Next January’s CES will underscore the growing importance of data for the automotive industry and other business sectors, executives of the US Consumer Technology Association (CTA) say.

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In Amsterdam, CES gave a preview of technologies that will feature at its main gathering in Las Vegas in January (Photo: Bongard)

CES, the world’s biggest high-tech consumer electronics show, takes place each January in Las Vegas. CTA, which organizes the event, gave a preview of the gathering at a “CES Unveiled” exhibition in Amsterdam last week.

“Get ready for the data age,” said CTA chief technology officer Steve Koenig. “More and more business decisions are backed up by data and in the next decade that trend will multiply and grow.”

At CES, the focus on data and data-based applications and functions will be a logical next step after the emphasis of recent years on connectivity. “In 2018, we’re well into the connected era of consumer technology,” Koenig said. “Everybody is taking the internet for granted.”

That doesn’t mean connectivity no longer needs to be improved. Supporting the data trend in particular will be the coming of fast 5G connectivity and the growth of artificial intelligence.

Faster connectivity and the low latency that comes with 5G will be especially important for self-driving cars, which will have to rely on near-instant communication with their environment. “Everybody is getting involved in 5G and it’s getting really close to deployment,” Koenig said.

The CTA executive touted the transformational impact of artificial intelligence, which he compared to the societal changes triggered by the coming of the steam engine early in the 18thcentury. Citing a McKinsey study, he said AI will add 1.2% to global GDP each year through 2030.

Voice communication

Where AI will have a particularly big impact is in the area of natural voice communication between man and machine. “Voice is emerging as the go-to user interface,” Koenig said. “The smart speaker is something like the killer app for the smart home.”

The importance of voice is also growing in the car, as witnessed by the increasing sophistication of voice control in the latest generation of car HMI systems.

Screen-Shot-2018-10-05-at-10.33.40-214x300. CES CTO Koenig: Voice is the “most natural way” to interact with technology

Said Koenig: “Voice is probably the most natural way for all of us to interact with technology.”

CTA expects augmented and virtual reality to also feature prominently at CES 2019. “We expect customer demand to really ramp up in the next decade,” Koenig said.

The automotive component of the annual technology show has been growing steadily in recent years, to the point where CTA executives such as Koenig are billing CES as “arguably one of the most important automotive events on the planet.”

That’s because the Las Vegas gathering is squarely focused on the role new technologies can play in making transportation smarter and cars safer. “It’s very much about the technology that’s here today and how it will be applied in the future,” Koenig said.

The CTA executive said CES offers an opportunity to see automotive developments “in the context of a broader technology ecosystem” that includes relatively new auto-industry areas such as sensing and mapping, communications, systems on chips and other technologies.

The coming together of several industries will shed light on the business-model options available in a world of smarter mobility, Koenig said.

CES 2019 will feature 4,500 companies that will be exhibiting on 2.75 million square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In recent years, automakers including Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, Ford Motor, Kia and other brands have shown new technologies there. Carmaker CEOs also often deliver one of the keynote addresses at CES.

The city as a software platform

In Amsterdam, CES Unveiled brought together 634 attendees who had an opportunity to visit 64 exhibiting companies. Among them were startups in AI and machine learning, cyber security, consumer interface, health-related innovation and other areas.

The event also featured a panel discussion that looked at how technological change could make cities more livable.

Ben van Berkel a Dutch architect who also teaches at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, called for “a bit more innovation” in the current thinking about mobility.

Among examples he offered were the possibility of connecting parts of Amsterdam through a cable car, building new apartments along busy roads that are likely to become much more attractive once cars are electric, and making room for pedestrians as shared mobility reduces traffic density in cities. Said van Berkel: “The discussion about walkable cities is hugely important.”

Ger Baron, chief technology officer for the city of Amsterdam, said urban designers should adopt a more dynamic approach, using 3D models of their cities and explore a wide range of new ideas. “Think of the city as a software platform,” he said.