This years Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was its biggest yet. With nearly 4,000 companies showcasing their tech products and 20,000 new products introduced, you can surmise it was a BIG trade show. In fact, CES is so big, it takes over the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands Convention Center, and a bunch of hotels throughout the town, totaling more than 2.47 million net square feet! Can you believe it?
To help you picture it, 2.47 million net square feet is the equivalent of 35+ football fields or 2 miles of gadget makers side-by-side, exhibiting coming from all across the world! Every year I walk 26+ miles just to see it all…which is the equivalent of a full marathon.
CES is the world’s largest trade show with more and more people coming each year. This year, its 170,000 attendees outpaced the number of hotel rooms available in Las Vegas…and there are A LOT of hotel rooms in Vegas! This is the place to identify current and upcoming tech product trends!
Top 5 Tech Product Trends
We could very easily identify 20 tech product trends stemming from CES, but we will focus on the 5 that we believe are most important for families to be aware of. Trends that are most likely to impact your life within this year and the upcoming years.
We have covered tech product trends stemming from CES for the past 6 years….2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. Tech product trends on this year’s list that have been on the past year’s lists include 3D Printing, the Connected Home, and Connected Things. These tech product trends are bringing about tech products that can do more things and are easier to use than ever before.
The new tech product trends on this year’s list include Drones and Unlocked Phones. Now, onto the trends!
1. Unlocked Smartphones
I’m going to start with unlocked smartphone as the first of our tech product trends because I think it’s EXTREMELY important for parents to be aware of this new emerging option in the smartphone marketplace. We all know about the Apple iPhones, Samsung GS and Note phones, HTC phones and others. We also are familiar with their hefty price tags.
When the need arises to buy a new smartphone for your child or teen, paying those exorbitant prices for a phone that is possibly going to get lost, cracked, or stolen is hard to stomach. Or, if you lost or cracked your phone, buying a new replacement iPhone is also hard to do.
In either case, you need a smartphone that has all of the latest features (Bluetooth 4.0, high resolution camera, etc.) but does not have a pricey retail cost.
At CES, I found several vendors – some from China, some from America – who are selling high quality unlocked smartphones at a reasonable price (under $250). Unlocked means that the phone can work on any mobile network, so if you are on a Verizon plan, just insert a Verizon SIM card. If you are on T-mobile, insert a T-mobile.
The interesting thing with several of these phones is that some of them actually allow for dual sim cards, which means you could use the same phone for work (put in your work SIM card) and personal. No more carrying around two phones.
Companies with low-priced unlocked smartphones include Huawei with it’s Honor 5X, Polaroid’s Snap and Power, CellAllure’s Amazing II 6 inch HD screen, and a $99 Nu2S phone with the latest Android version (Lollipop) from Nuu Mobile. Incidentally, I talked a while with the team from Nuu Mobile, an American company based in Minnesota. I was very impressed with them and they mentioned they are the only unlocked smartphone manufacturer with a 2 year limited warranty.
So if you’re getting a new phone this year, look around first to see what other options are available to you. Getting a new cellphone might not be as costly as you think.
For years I have seen Drones, also known as unmanned systems, proliferate at CES. Companies typically showcase their drones in large net cages, rising up about 20 feet into the air. There are always a large number of people watching the drones fly about.
This year, I stopped myself. Parrot had a huge net cage with approximately 15 flying drones, performing to music in perfect synchronization, it was quite impressive. The amount of showroom space dedicated to drones jumped 208%, showing the rising viability of drones in the marketplace.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which puts on CES, estimates that the drone market will cross the 1 billion mark in just 5 years. And with better HD video capabilities, drones are taking off, giving users the ability to see footage of places they’ve never been able to see before.
Which, of course, can be good and bad. An increasing number of drones have been flown to close to commercial aircraft which violate Federal rules. The FAA reported that more than 650 pilots reported seeing a drone in 2015, and that number continues to grow.
To better monitor drone users, the government has enforced a mandatory registration process before any drone over 1/2 lb. can fly. Most likely, your child…or husband…is going to want a drone, they are quite fascinating. Just remember, they need to be registered or you could incur a hefty fine if your drone is flown higher than it should. Registration costs $5.
Today’s drones can do all sorts of things. Some can help you find fish under water while others can fly up to 50 mph and stay in the sky for as long as 45 minutes. Forecasts for drone sales in 2016 are at 2.9 million drones. Sales for drones in 2017 are expected to increase by 53% (source:CTA). Expect to see a lot more news and advertisements on drones this year.
3. 3D Printing
Of all the tech product trends, this trend continues to grow stronger each year. The floor space allotted to 3D printing was up 31 percent this year, with vendors showcasing amazing 3D products all made with a 3D printer. Last year we reported how 3D printers had broken the $1,000 dollar mark. This year, they blew right past that, with some as low as $300, making them more affordable for families.
And fortunately, 3D printers are also getting smaller too, making it easier to place on a kitchen table in the home. How can a family use a 3D printer? There is a vast array of 3D product “recipes” available on the Internet. Need a particular kind of screw driver? Just print one out. Wish you had a new phone case or a holder to keep your phone upright on your desk, just print one out. Want to play the childhood game of jacks? Print out your own jacks. Lost the dice to your favorite family game? Print one!
Does your child want all sorts of fun tools and appliances for their dolls? Print them out. One family, with the help of its local university, used a 3D printer to create a prosthetic arm for their son, saving$40,000 if they bought a “commercial” version. Their cost? Just $350.
Today’s 3D printers can be used to make toys, tools, electronics housing, shoes, you name it. Last year we saw a 3D printer creating cookies…that you can eat!
XYZ printing now has a number of affordable 3D printers in it’s DaVinci line for under $500, and it’s most affordable DaVinci Mini 3D printer selling for $260. XYZ printing is one of the most innovative 3D printer companies out there, with a conscious effort to keep costs down for the consumer.
4. Connected Home
Although we are not yet in the smart home portrayed in the futuristic cartoon, The Jetsons, gadget and appliance makers continue to forge ahead to make our homes easier to control like never before. Home surveillance cameras not only take video, they detect motion and sound, can pan the room, zoom in and zoom out, and even give you readings of the temperature and air quality inside your house. One new outside camera by Netamo, can even identify motion by animals, people, or cars to give you a better indication of motion detected.
We saw a number of companies selling home automation kits which tie into the Z-Wave protocol, expanding the potential of connected home products into the thousands. We were the most impressed with a company called Oomi (pictured above) who found a way to make it easier than ever to connect smart home products to their Oomi hub. Simply press the Oomi display to the Oomi item you want to control and it is found and hooked up. No more looking for a product through your WiFi or Bluetooth screens.
Oomi utilizes Z-Wave’s new Z-Wave Plus technology which makes it even easier for consumers to set up new Z-Wave smart home devices.
In addition to Z-Wave, I found a number of smart home solutions utilizing Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon Echo to make control by phone and voice even easier. Samsung debuted their line of over 200 products with their newly SmartThings line and Panasonic announced their new smart home line, Ora.
Samsung came out with an eye-popping new 21.5 inch LED screened refrigerator called the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator. It comes complete with three cameras built into the double french doors to take a picture of what’s in the fridge. Using the Smart HUB screen, you can indicate the number of days it’s been in your fridge. You can also tap into your Smart Hub from your app while shopping to verify if you have enough milk, jelly, juice, or cheese in your fridge.
Other innovative home products include smart sprinklers, colorful LED lights, thermostats…and even a smart Fabreze Home product that allows you to dispense fragrance from an app on your phone!
5. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is one of the tech product trends we don’t see disappearing in the near future and is closely related to the Connected Home as things need to be connected in order to control your home.
Everything is becoming connected, even our plug-in Febreze aroma dispensers! At this year’s show, we saw a number of new water bottles that track your water consumption for you. One even tracks your water and coffee consumption and calculates out total water, as coffee is a diuretic and takes water out of your system.
Other connected items included the Bluesmart Smart Suitcase which can charge your phone and tablets, tell you how much your suitcase weighs, and even allows you to track your suitcase while traveling. There’s the Under Armour SpeedForm Gemini 2 running shoe (pictured above) which tracks your pace, stride, and distance at a cost of $150.
Concerned about your aging parents? The new Tricella Pillbox will send you alerts to confirm your mom or dad has taken their pills. There’s even something for the kids, the MU, which is a robotic unit with vision sensing that can be adhered to kids’ toys to bring new life to them. Want to ensure you’re kids don’t waste water in the shower? For $100, the Hydrao Showerhead will help educate your kids on water usage.
Although nearly every product category has become “smarter” in some manner (Even Black & Decker has new connected batteries so you know when you should be charging them), the downside is that many are built on different protocols and don’t necessarily talk to one another. But a new protocol called Thread promises to help bring disparate connected items together to make it easier for consumers to control their environment with less hassle.
So many exciting things in our future! These tech product trends will likely be around for a while. It’s important for families to be aware of the trends so you can identify which ones will affect your family the most…so you can get a head start on doing your homework. A connected home is great (I have one), but it requires determining which areas to tackle first (music, lights, motion sensing, security, etc.) and buying products that will grow with the other categories (lights, music, security, etc.) which will work on the same platform.
Also, if your kid begs for a drone, it’s good to know the FAA regulations first. As we have covered some of these trends before in our previous year’s articles, feel free to look back at them for more info. Our product tech trends of CES 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.