After CES: 10 tech predictions for the immediate future

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

Almost exactly a century ago, the art world was stunned by the International Exhibition of Modern Art, more famously known as the Armory Show of 1913. While there had been and would be many more art exhibitions at the New York City Armory on the city's upper east side, this particular show is remembered as the coming out party for what we know today as "modern art."

A month ago, we wrapped up CES 2013. Sure, there have been dozens of CESs dating back to the first one in New York City in 1967, and there will be many more in the future. But this CES proved particularly fecund for future-changing products and technologies that enjoyed their own coming out parties, all what truly may be dubbed (at least by me), in a nod to the Armory Show a century ago, modern tech.

CES isn't primarily a new technology forum the way CEATAC in Japan is. At its heart, CES is a sales/trade show. Its visitors are largely retailers or distributors looking to procure products to sell, and companies exhibiting products they'd like retailers and distributors to buy and sell to the rest of us.

None of these products and technologies I'm about to discuss were unveiled for the first time at CES 2013. But at this CES, the following 10 long-gestating, potentially life-changing digital technologies — many in combination with one another — have seemingly been deemed ready for prime time and are waiting to be embraced by society as integral parts of our everyday digital lives this year or next.

I won't be able to go into much depth on each of these future-is-soon/now items; I will tackle and explain each in subsequent scribblings in this space in the coming weeks.

1. 4K Ultra High Definition TV

OLED may or may not be the next-gen TV flavor of the week. But 4K UHD LED TVs — televisions with 3840-by-2160 pixel resolution, four times the density of today's 1080p sets (hence the 4K) — will definitely go on sale this year.

While no specific availability dates or prices were announced by anyone, Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio didn't just announce a single UHD set — they each announced three different sizes of UHD (mostly 55- , 65- and 84-inch sets), the surest sign we'll see these sets in stores by the holiday season. They'll likely be priced in the $15,000 to $25,000 range, but — more on this next week. (Ain't I a tease?)

2. Wireless Everything

Last June, the powers-that-be announced a change in Internet protocols that expanded the numerical designation of Web connectivity from 11 numbers, which gave us "only" 4.29 trillion potential IP addresses, to one with 32 digits (eight groups of four separated by colons), resulting in 340 undecillion — 10 to the 36th power — new IP addresses. This means anyone who wants to create an Internet-connected gadget can.

As a result, it seemed every new gadget I ran across at CES, including cameras, appliances, watches and key fobs could be connected to the net. One wag observed that any item that runs on electricity would be connected to the Internet, and we saw the beginnings of this IP land rush at CES. There are bound to be weird and wonderful unintended consequences of this connectivity.

3. Connected Cars

Thanks to IPv6, now cars can have their own IP addresses, and many new 2013 models include the ability to create their own mobile hotspots for itself and its passengers' connected gadgets. But more, CES saw the commercialization of "smart" operating systems. Audi connect, Chevrolet's MyLink, Chrysler's Uconnect Access, Ford's SYNC AppLink, Hyundai's Blue Link, Kia's UVO and Lexus's Enform App Suite are all included in 2013-year models with new operating systems able to run apps from your smartphone. You could stream Pandora from your phone through the car's audio system and 7-inch screen, for instance, along with Siri-like (and even Siri itself) control.

You can get a brief idea of what the car makers showed at CES here and here, but I'll be more expansive about these new distracting capabilities in a few weeks.

4. Compact System Cameras

Who wants to buy a sub-$200 point-and-shoot digital camera when you can buy a sub-$100 smartphone that snaps perfectly acceptable high-resolution snaps and records HD video — and also does everything a smartphone does?

So at CES, every major cameramaker dove headlong into so-called compact system cameras, sophisticated shooters with small point-and-shoot-sized bodies, without DSLR mirrors but with DSLR-like interchangeable lenses. They're priced like low-end DSLRs (around $600-$1,000), but weigh a third as much.

5. Passpoint Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi AC

Two Wi-Fi developments are shaking up wireless communications — so-called gigabit Wi-Fi (technically 802.11ac, offering download speeds around four times faster those of the current N standard) and Passpoint, which will provide automatic, secure seamless and continual Wi-Fi connections just like automatic, secure, seamless and continual cellular connections.

At CES, I moderated a panel on this so-called next generation hotspot (NGH, aka Hotspot 2.0) standard, which you can watch here. I'll also bring you a more fulsome explanation of Passpoint and its implications in a few weeks.

6. Bluetooth 4.0

As anyone who uses Bluetooth on their phone knows, the wireless connection for voice and music is a power drain and anvil-to-squash-a-fly overkill for wirelessly transmitting smaller bits of plain data. Bluetooth 4.0 is a low-power version of the wireless standard designed to transfer data. A host of new next-generation small health/fitness, energy, security and home automation gadgets transmitting data to a smartphone or tablet app via Bluetooth 4.0 were on display at CES.

7. mHealth Ecosystems

For the last few years, a growing digital ecosystem dubbed mHealth — mobile health — has been developing, encompassing methods to remotely measure, diagnose, alert, track, compile and even treat whatever ails you. Most of the mHealth effort has revolved around wearable sensors that collect and transmit your bio data. But the stumbling block for mass mHealth adoption has been the lack of heavy duty, speedy and widely adopted bio data transmission methods.

With the maturation of Bluetooth 4.0 for transmission of data to connected devices, 802.11ac and 4G LTE to transmit the data to doctors, hospitals and other caregivers as well as cloud record tracking and storage, these mHealth bio data transmission pieces are now in place to make mHealth mainstream.

8. NFC Tap-To-Anything

The "mobile wallet" concept has been getting all the NFC headlines, but Samsung and Sony are championing more expansive use of Near Field Communications.

All that tap-to-share and beaming stuff Samsung has been hyping in its Galaxy S III commercials — that's NFC. But NFC's most expansive use may be to touch-to-pair Bluetooth devices; Nokia and Sony each have a growing selection of Bluetooth headphones and speakers you simply touch their Lumia 920 or Xperia phones to create a Bluetooth connection — no more pressing/holding buttons for four seconds, putting devices into discovery mode or entering 0000.

We will soon tap-to-share or tap-to-pair everything and everywhere, at home, at stores, in train stations, in hotels — everywhere.

9. Qi Wireless Charging

Phone dead? Find an AC outlet or charger to jack it into. But soon this plugging-to-charge will be a quaint memory like soda can tabs and 8-track tape thanks to Qi, a wireless charging standard now taking hold. For the first time, the Qi Wireless Power Consortium had a highly-visible exhibit space at CES — in a primary hallway rather than the exhibit floor — and the standard has gained some high-profile footholds: Windows Phone 8, most prominently the Nokia Lumia 920, and Toyota, whose 2013 Avalon will be the first car to offer a built-in dashboard Qi charging pad.

10. Crowd Funding

Last but not least is the way gadgets are created and sold. Just as the Internet democratized music sales, allowing recording artists to escape onerous record company contracts and reach fans directly, gadget makers are now bypassing large conglomerates and crowdfunding their own device development and distribution. For the first time, I came across dozens of companies and their gizmos crowd-funded via Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Christie Street exhibiting either on the show floor or in one of the CES satellite press events.

As noted, I'll explore each one of these CES 2013 modern techs in more depth in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy the future as it unfolds.

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