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The Secret Stories of CES

By this time, you likely are getting a bit sick out of folks talking about wild new products that won’t be on the market for weeks or months while you are paying your Christmas bills. So rather than tell you about a slew of new products, I’ll focus on the back stories that didn’t seem to get much coverage at CES — what now is the largest technology show in the U.S.

As my product of the week, I’ve selected a fascinating little robot that is designed to reduce trauma in children.

Jaguar F-Type Ruled

OK, so right off the bat I’m showcasing a product — but remember, this is the consumer electronics show not a car show. Yet there was one car that seemed to rule the show. Not one car maker — one car. I started noticing it at the Nvidia self-driving car demonstration; its emulated garage appeared to be loaded with Jaguar F-Type coupes.

Jaguar F-Type

I thought it was kind of funny at the time, because it had Audi on stage and, as far as I knew, it wasn’t working with Jaguar.

Then I went to visit the Panasonic booth, and there was a brand new Jaguar F-Type showcasing its new audio technology (apparently it is in the new 2016 model).

Jaguar F-Type

I then wandered across to the Delco booth, and there was another beautiful F-Type coupe.

Finally, I wandered out of the automotive electronics section to visit Intel, and its big demonstration was an F-Type roadster showcasing technology in the car that would know what you were looking at and change what was presented to you and what the light shone on dynamically.

Intel CES

Frankly, Intel was smarter to use the roadster, because folks could stand around the car and see inside it — something that just doesn’t work with the coupe.

The only other car that came close to this coverage was a T-Rex, a little known high performance three-wheeler, and it was just in two booths.


Granted, I kind of lusted for that T-Rex, but that was an amazing showing for a car company that didn’t even seem to have its own booth at the event.

Still, it wasn’t Jaguar in general, but one car that ruled the show.

Internet of Things

If there was one overarching theme at CES 2015, it was the Internet of Things, and behind an amazing number of things were Qualcomm’s two initiatives: its AllSeen Alliance; and its AllPlay music platform. What seemed screwy was that I didn’t see this mentioned in any of the vendor pitches, but if you went to the booths you often would see a little plaque that said it had joined one or the other, and sometimes both.

I’d been specifically looking to see if anyone could match Sonos for music and Insteon for home automation. Qualcomm got enough critical mass on AllPlay to match Sonos across three vendors, and Insteon told me it had joined the AllSeen alliance, automatically giving it the capability I was looking for.

These systems appear to be at capability critical mass. Qualcomm now just needs to get folks to see what they can do. In effect, at least at CES, Qualcomm won the Internet of Things battle — its just that nobody else seemed to notice.

The End of Amber Alerts and Human-Driven Cars

The second big trend at CES was autonomous vehicles. Intel even showed an autonomous drone that could navigate automatically through forests (granted, if it was smarter it would likely fly over them) and through mazes. Most everyone else was showcasing cars.

Nvidia did the best job of showing the massive numbers of things a car computer needed to interpret at once in order to never have an accident, and that the technology exists (Nvidia launched it) to make this happen. What immediately was clear is that there is no way a human could drive as well. The computer can see things we can’t (both in more directions at once and, using infrared, through some things). It can react more quickly, and it doesn’t do stupid things like drink or text and drive.

However the poor suckers in human-driven cars will be faced with driving on the same road with cars that can see and respond to things they can’t, suggesting that human drivers shortly will become extinct. Mercedes Benz showcased an incredibly advanced design that clearly made the concept of a human driving a car seem antisocial.

In addition, a far-from-obvious benefit is that the cameras are good enough now to read license plates and recognize people. They also will be internetworked, so they can be made instantly aware of problems.

Were they to get the information out of a typical Amber Alert, they would instantly be able to look and see likely vehicles and then look inside the cars, and a central service could route police or drones quickly to the highest-probability targets. This actually could work for any criminal evading capture, but it could go a long way to making kidnapping children an even worse idea than it currently is.

BlackBerry Is a Power Again

This was kind of a surprise, but when virtually anyone was talking about in-car entertainment or advanced capabilities like self-driving, BlackBerry’s name came up — but not with respect to phones, with respect to the software platform that would be underneath this stuff. It announced it was already on 50 million vehicles around the world. That is significant, given there are only around 250 million cars in all the U.S., and most of those would be too old to have any technology like this.

Granted, BlackBerry had a Maserati in its booth, which did kind of make it look like it missed the Jaguar F-Type meeting the others attended.

Intel had the Best Booth and Best Keynote

One of the things about CES is that most of the keynotes suck. Folks don’t rehearse, others show ads, and most seem to think the goal is to be living after the thing is over — and this is in Las Vegas, arguably the entertainment capital of the world.

Intel pulled out the stops this time and had a professionally done show, and I mean it was a show, all interwoven with Intel technology but never getting in the way of the performance or enjoyment.

Of all of the vendors, Intel really kicked it up a notch, and the team that put this together gets my standing ovation for doing a truly excellent job. (And no, I wasn’t on that team).

Wrapping Up

So, to net this out, CES 2015’s biggest showcase car was a personal sports car, and its most powerful initiative was getting people out of the driver’s seat. I think we can say the show this year was rather badly conflicted as a result.

Still, as we move in the direction of Internet of Things (which clearly includes security cameras) and self-driving cars, we all are going to be far safer.

Successful home invasion burglaries, drunk or otherwise impaired driving, and the abduction of children all may become largely things of the past, and that alone makes the future world one to look forward to. Granted, the lack of privacy also could be an issue, but staying alive and safe may trump privacy for most of us — particularly when we are taking about the safety of our kids.

Product of the Week: RxRobots MEDi

Every once in a while I see a technology product that just touches my heart. The RxRobots MEDi is just such a product. Going to the doctor’s office or hospital as a small child can be a terrifying experience, particularly if you are diagnosed with a major problem requiring infusions, injection, bone marrow anything, a needle, or a knife, and your parents are freaking out. Often parents forget that the child picks up on their fear and amplifies it, making the experience even more tragically traumatic.

RxRobots' MEDi

RxRobots’ MEDi

This little robot befriends children and plays with them, keeping their minds off their parents, their procedures and their fears. That’s just an amazing use of technology, and the robot is real enough that the child treats it as though it were another child.

This robot isn’t bought by the parents but by the hospital or doctor, so it can be made available to any child who needs it. Given our new focus on weaponized drones, I think a company that instead has decided to focus on easing childhood trauma is far more noble, and the RXRobots MEDi is my product of the week. I won’t list the price — trust me, you likely can’t afford it. However, I don’t think a children’s hospital can afford not to have it.

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.

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