The biggest technology event of the year will kick off this week as the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show takes over Las Vegas, as it does every year, to unveil the best and most innovative products the industry has to offer. While the latest versions of staple products like smartphones, tablets and televisions are showcased, this year’s event is largely about the unknown.
Most of the top themes heading into this year are continuations from last year’s event. As the tech industry is currently transitioning cycles, many will be curious to see what new trends actually have the legs to take over as the next must-have product or, dare I say, industry disruptor. There’s a lot of optimism for the next stage of the Internet of Things, so anticipation of product advancements in areas such as the connected car or the smart home is on the top of the list. Other consumer gadget areas like virtual reality, drones and wearables are facing high expectations to see if they can become larger than just their niche markets.
While the largest of the large industry players will be in attendance, trying to out peacock each other to an expected crowd of over 150,000 people, we wanted to try and find a few of the up-and-coming startups to look out for in some of these promising areas of the tech market.
Internet of Things
It can’t be overstated how incredibly revolutionary the smartphone has been for society as we know it. The IBM Simon, widely regarded as the first smartphone, came out in 1994. In 2007, Apple (AAPL) unveiled the first iPhone, which most resembles what consumers are familiar with today. But in the span of two decades, the smartphone became a $250 billion product with over 1 billion units sold annually. More importantly, however, it paved the way for network connectivity to become a part of people’s everyday lives by taking an old product and applying modern innovation to it.
But with the smartphone market largely saturated now and possibly in the later stages of its maturation cycle, tech companies are hoping that the connected car and the smart home will be able to replicate the smartphones’ success (both finally and culturally) by utilizing the same formula.
Connected Cars and More
All the major car companies such as Toyota (TM), Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Tesla (TSLA), and so on will be at CES 2016 (they can’t afford not to be) talking about everything from added entertainment features for drivers and passengers to improved performance and efficiency, and even automated driving technology. But the name that everyone seems to be honing in on is tight-lipped EV car startup Faraday Futures. The company successfully generated quite a bit of buzz by creating an air of mystery around what it’s car actually does. On Monday, a supposed leak of the company’s first concept car made the rounds on the Internet.
It should be noted that the company has not officially unveiled anything except a teaser trailer showing nothing but a shadow of its car. Talk about mysterious.
UPDATE: The leak seemed pretty accurate. Faraday Future unveiled the FFZERO1 concept car, which boasts up to 1000 horsepower.
Until Google’s (GOOG) $3.2 acquisition of Nest Labs in January 2014, most people had never heard of the term “smart home”. Nest Lab had made a name for itself with its programmable and self-learning thermostat. Remember that formula of taking an old product and applying modern innovation to it?
Now everything from refrigerators to doorbells to fridges to televisions will be getting smarter…and Wi-Fi connectivity. The coolest name to watch seems to be Big Ass Fans. Yes, that’s a real company name. Actually, it’s a division under Big Ass Solutions, which specializes in smart home technology. But as the name suggests, Big Ass Fans sells fans, and it is expected to unveil a more affordable version of its acclaimed Haiku smart fan this year.
Sengled is another smart home company to watch this year. The company’s Sengled Voice lightbulbs are equipped with a microphone and speakers to enable voice-commands for everything from web searches for your questions, playing music, and even of control other smart home devices.
In some ways, Facebook’s (FB) $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR has a lot of parallels to the Google/Nest deal. Both acquisitions were announced in Q1 of 2014, and have sparked mainstream interest in two of tech’s hottest emerging industries right now. In the virtual reality space, Oculus has been the name to watch for years. The company’s successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012 raised over $2.4 million versus its original goal of $250,000 attests to the excitement surrounding its Oculus Rift product. But over three years since the wildly successful campaign, the company has yet to bring the product to market. Although it did recently begin accepting pre-orders. So maybe we’re close.
Originally seen as the successor to the smartphone, wearable devices have been largely been met with lukewarm reactions from consumers. From Google Glass to the Apple Watch to FitBit (FIT), the first generation of wearables landed with a thud, seen largely as fancy accessories rather than innovative essentials. Whether next iterations can spark consumer interest again remains to be seen. The wearables market has no shortage of players. This year, there’s OmSignal with the OMbra, world’s first-ever smart bra. There’s Sensoria and its smart sock. There’s Vuzix (VUZI) and their smart glasses. There’s even wearables for pets.
Drones are another category staring at a crossroad. Can the industry become a viable powerhouse or be relegated to the dreaded hobbyist market status? For the average consumer, the problem is finding a use for drones beyond action sports and capturing aerial videos, as breathtaking as they may be. Companies like Hexo+, AirDog, and industry leader DJI will be putting their best foot forward at this year’s event.
While these are some of the things to watch heading into the event, Equities.com will be keeping an active eye on developments that are sure to make a splash this week. Be sure to check back for more of our CES 2016 coverage.
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