Overwhelming Weight of Internet of Things Looms over CES 2015

By Doug Mohney December 23, 2014

I feel like Scrooge at the moment. I've been plowing through the 50 plus emails that arrived last hour (yes, last hour), inviting me to look at connected devices during International CES 2015 in less than two weeks.  Automobiles, connected homes, wearables for fitness, pretty wearables that don't look like geek jewelry, mobile health apps, lawn sprinklers (yes, smart lawn sprinklers). BAH HUMBUG!

If Hunter S. Thompson was covering the world of consumer electronics, all these gizmos would drive him to an overdose or a treatment facility for a six-month stay. 

I could spend a couple of days just meeting with the automotive people alone. Audi, General Motors, Volkswagen will be featuring the latest and greatest in integrating user-friendly technology into their vehicles, but they're only the tip of the iceberg.

Ericsson and Volvo have teamed with protective gear manufacturer POC to establish two way communication between Volvo car drivers and cyclists to avoid accidents. Volvo drivers will get alerted to a nearby cyclist through the car's head-up display while a cyclist will be warned through a helmet-mounted alert light. Everything is tied together though a smartphone app and the cloud.

Steering wheels are getting a makeover with new technology. Optical-based sensors will enable drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times while replacing mechanical switches, which should make cars safer while lowering assembly costs. Neonode is supplying the optical tech to Autoliv, with a press announcement by at least one German auto manufacturer hinting it may be using the technology or something similar.

If you like older cars and pimping your ride, SensDriver Technologies is rolling out a smart-phone linked aftermarket heads-up display (HUD).  SenseHud is listing at $99, drop in any smartphone and you can get a "heads up" experience driving down the road for navigation, text messages and email—but I'd not recommend the latter. The device is driven via app, supports either Android or iOS, and also will charge up your phone while you are driving.

Where do I start with wearables?  If it isn't going on your wrist to keep track of your health and workouts, companies are melding fashion design with Bluetooth and bendable displays to come up with devices that look good and work well.  The wristband form factor is being challenged and/or supplemented by earbuds able to monitor (heart) beats as well as provide the (music) beats. Jabra and LG are among many offering sensor earbuds.

Wearables get their own fashion show during CES, hosted by Project Runway's Nick Verreos.  I think the jury is still out on where the line should be drawn between full-function "It's really a computer on my wrist" devices and simplified, more discreet, minimalistic alert-only jewelry providing notification of a call, email, or text message.

Putting kids and pets (KnP) into the Internet of Things is happening at a frighteningly rapid pace. I suspect we'll have to create a category solely for KnP in a year or two.  Mondevices offers the Monbaby baby monitor that clips directly onto pajamas or clothing. A Freescale MEMS sensor transmits data in real-time five times per second via Bluetooth, with the data interpreted via smartphone app. Irregular breathing or movement, such as the baby rolling onto his or her stomach, triggers an alert. Will science-based baby monitoring replace parental paranoia?  

Pets (and no doubt kids under the age of 18 at some point in the near future) can get a collar that includes GPS tracking capability and real-time video—yet another use for WebRTC!—relayed via Wi-Fi or LTE back to the owner. I'd tell you the company's name, but the email is buried under other CES mail).  Does a pet collar fall into the "Wearable" category?

Regardless of what shiny new hardware come out, software and cloud services are the engines driving new applications. Expect to see new IoT alliances launched at CES and existing ones touting increased membership over last year. Interoperability is going to be a big thing across product categories, with cloud providers wanting to mix and match sensors, consumers and doctors wanting seamless and portable access to mHealth device records, and everyone looking at Big Data solutions to aggregate and spot trends out of existing information.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Editor

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