Monday, January 18, 2016

CES 2016 Wrap-up

Drones, robots and autonomous cars notwithstanding, it was difficult to find standout announcements at CES, but there was a definite increase in the number of companies solving particular problems, as well as improvements in burgeoning technologies. For the cable industry, health monitoring is becoming more viable, not just within personal devices, but in new products that can provide richer and more technical interfaces for remote medical care. The industry still tip-toes forward in consideration of privacy and security, but each year it seems remote doctor visits and remote family care are becoming plausible, with hopes that in the future cable operators will securely offer this important service to their customers.

New IoT offerings in home automation were highlighted alongside others that integrate devices, protocols and dashboards within a single service. A challenge is the difficulty of standardization, given the existence of Z-Wave, ZigBee, and other protocols for sensor networking, as well as the emergence of new protocols, some of which are designed for specific applications. Regardless, home automation continues to grow at a rapid rate, with Samsung standing out for its integration of their SmartTV with home services.
As expected 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) with High Dynamic Range (HDR) was everywhere.  This is good news for Operators like Videotron that, with the help of Alticast, already launched a 4K set top box.  There were also numerous announcements on content deals that will help accelerate UHD TV uptake. IPTV 4K delivery remains to be a challenge, the trick is ensuring enough continuous bandwidth over wi-fi or broadband for receiving this stunning content. Some solutions that deliver 4K content use Adaptive Bit-rate Streaming (ABR) which can fluctuate the resolution based on bandwidth availability, providing a non-optimal 4K experience. 

Virtual reality, a product of the 1980s, has come back with a vengeance, thanks to better and more accessible technology. Press reports suggest it will be a moneymaker, certainly for medical and training, but for entertainment content it falls prey to the same issues as 3D TV, requiring content that is expensive to produce and special viewing hardware. It will take time to see if it will proliferate beyond gaming-type applications.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
What does the future hold for these technologies?  In the months ahead, the market will separate the sizzle from the sustainable. For now, all of us can get back to doing what we do best -- innovate new products and enrich the lives of consumers. And, of course, look forward to the spotlight of CES 2017.

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