CES 2018: A Look at This Year’s Big Tech Trends

CES 2018 wrapped up last week. Voice assistants, artificial intelligence, the internet of things were some of this year’s big tech trends.

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Tech companies from around the world descended upon Las Vegas earlier in January to showcase their latest and best products at CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show. The event is not only widely followed by tech enthusiasts and industry insiders, but also by many investors looking to identify new trends and potentially disruptive technologies.  

Some of this year’s big tech trends at CES 2018 weren’t necessarily new, but rather further developments in emerging technologies like voice assistants, self-driving cars, OLED, wireless charging and more.    

Kicking Things off With Nvidia

Before the official start of CES, Nvidia (NVDA) CEO Jensen Huang made several announcements at a major press conference, highlighting the company’s latest developments in artificial intelligence and self-driving technology:

  • Drive IX is a new software platform that, combined with Nvidia Drive PX hardware, allows developers to create smart assistants for automobiles.
  • Drive AR is another new software platform that allows developers to build augmented-reality features into automobiles.  
  • Xavier is the system on a chip (SoC) that Nvidia developed to be the “brain” of autonomous automobiles. Previously announced in 2016,  the SoC will start to be sampled to select customers in the first quarter.
  • Partnerships with Uber, Volkswagen and Baidu that were related to self-driving technology were also announced.

Voice Assistants

Across the board, many major tech companies have developed voice assistants, artificial intelligence-powered programs that are getting built into just about everything from smartphones to refrigerators to cars. Apple (AAPL) has Siri, Alphabet (GOOGL) has Google Assistant, Amazon (AMZN) has Alexa, Microsoft (MSFT) has Cortana, Samsung (SSNLF) has Bixby… I think you get the point.

While they haven’t always had a strong presence at CES, both Amazon and Google were out in full force this year, showcasing products that use Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. As Wired put it, “the Google versus Alexa war is on at CES 2018.”

Google unveiled four new smart displays—manufactured by Sony, Samsung-owned JBL, LG and Lenovo—that are powered by Google Assistant. The devices are similar to the Amazon Echo Show that was revealed in May 2017. There was also a wide range of products including smart TVs and smart speakers that use Google Assistant—Google touted that Home and Assistant now work with more than 1500 different smart-home devices.

Amazon seems to be going after its statement that “you should be talking to Alexa no matter where you’re located or what device you’re talking to.” At CES, Alexa found its way into everything from toilets to refrigerators to cars.

Planes, Trains and Self-Driving Automobiles

Although it will be some time before we’re all zipping from point A to point B with no hands on the wheel, each year the technology progresses further and it’s getting closer and closer to a reality. In addition to Nvidia’s announcements, Intel (INTC) unveiled its newest processor intended to be the brain of self-driving cars and Baidu (BIDU) revealed Apollo 2.0, a major update to its open-source autonomous driving platform.

Toyota also generated a lot of buzz with e-Pallete, a self-driving concept that is designed to be configurable for different purposes—a delivery vehicle, a medical lab, passenger transport, etc. Initial partners on the project include Uber, Amazon, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Didi. Toyota isn’t the only car company with a pizza partnership. In August 2017, Ford (F) and Domino’s (DPZ) announced they were teaming up to test self-driving pizza delivery cars.

Not to be left out of the conversation, the same day that CES ended, General Motors (GM) announced that by 2019 it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without steering wheels and pedals.

Learn more about 10 industries that could be impacted by self-driving cars with this article on The Ticker Tape.

OLED Screens and New TVs

Universal Display’s (OLED) technology found its way into a number of new TVs, smartphones and smartwatches. While it’s not available for sale, LG Display (LPL) generated some excitement with its prototype of a 65-inch rollable OLED TV. LG’s wallpaper TVs with OLED screens, named for their thin profile, were also on full display again this year. 

Some companies were going beyond OLED, with Samsung (SSNLF) unveiling “The Wall”, a 146-inch modular TV that uses MicroLED technology. Samsung has also been moving forward with developing QLED displays, its own in-house technology.

Wireless Charging

So far, commercially available wireless charging is still limited to induction chargers that need to be in contact with the phone. There were a large number of wireless charging mats and other devices that use Qi wireless, an industry standard that’s used by many smartphone companies.

Another company, Energous (WATT), has been working on trying to develop wireless charging at a distance. Energous only just received FCC approval for its WattUp Mid Field transmitter, which can power devices at a distance of up to three feet. The company is also working on developing a Far Field transmitter that can power devices at a distance of up to 15 feet. However, the technology has only been tested in a small number of products, and none on a commercial scale.

Investor Takeaways from CES

While tech was the obvious focus of the show, be sure to consider how other sectors, such as retail and automakers, may be impacted.  For instance, if consumer demand for new tech products is strong, that could help boost revenue and earnings at the retailers that sell them.

New technology also has the potential to disrupt entire industries. For example, there’s been intense competition among hardware manufacturers, software developers, and automakers to get autonomous vehicles on the road. These advancements are likely to have the potential to shake up a large number of sectors. 

CES not only highlighted the newest products and latest innovations coming out of the tech sector, but it was also a time that many companies provided additional details about future plans. If you’re following along, you might just uncover some potential cutting-edge investment ideas. 

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