Joacim Lydén and Simon Markström share their insights from CES 2019 on the latest technologies being developed and the challenges that still remain
CES or the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the world’s largest trade show, attracting over 4,400 exhibitors from all over the world and has a total attendance of 182,000 people. The trade show encompasses consumer electronics in the broadest sense – from light bulbs to helicopter drones – everything is on display.
The most impressive part of CES 2019 was the large automotive section. Autonomous vehicles, transportation pods, electrical trucks and passenger drones were extensively displayed. Innovation in this sphere not only stems from companies rooted in the automotive industry, but also from companies with completely different technology backgrounds.
Automotive giants like Audi, BMW and Mercedes displayed their vision for the future of transportation alongside tech companies like Google and Baidu. There were also joint initiatives like the Kenworth Toyota fuel cell tuck and start-ups like K-Byte or Swedish Einride.
From discussions with these companies it became clear that despite the multiplying research resources available in this field, challenges still remain. Fully autonomous vehicles that can handle all types of weather and traffic are still a long way down the road. One of the remaining challenges is the transfer and management of vast amounts of data. This data is needed to make accurate predictions about the erratic behaviour from human drivers that autonomous vehicles share the road with. The solution to the data challenge lies in increased access and validation of data, new wireless technologies like 5G, and both local and remote processing of data with the use of neural networks. Aside from technical challenges, many view the alignment of regulations, formulating standards and raising consumer confidence equally difficult obstacles.
Voice controlled assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google were given vast marketing space throughout CES. Companies from all areas of technology displayed products and services with the tech giant’s assistants deeply integrated into its functionality. Without even opening your eyes: you may brew your coffee, get your floor vacuumed, learn to play the piano or get a status update from your company’s ERP-system on today’s profit level.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the buzz word throughout CES and it was used most frequently to refer to a concept similar to Kaizen in operations, instead of a single technology. It is a way of thinking in terms of automated improvement and updates. AI is gradually becoming part of all technology as systems and products are being designed to engage in constant self-learning.
The development of autonomous vehicles, voice-controlled assistants and the implementation of AI all share a common feature – they require and generate data on a level that is hard to grasp. It is also becoming clear that the data itself is a valuable asset for making the technology work, for example avoiding collisions or providing users with answers to requests. To benefit from the vast amounts of data, AI needs human intelligence to validate and tag the contents which gradually adapts the perception of the AI in-line with human perception. This ultimately makes the AI understand human behaviour and communication.
One example many are familiar with is the reCAPTCHA validation tools, where users are required to choose pictures of road signs or store fronts in order to validate that they are not a computer. These processes are in fact a way of mass-crowd generating validated data for autonomous driving. While you are establishing to the security system that you are not a computer, you are also assisting computers in learning to perceive the images in the same way humans do. Odds are that we will see increasing creativity in the ways of collecting human input on data contents, especially as the amount of data collection increases.
Another trend at CES was strategic partnerships allowing commercialisation by crossbreeding different technology fields. The need for collaboration is partially driven by the increasing specialisation required to develop the best technology but crossbreeding also enables win-win situations where synergies arise that would otherwise not be achieved.
A key tool in achieving effective collaborations is working with intellectual property managers to capture, define and package knowledge into transferrable business objects.
Crossbreeding between parties with known brands combines loyal customer bases as well as the products, resulting in a better outcome than what would have been possible by only one of the parties. A key tool in achieving effective collaborations is working with intellectual property managers to capture, define and package knowledge into transferrable business objects. This includes ownership of the copyright protected data sets generated by users and often owned by the major service providers.
The future will undoubtedly bring many new technologies, with products and services constantly being launched and intimate collaborations between different companies. Humans and machines will most certainly play a central part.