ng Connect takes on CES 2016

  • Group of member companies discuss CES content, major technology trends and challenges
  • ng Connect “state of the union”, 2015 highlights and ongoing projects around the globe
  • Nokia acquires Alcatel-Lucent and takes on role of founding and leading member of the ecosystem

Las Vegas, Jan 8th. CES 2016 is not over yet, but many of us have already left or are waiting to board planes to escape this week’s madness. That is one obvious remark about this year’s edition: it was busy. The entire city was bustling with people walking around, proudly wearing their CES badge, more often than not obtained after long minutes in waiting lines.

On Thursday afternoon, after they had sufficient time to walk the show – it’s impossible to see everything – we gathered a small group of member companies to share their perspectives and discuss latest industry trends and innovations. It was actually the first time we hosted an event of this nature, in a private suite at the Wynn, a little way away from the tumult. And, we felt it went very well, thanks to an ideal mix of participants and overall, a great sample of the ecosystem diversity: our Oceana members were represented by Downer from New Zealand, Real VNC from the UK showed up for Europe, veteran members such as Apptricity and Vidyo seated alongside recent additions such as Phunware, Planar, Hertz and others.

So what was particularly interesting about this CES 2016?

First, three letters really stole the show : IoT. Every exhibit hall was a display for a flurry of devices, sensors, toys, cars, and other “things”, all connected one way or the other. Actually this is where it gets a bit tricky, as overall, this industry remains fragmented with competing protocols, platforms and alliances (Zigbee, Z-wave, Wi-Fi etc). At the same time, we recognized that many vendors start offering impressive end-to-end solutions with much more accessible offerings than in the past. Thus Lowe’s, Sony, Samsung or Bosch, to name a few, really presented compelling experiences. Even though this is a consumer show, we identified a trend towards B2B and initiatives (which could be in part explained by the fragmentation mentioned above, making it more business-friendly to address lucrative verticals or niches). Last, we saw multiple vendors finding monetization opportunities for all the data they collect via their sensors, devices or other business transactions. Mastercard for example showed a mapping of credit card transactions for city planners, real estate companies, mall owners etc. UnitedHealthcare demonstrated a platform for enterprise customers allowing them to act on their insurance plans based on trending factors (health conditions, payments, per age group, per location etc.) and to incent their employees to modify behavior or plan accordingly.
There is a lot more to write about IoT, but that will do it for now, the bottom line being : “it is there, it is huge and it affects the entire spectrum” (smart cities, healthcare, energy, transportation, construction, retail, entertainment, education, as I said, everything). Not convinced? Consider the Sony smart tennis sensor that fits your racket handle, or the 2016 innovation award-winner Seaboard Rise musical device that remodels the keyboard as a soft, sensor-embedded surface that response to subtle gesture. How delighted was I to play on the violin setting and get a much better vibrato than on my instrument with such ease!

CES 2016 Innovation Award

CES 2016 Innovation Award

Another noticeable trend at this show was the multiplication of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and other 360 / immersive gears and solutions (headsets, glasses, gloves). The Oculus Rift is not alone. Perhaps the main finding here is that this new and disruptive experience is not confined to gaming, as many exhibitors already offered demonstrations of enterprise/professional use cases.

This year also marked another and significant step forward for robots. More exhibitors, more prototypes and solutions and more versatile applications : from vacuum, window cleaner, bartender, dry cleaner and clothes folder to IBM’s Watson and even Lego’s Wedo 2.0 bringing robotics to kids.

Closely linked to these three innovative trends, more familiar sights completed our selection of essential takeaways for CES 2016: drones, 3D printing and cars came back in force with maturing solutions. Drones gained in performance and capabilities (autonomy, range, resolution, etc.). There were equally impressive 3D printing demos , many of them industrial-grade, such as a full size 3D-printed Stormtrooper by Anovos or a Shining 3D’s Einscan Pro 3D scanner.
Last, as is now customary, all major car manufacturers presented their latest innovations, sleek models, and intriguing prototypes. While each of them had their own pitch, two common themes emerged : the shift from connected vehicles to autonomous, self-driving vehicles, and the adoption (and proactive approach) by car manufacturers themselves, of ride-sharing solutions – as evidenced notably by GM’s $500 million investment in Lyft. This prompted some interesting remarks, and a debate between the driving experience favored by “boomers” and the transportation experience demanded by “millennials”. As more and more of them live in encumbered cities, the cost and hassle of owning a vehicle (parking, insurance, traffic, etc.) largely outweighs the “pleasure” of a comfortable driving experience. No doubt the transportation industry is undergoing a deep transformation (IOT, smart cities, vehicles evolutions, energy), and no doubt ng Connect will continue to look how it can help drive innovations and technology adoption in this market.

Smarter Mobility through Autonomous Vehicle

Smarter Mobility through Autonomous Vehicle

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Obviously, a lot more could be said about CES 2016, but the main collective findings were captured above. We wanted to take the opportunity of this gathering to share the latest developments of ng Connect, and quickly went around the table to discuss current initiatives.

Starting with the Connected Field Technician (a.k.a. Connected Service Vehicle): launched three years ago, this concept completed a successful trial with Chorus in New Zealand earlier this year. The resulting business outcomes (operational efficiency gains, increased customer satisfaction) were described in a white paper. Apptricity testified that they are now starting to reap the benefits of this work with new customer prospects and trial opportunities.

Connected bus stops were also deployed in New Zealand. Downer quickly explained how these newly designed urban fixtures, equipped with small cells for wireless broadband access, can offer a slew of new services for users and at the same time a new business model opportunity: instead of being funded by advertising, bus stops can be “leased” to wireless providers to mount their small cells as a network extension (better coverage and capacity) in the densest parts of the cities – thus saving them the cost and inconvenience of cell towers.

We discussed our Taiwan tele-health deployment in progress, allowing to connect local doctors with remote villages, taking advantage of the wireless infrastructure already in place. Other initiatives in this part of the world include a collaboration with NCTU and work on Singapore’s Smart Nation platform.

In the U.S. we provided updates on our live 4k video streaming project in Chattanooga, supported by EPB’s gigabit internet network (recently upgraded to offer access up to 10 Gbps). In this solution a video feed is streamed live from the Tennessee Aquarium to a large 4k display at Chattanooga airport. Interestingly, in that case bandwidth is not the bottleneck: it is the video capture and encoding capabilities offered by the various camera solutions in the market today. We found that none of the standard 4k network cameras was able to provide a smooth video when operating in the low light conditions of the aquarium and with as much subject motion as there can be in an aquarium tank with dozens of fish, small or large, unwittingly stressing the video encoding process. This trial continues with new hardware solutions and new services for the endpoint located at the airport.

2015 also saw several ideation sessions, all around the globe, that resulted in new initiatives in the fields of financial services, utilities and transportation. Several solutions are already in the prototyping phase for the former domain, more are at the design stage for the latter. Stay tuned and watch ng Connect newsletter or website for more information about our projects.

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And finally, while not exhibiting at CES in 2016, ng Connect still had a major story to share with fellow members. If you have not followed the recent market announcements, know that Nokia successfully gained control of Alcatel-Lucent through a public exchange offer and that the merged company will be operational as of January 14, 2016. This is of course significant for us as Nokia will now hold top leadership positions in every market in which it competes, putting it in a great position to benefit from opportunities in wireless (5G), cloud solutions and IoT. So expect ng Connect to continue to be active on these front, particularly in the IoT space which crystallizes user experiences, and to fully commit to #maketechhuman. More will be announced at Mobile World Congress a month from now…

Thanks again to all the members who showed up, we had a great CES 2016 and found a great many exciting things to look forward to, in our ecosystem, markets and industries.

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