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CEA’s 5 Tech Trends for 2015: From Big Entertainment to Small Business

Be the snowboarder on the half pipe: Big data, digital health, robotics, immersive entertainment and content, and business models in the innovation economy top CEA's 5 Trends to Watch for 2015.

CEA's 5 Technology Trends to Watch in 2015
Julie Jacobson · October 7, 2014

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has announced its 5 Technology Trends to Watch for 2015. The announcement was made during the recent CEA Innovate conference, which replaced the Industry Forum usually held this time of year.

The event brought together start-up companies and investors, and reminded even the ol’ CEA regulars that it’s never too late to innovate.

The 5 Techs were presented at Innovate by moderator Jeff Joseph of CEA, along with panelists Richard Doherty (The Envisioneering Group), Paul Singh (CEO, Disruption Corp., a research and investment firm), and Lindsey Turrentine (editor in chief, CNET Reviews).

There were a couple of errant themes this year in the 5 Techs. I wouldn’t have guessed immersive entertainment, but it makes sense and certainly has implications for home systems integrators. Plus, maybe for the first time, CEA included a business/economics theme as one of the trends to watch. This was my favorite section of the CEA book, which is masterfully written, and the first one I’ve read front-to-back.

And the 5 Tech Trends to Watch are …

1. Big Data

Joseph mentioned in this bit a teenager who unwittingly received a package of baby stuff from Target, alerting her erstwhile ignorant mother to her unwed daughter’s condition. While this particular story is likely a myth, big data can easily be used to determine all sorts of characteristics about consumers, certainly if they are pregnant.

Cell phone companies are using big data to determine if customers are loyal or likely to flee, adjusting individual rates accordingly.

Sometimes we despise big data; sometimes we invite it. Geico, for instance, offers customers a discount on insurance if they put a special chip in their car to monitor driving habits.

On a positive side, “As a father of two daughters I’ll probably learn about them through big data,” says Joseph. “It’s probably the only way I’ll find out about them.”

The emerging big data business is aided by a rash of new sensors, such as iBeacons that collect data from passersby, and relay the information to the cloud for number-crunching. Retailers are learning, for instance, how consumers navigate the store and how much time they spend reading the Cap’n Crunch label.

The problem with big data, the panelists agreed, is that no one understands what it is so customers tend to reject the idea outright.

One of the panelists (I forget which) said the burden is on tech companies to translate the cool factor of big data into something “my mother understands.”

2. Robotics

Machines will continue to play a huge and growing role in day-to-day life with autonomous cars, drones, floor-cleaning robots and the like.

It is not unthinkable that we will have a generation of people who don’t know how to drive, because cars will be driving themselves.

“I have an eight-month-old daughter,” said Singh (I think). “When she grows up, she probably won’t have a car.”

CEA research reveals that interest in automated pet care rose from 28% in 2013 to 30% in 2014. For personal entertainment or companionship, the results were similar, at 21% and 24% for the two years. Robotic childcare? Not so much – around 8%.

When it comes to household chores and other impersonal tasks, though, consumers want technological help.

Interest in home security rose to 59% in 2014. Interest in lawn and garden robots went from 46% in 2013 to 56% in 2014. Interest in robotics for indoor chores grew from 59% and 62% in the two years.

For his part, Doherty said “assistive robotics” for aging in place could become the largest opportunity in consumer machines.

“I want a robot to assist me getting into bed,” he says.

Jeff Joseph, CEA; Lindsey Turrentine, CNET; Paul Singh, Disruption Corp.’ Richard Doherty, Envisioneering

3. Digital Health and the Quantified Self

Wearable and other connected devices are now used to track sleep, steps, glucose levels, moods, blood pressure, weight and other personal health and wellness metrics.

The big developments now must come in the areas of interconnectivity, security, and regulatory.

Turrentine intimated that she wears an insulin pump that collects “all of this amazing data.”

Sadly, the data is not readily accessible to her or her doctor.

“It’s a laborious process,” she says, requiring tubes to be pulled out and data to be uploaded manually.

“Right now all I want is that data on my phone,” she says.

But medical device manufacturers and associated parties face a process that is “fraught with regulatory hurdles,” according to Turrentine.

Fortunately, and surprisingly, CEA research reveals that more consumers than expected are comfortable collecting data from machines such as heart rate monitors and glucometers, and sharing that data via the Internet with medical professional in lieu of an in-person appointment.

The study found that 34% of consumers would be comfortable (23%) or very comfortable (11%) with sharing for that purpose, compared to 42% who would be not very comfortable (14%) or not at all comfortable (28%) with sharing. The remainder of participants fall in the middle or don’t know.

  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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