Special Briefing: Is the Hottest Tech Convention Still Relevant?

Special Briefing: Is the Hottest Tech Convention Still Relevant?

Why you should care

Because this is what will be hot in the world of technology this year.

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What’s happening? It’s that time of year again. This week, tech leaders, journalists and influencers from around the globe are flocking to Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show. With more than 180,000 people expected to participate this year across 3 million square feet of exhibits, CES is one of the largest tech conventions in the world. It’s a chance for companies to showcase their newest gadgets, inventions and products in one place — and while critics point out that some CES products never actually get produced and that the last major innovative product to premiere there was the Microsoft XBox in 2001, it’s still a huge chance for smaller industry players to get buzz for their innovative gadgets.

Why does it matter? Tech controls almost every aspect of our daily lives. But the ethics of technology and the role it plays in society faced sharp scrutiny in 2018 — from Facebook hacks to autonomous car crashes. So more people want to know how tech companies are taking responsibility for their innovations. The announcements and product releases made at CES this week have the potential to impact society for years to come, and this week’s convention will likely spark discussion about the ethical impact of new technology and its potential to make life easier.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Full speed ahead. After all the hype, 5G finally is expected to become a reality this year. Wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon and phone manufacturers like Samsung will be in Vegas to discuss how this fifth generation of cellular mobile communications will change our lives. But it’s not just for phones. Some predict we’ll see the first round of 5G-capable laptops announced at CES this week. 5G is also likely to come up in panels and keynote addresses focused on the future of smart cities, autonomous vehicles and remote surgery. Meanwhile, privacy advocates point out that faster speeds and more connected devices will only amplify the security concerns that already plague wireless networks.

The robots are coming. Actually, they’re already here — and they’re getting smarter. CES will feature more new “smart tech” products that work with Google Home and Alexa, including a keyless, wifi-enabled lock that doubles as a video doorbell and a diaper monitor that can tell your smartphone if your baby needs to be changed. Smart speakers have been souped up and will offer more voice-activated features than ever before. All these products are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, two capabilities you’ll continue to hear a lot about in 2019.

Look, no hands. The future of transport will be big at CES this year with 11 car manufacturers set to attend. The hottest topic, of course, will be driverless cars. But beyond that, traditional car makers will showcase integrated features like voice, chip and sensor technologies aimed at making our commutes more enjoyable while we wait for robot cars to hit the streets in a few years. Audi and Mercedes-Benz will premiere their new electric SUVs, and Hyundai will be showcasing a mind-boggling futuristic car that promises to walk and climb over rocky terrain. You can also expect to see the bane of every city dweller’s existence: ride-sharing scooters.

Phones are the new medicine. Digital health and wellness have grown increasingly popular over the past five years, but innovations in the space now go far beyond wearables that count your steps and track your sleep. Nearly 120 digital health companies will be at CES this year, a 23 percent increase from 2018. There will be plenty of the usual watches and smartphone apps, but consumer goods are getting in on the digital health game too — though most remain shrouded in mystery. Pantene promises to use AI to improve your hair, Olay is debuting a new skin gadget and L’Oreal is launching some type of health sensor. Sleep will also be a central focus again this year, with gadgets that promise to soothe you into dreamland with meditation, calming sounds and hypnosis.

WHAT TO READ

8 Things to Expect From CES, Consumer Tech’s Big Shindig, by Lauren Goode in WIRED

“CES is still largely a hardware exhibition, a kind of disorganized manifesto on where the tech industry is headed in the coming months. But this year it’s coming on the heels of a tumultuous year for the software companies that dictate most of the tech experiences in our lives.”

Home Health Devices Are Tracking More Than Ever, by Katherine Bindley in The Wall Street Journal

“This proliferation of devices that collect potentially sensitive health data comes as last year’s tech news remains fresh in consumers’ minds … It is an interesting time for a tech company to be asking for a urine sample.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Top Tech Trends to Look Out for at CES 2019

“They’re gonna try to add voice control into anything you can think of because that gets you more hooked in, that’s a Trojan horse for the smart home and connected home stuff.”

Watch on CBS on YouTube:

Brian Tong’s CES 2019 Preview: What to Expect

“When you talk about CES it almost always has to start with the TVs. They’re gonna get bigger and brighter and now even rollable.”

Watch on Brian Tong’s YouTube channel:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Taking a bite. CES is also a chance for tech giants to poke each others’ soft underbellies: Apple has never attended CES in a formal capacity — it launches gadgets at its own dedicated events, a practice that’s become increasingly common among big players. But it still has a presence in the form of a multi-story ad on the side of a building near the convention that reads “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.” This is a pointed dig at the privacy snafus suffered by other big tech players like Amazon and at companies that sell user data.

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