the market.
The previous state-of-the-art in this field was bulky, loud, complicated, and difficult to clean. Willow has addressed each aspect in a novel way, for an end product that is head and shoulders above the competition. This device is a great example of the gains you can achieve when you re-imagine an old product from the ground up.
Another “best in show” product for me was SolPad. SolPad aims to revolutionize the solar power market, simply by addressing implementation problems. They make panels for your roof that click together as easily as Legos, as well as a portable stand-up panel model with USB and wall plugs. Their technology isn’t new, and while this appears at first to just be a slick repackaging job of an old technology, I believe their user-centric design approach is unique within the solar power industry. The world is becoming more conscious of energy usage, and products that allow average users to decrease their footprint will be enormously compelling in the coming years. However, implementation complexity and cost is still huge. SolPad is a perfect reminder to us all that if a product is hard to use, the design can be a failure from the start.
Another area that continues to see growth and a lot of coverage at CES is wearables, and now technology is found in everything from dog collars to socks. Unlike previous years, many of the best wearables this year seemed to be addressing interesting corner cases.
EquiSense is a company making a horse wearable. A horse wearable?? Horses are certainly a big investment and most people don’t live in the same building with them. Horses are prone to a fatal illness called colic, which can set in at practically any time and be fatal within 8 hours. So, a sensor that detects colic is a big development for horse owners. They’re also making a training wearable, which can give you metrics on your horse’s performance. It’s a niche product, but useful for people in that niche.
Drones, cars, and headphones fill up a building the size of two football fields, so any article is just scratching the surface of what CES offers. It was great to be a part of the Cambridge Consultants+Synapse booth this year. Synapse’s demo of the 49ers Stadium was very popular, and Cambridge’s demos like the Skintuition proof-of-concept drew a lot of curious visitors.
Between Synapse and Cambridge, we met and hosted attendees from Sodexo to General Motors and the booth felt like a buzzing hive of tech at all times. The mix of awesome people, fascinating projects, and huge technology missions was an incredible thing to be part of. Come join us next year at CES!