Sorry, did I say Internet of Toothbrushes? Maybe I meant Internet of Things. It’s definitely arrived though, for you can connect all sorts of mundane things to the interwebs now, including even your toothbrush. OK, technically you have to go and buy this special toothbrush but still…
Being a geek at heart, I’d always wanted to attend title="CES">CES, and now living in Las Vegas it was too good an opportunity to miss! As a local I avoided much of the pain that you get as a visitor here, such as poor transit and price gouging from hotels. One of the problems of Vegas is getting around, and of course Uber isn’t available here. With my local knowledge I was largely able to avoid the long lines, and I even got to try Vegas’s least loved piece of public transport: the Monorail. It’s a shame it goes inconveniently from nowhere to nowhere because it would actually be a great way to get around if only it went to McCarran Airport. And like all Monorails, it somehow seems like the cutting edge of futuristic; even though the logo is reminiscent of the Jetsons.
Hopping off the Monorail at the Convention Center I noticed BMW were offering test drives of their new all-electric i3. It’s a compact car that seats 4 people in comfort and the model I drove was really plush inside. It was as luxurious as a Tesla Model S, and surprisingly, almost as quick. The 0-60 is just 7 seconds, and when you press on the pedal it feels like you are going to take off. I had a blast driving it and if I had a spare $40k I’d certainly consider it for my next car. It felt quite dull getting back into my internally combusted engine equipped car on the way home.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other cool things I saw:
Sticking with cars, HD Radio is here and growing in availability. It still requires new equipment, but cleverly with HD Radio, it broadcasts alongside the FM signal, so it’s a more convenient upgrade path for the stations and for the listener, when you go out of range of digital it will fall back to FM . Because it doesn’t use new frequencies there’s some cost savings too I expect. I’ve experienced HD Radio once in a hire car and was impressed. As a former audiophile who used to have a DAB radio in the UK, I’ve longed for superior audio on the go, with a fuller dynamic range and more channel choice. When I got a car here in the US I was excited to get one with Sirius, but the compression used by satellite radio delivers terrible audio quality, noticeably worse than FM and only slightly better than AM. Once my free trial expires I’ll have to wave goodbye to BBC World as there’s no way I’m paying to listen to something which makes everyone sound like they are talking through a drainpipe.
Internet of Everything: whether it’s doorbells, baby monitors, pet feeders, or doorlocks you can now connect pretty much anything to the internet. The use cases can be marginal, but since pretty much everyone has wifi at home, a smartphone that runs apps, and the cost of some of these devices is in the realm of impulse-buy, then these markets are exploding. I recently went home for the holidays, and was able to check up on our cat every day with a live webcam. It cost something like $50 but was worth a lot more to us for the peace of mind. Some of the products that caught my eye: Doorbot, Petzila, Trax, Kolibree, iBabi HD
HD TV is so, 2013. In 2014 you need a 4K TV. Again, I’m a sucker for high quality, and the pictures on these new sets are exceptional. But for most people, unless you sit right in front of a giant screen you probably won’t notice much of a difference from HD to 4K. (The jump from SD to HD was much more noticeable). Still, prices will keep dropping and the next time I replace my TV I’ll no doubt have that, or the next leap whatever that will be. The lack of available content will be a problem for a while though so 4K seems like an early-adopters game for the forseeable future. The other noticeable thing about the TVs this year was how many were made with flexible curved screens. And the same thing has spread to phones as well. Remains to be seen if this is just a gimmick, but it certainly did feel quite nice in the hand.
Google’s ChromeBooks have been quietly bringing about a revolution to personal computing over the last few years. Since the advent of nearly ubiquitous internet connectivity and the rise of the cloud, the need for an operating system that actually runs applications has dwindled. I spend the vast majority of my time in a web browser and I so I don’t particularly want to pay for a full blown OS, and all the upgrade and patching hassles that entails. The latest iteration of the ChromeOS is in a new desktop form-factor known as ChromeBase, which adds to the existing ChromeBook and ChromeBox variants.
Also, for the first time this year, Downtown played a role in CES, with Passport2Downtown a free series of events (and shuttle buses!) to help people see a completely new side to Vegas. I expect next year a lot more people will choose to stay Downtown and take the shuttles in the other direction and avoid the strip altogether.