High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

Highwire CES 2019: Industry Trends, Gadgets and Gizmos

CES 2019

Robo-sharks. 8K televisions. A machine that makes fresh-baked bread. We came, we saw, we conquered all of CES 2019 — and a few weeks later, we’re still dreaming of some of the latest and greatest in tech innovations! The Highwire team reports back to you with the trends that stood out to us the most (with a few cool gadgets here and there):

Madison Moore, Digital Strategist
Smart home design has moved from fantasy to reality for consumers. Everything from smart wine refrigerators (to help you perfectly pair your roasted chicken dinner with a Chardonnay) to smart toilets (yes, that’s a thing), to alarm systems and connected kitchen devices were front and center at CES 2019. What’s impressive is how many of these smart home devices are working in tandem together, controlled by smartphones and Alexa/Google. The emphasis here is not on robots and smart devices taking over your home. Rather, they can help you cut down on the little things so you can spend more time with friends and family. The downside? A lot of this technology is not yet available in the United States, although reports say that most of the tech is easy to modify for U.S. markets. It’s safe to say we might have fully connected homes and apartments in the not-so-distant future (and I’ll be the first person in line to purchase that smart wine fridge…).

There was also a strong focus on mobility at CES 2019. Of course, there were some sexy, futuristic smart cars to ogle over (think: the rosy-gold futuristic BMW Vision iNEXT), but the real discussions around smart cities and smart communities were what Highwire was after. At the forefront of the discussion around autonomous and self-driving vehicles was safety, privacy, and policy. How will Congress take action to create policies, especially as things become more connected and we begin rolling out this technology to the general public and not just test subjects? Companies like Samsung, Waymo, and Verizon believe that America is in a leading position on connected and autonomous vehicles, but there needs to be bipartisan consensus and some sort of congressional infrastructure legislation in place to bring them to the masses: safely.

Sarah Koniniec, Account Manager
I thought one of the more interesting topics was the very sudden disillusionment (or rather – reality check) with 5G. In the weeks leading up to CES, we saw a significant groundswell around 5G thanks to the Verizon keynote, as well as a myriad of to-be-announced products claiming to be 5G ready.

If you ask the major U.S. telecom companies, they’ll tell you 5G has arrived. That’s not really the case though, and we saw this play out on a very public stage. *grabs popcorn* We saw both Verizon and AT&T claiming to be first to 5G, while KT argues that a robot in South Korea is its first 5G customer. We saw AT&T updating phones with a fake 5G icon, and almost immediately we saw John Legere (T-Mobile’s CEO) clapback on Twitter. And all of this arguing about what 5G is (or isn’t) doesn’t bode well for consumers who are looking for faster connectivity, lower latency, and a seamless experience from device to device.

I’ve long been saying that 5G will be America’s next big infrastructure project, and I think in the next two years we’ll start to see this play out in a major way. The private sector will need to rely heavily on the public sector if we’re going to bring improved connectivity to the masses. But working closely with politicians and government agencies will be a challenge for many large tech companies that are not feeling the love from Washington right now. Things like working with the FCC to open up additional spectrum, or working with city planners to map out smart cities enabled by 5G, are crucial for setting up the infrastructure that will encourage widespread 5G adoption.

When you combine the power of 5G technology with a bunch of other technologies that are also evolving at the same time, many of which we saw at CES — from autonomous vehicles to augmented and virtual reality, to smart home and IoT trinkets — you’ve got capabilities that can absolutely transform the way consumers live and work. But for now, we’re not ready.

Sophia Gribbs, Business Development Coordinator
A major topic of conversation at CES this year was data privacy. Apple, a brand that usually doesn’t have a presence at the conference, made an impossible-to-miss jab at its competitors. A massive billboard overlooking Google and Amazon booths at CES read, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned our data “is being weaponized us with military efficiency” at the Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners held annually in Europe.

At a CES panel about American privacy regulations in a post-GDPR world, former House representative Darrell Issa discussed data privacy with industry leaders. The FTC does not have a best practices document, and the panel agreed the obligation is on the Commission for further guidance. When discussing whether the United States should adopt GDPR, the consensus was that human rights should be protected and that we should set a baseline for what data rules should be. Issa emphasized the industry has to lead because “Congress will not get it right.” A state-by-state solution for data laws was proposed for a harmonized nation.

Personally, I admired the emphasis on wellness this year in Vegas. Yes, Royole’s foldable phone, HYPERVSN’s 3-D holographics and LG’s rollable OLED TVs are quite alluring. But the technology that directly impacts one’s health and understanding of one’s body has the capacity to greatly improve the quality of life.

Omron’s HeartGuide smartwatch measures blood pressure to allow for continuous monitoring at home. Stanley Black & Decker unveiled Pria, the home care companion that can serve medication and act upon voice commands. Pria features a camera, speaker and microphone so caregivers and family members can administer care in real-time. TouchPoint provides wearables for stress release with haptic vibrations at different intensities. Philips showcased a number of SmartSleep technologies to better understand sleep problems and to identify solutions.

Walking around the massive trade show floor is bound to make anyone hungry! Impossible Foods debuted its Impossible Burger 2.0, a patty that identically mimics the look, texture and taste of beef. The food truck even gave out free burgers so conference attendees could taste for themselves. In the Technology’s Innovators and Disruptors supersession, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown cited his motivation originates from focusing on the most important problem he thought he could solve.

These brands combine science and tech to take a stab at improving consumers’ general well-being. I look forward to watching healthcare technology continue to take center stage in 2019!