The products on display at CES 2018 may represent the future of technology, but how meaningful will they be to our everyday lives?
The second week of January kicks off the new year with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV. For some of us, it’s a warm respite from winter weather, a chance to meet up with clients and take a peek at the products that will drive the future of technology. Some of these products ooze innovation or “the future is now”—and some don’t. A lot of these products will never reach the consumer market, but it’s still important to have a place in which the industry showcases the most cutting-edge technology and ideas. Some will change the world, some we’re not yet ready for, and some simply need a place to shine and disappear.
As I walked the exhibition halls, looking at seemingly endless displays of interesting and unique products, I couldn’t help but wonder: Do these products solve real problems or meet yet-unknown human needs? What do these products tell us about our capacity for innovation? Most importantly, will they actually make our lives better?
One of the highlights of the conference was seeing the advancements in technology which address the very real needs of our lives today. One product that will be practical for everyday use is a purse or wallet that can charge your mobile phone. I admit, mobile charging isn’t new, but an on-the-go charger immediately resonated with my day-to-day, especially at the conference. How great would it be to charge my phone without searching for an outlet?
A device like that may not be very exciting, but it is beneficial. The convenience that such a product allows for is as meaningful to our daily lives as some of the major leaps in technology on display elsewhere at the conference. The development of portable charging technology now will be useful in the future when we’re carrying around yet more devices that we cannot live without.
We know from many healthcare industry reports and journals that Americans are terrible at caring for themselves. Rather than worry about preventative care, many of us only visit our care providers when something is wrong, which means that healthcare professionals typically only record data from sick or unwell patients. The development of new smart health technology may change that by giving our care providers more comprehensive insight into our lives outside our doctor appointment. Smart health tags that integrate into your clothing (and are washing machine-safe) will provide healthcare professionals with better datasets about us and our daily behavior. These tags track sleep, vitals, and physical activity, and don’t require the user to think about any additional data inputs. Tag users can also download a corresponding smartphone app, which allows them to share this data with their care providers or with any wellness program.
A smart tag offers more a comprehensive view of your lifestyle, simply and with minimal intrusion. Care providers can use this data to create more effective, actionable health programs.
Smart home is one of the mosts exciting areas in which voice and integration come into play. We are quickly careening toward a reality in which the average person can remotely control their home from their smartphone.
Smart lights, switches, security features, and control systems for your home can now be integrated with different home assistant products and with one another. I can, for example, pick out my favorite smart door lock, integrate that lock with the home assistant I already have, and set a schedule on my mobile phone so that my house monitors itself. Aging family members can benefit from smart home technology as well, as things like turning off the lights, ordering products they need from home, or getting help may be done from their smartphone. Smart home systems will undoubtedly make our lives easier, but they may also bring some members of our family a level of freedom and independence that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
The Future of Technology
It is refreshing to experience new ideas, adoptable or not, and push the limits of your perception. I see the connected device movement headed toward a true, continuous experience, in which we no longer need to interact with multiple products to accomplish the same tasks. Products will be linked together in such a way that we’ll no longer need to switch between them to answer a call, track our workouts, or turn off the lights at home. And as every physical product becomes smarter, it will be essential for data to follow you for a personalized and unique experience. Rather than programming personalized settings that meet your personal rhythms, data can be transferred seamlessly amongst connected products so that you can achieve your desired experience with less effort.
Consider, for example, the information that has to be passed from product to product as you experience the following:
You wake up after a terrible night’s sleep. Your smart lights go through a slightly longer circadian wake-up cycle to make your body less resistant to light, and meanwhile, your alarm switches to nature sounds instead of classic rock. Later, as you unlock your front door to leave, your news channel pauses and picks up again in your car at the same point so that you experience complete continuity.
Today, this is possible, but not widely feasible, without linking your home assistant to your auto system or downloading multiple applications or services. You have to be very creative and persistent.
Guiding the creation of this continuous experience takes us back to the same question: Do these products solve real problems or meet yet-unknown human needs? Perhaps at CES 2019, we’ll be closer to an answer.
Image courtesy of Lilly Rum for Unsplash.