Smart home solutions, smart city trends, and green technologies were among the top trends highlighted in key sessions at the Consumer Technology Association’s annual CES show, which is now in its 50th year. When it comes to tech trends, CES has always provided an interesting look ahead, so it should come as no surprise that its keynote speakers provided some insights of value for our industry.
Two of key growth areas of interest for our industry, among all the trends which CTA reported during CES in its Tech Industry Forecast, are smart home devices, and the impact of voice activation solutions on smart appliances.
These two areas were among the highest growth segments:
- Unit sales of 29.3 million smart home devices (up 63% compared to last year) and related revenue, at $3.5 billion, up 57%.
- The $600 million Digital Assistant Devices market is up 52% over last year, and in this area the big story continues to be the enormous market momentum Amazon is getting with its voice-activated personal-assistant, Alexa. (See the January 7, 2017 Consumer Reports article, “Amazon's Alexa Is the Brains Behind Many New Smart Home Products”.)
But growth rates do not tell the whole story. The 800 pound gorilla in the room is the smartphone segment--a market segment which has $56 billion in annual revenue, a segment already so mature (and in some regions, saturated) that even though it is currently only grew at a rate of 2% annually last year the dollar value of that 2% growth equals $1.2 billion, twice the size of the Digital Assistant Device market.
Steve Mollenkopf CEO of Qualcomm, pointed out in his presentation “5G - Change Everything” that the upcoming rise of 5G networks will only increase strength and size of the smart phone/mobile data market, but will lead to whole new industries, a much more intelligent, automated and interconnected ecosystem, “as data speeds go up and data costs go down.”
5G will be the tipping point, and truly enable the internet of things….5G will also make it possible for you to trust your mobile connection in all the situations where failure is not an option.
— Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm
A good big picture, when it comes to CES trends, was provided by CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro, who rightfully emphasized the importance of taking “an all-encompassing view of the entire connected ecosystem.” Such a perspective is as vital for utilities and their solution providers as it is for other businesses, given the fast pace of change we all face as these new ecosystems form. But in many ways, utilities need to plan further ahead than a lot of other industries.
The needed ecosystems will better enable even greater utilization of real-time data and mobile data for utility personnel and their customers. It will also deepen the scope and benefits of behind-the-meter initiatives involving demand response, demand-side management, and home energy networks, plus data-driven customer engagement tools. Establishing a strong partner landscape, and experimenting with solutions to determine what enables the best possible connection with utility consumers will be keys for our industry to build the best ecosystems.