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Four keywords that define CES 2017

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-01-05 09:59

LAS VEGAS - From smartphones and tablets to drones and self-driving cars, tens of thousands of new tech products are about to make their debut this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017, one of the world's biggest tech events.

Despite complaints that there are no truly big announcements at this annual show that typically comes on the heels of the New Year break, the event is still considered as a reliable barometer for predicting tech trends that will change our lives in the next few years.

Here are four keywords that will make CES 2017, which officially runs Thursday through Sunday in Las Vegas, different than shows held in the past years.

50th anniversary

This year marks the show's 50th anniversary. The first CES was held in June 1967, with 17,500 attendees and 117 exhibitors gathering in New York City, demonstrating products such as transistor radios, stereos and small-screen black-and-white TVs, including the first solid-state TV.

Since then, the event has showcased an estimated 700,000 products, including "world-changing innovations," such as the VCR (1970), the DVD (1996), digital radio (2000) and Blu-ray recording standards (2002), as well as more recent technologies such as consumer 3D printers, tablets and 4K Ultra HD Television, according to the US Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs the CES.

This year, it is predicted that the show will attract more than 165,000 attendees and more than 3,800 exhibitors showcasing products that would've been seen as science fiction 50 years ago, such as self-driving cars, drones and voice-controlled robots. More than 50,000 of the attendees are from outside the United States.

"It will be a milestone," Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, has said in an interview with Xinhua. "It will be our largest show ever, the biggest footprint we've ever had."

One figure that may remind us of the ever-changing nature of consumer technology is that 20 percent of the companies exhibiting at CES didn't exist three years ago.

New categories

Besides "major growth" in traditional categories like wearables, drones and self-driving cars, this year's CES will also see "new categories, like sports technology, health, beauty, baby care all sorts of things because we're living in a world where technology is part of our everyday life," Shapiro said.

In addition, a new "Sleep Tech" marketplace, launched in partnership with the US National Sleep Foundation, will debut at CES 2017.

"From sleep trackers and silent alarms, to bedroom lighting, white noise and even smart beds, sleep technologies are helping us take control of our nighttime routines and rejuvenate efficiently," Shapiro said in a CTA statement.

"In a city that never sleeps, Las Vegas, we look forward to experiencing these groundbreaking innovations at CES 2017," he added.

For example, a US company called Sleep Number will be showcasing its smart bed that uses a proprietary algorithm and machine learning to "intuitively sense and automatically adjust all night" to make your sleep more comfortable, including gently raising your partner's side of the bed to help him or her stop snoring.

Meanwhile, Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the CTA, saw a possible big increase in voice-controlled technology, saying that about 5 million voice-activated digital assistants have been sold to date, and that the figure is likely to double in 2017.

"The next computer interface is voice," DuBravac told reporters. "We have made more progress in voice recognition in the last 30 months then we made in the first 30 years."


There is no doubt that smart products including the internet of things (IoT) devices, robots and self-driving cars will steal the show once again in 2017, but these are almost the same tech that dominated the show in the past few years, or just updates from previous versions.

This time, something brand new for the show is 5G, the next generation of mobile network technology that, experts say, will enable users to download full length HD movies in less than 5 seconds, 100 times faster than 4G and 25,000 times faster than 3G.

Even though 4G is still in its nascent stages in many countries, the era of 5G seems right around the corner.

The US government announced last year it will invest more than $400 million to support 5G wireless research, while China targets 2020 as the year to start the commercial use of the technology. As a result, it will not a big surprise that 5G will be a major focus at CES 2017.

"5G will open up an explosion of new services - including broadband and better home services, faster connectivity for smart cars, affordable smart city infrastructure and interactive Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) experiences," the CTA said in a statement.

"With the full spectrum of technology on display, CES 2017 will illustrate how 5G will truly benefit consumers."

A session called "Stoked About 5G," presented by Ericsson, will take place at CES 2017, with speakers from Ericsson, 20th Century Fox Film Corp, SK Telecom and BMW Group to explore the future of mobility with the 5G network.

Separately, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf will take the keynote stage to discuss "the revolutionary effect" of 5G.


China is increasingly making its presence felt at the four-day trade show.

According to the CTA, more than 1,300 companies from China's mainland are about to exhibit at CES 2017, a nearly 20-percent rise over 2016 and accounting for one third of the exhibitors this year.

In addition to big names in China, like Lenovo, ZTE, DJI, Hisense and TCL, which are expected to unveil their new products, this year will mark the debut of companies including Xiaomi, Suning and Baidu Intelligent Systems.

Meanwhile, Richard Yu, head of Huawei's consumer business group, will deliver a keynote address at CES.

"Huawei is such an important growing company, not only in China but globally," said Shapiro. "The keynote platform, which is considered one of the most desirable in the world for any business executive, is appropriate for such an important company to deliver the message we look forward to hearing."

Shapiro said it's the second time that CES has a Chinese company CEO to do keynoting. "So it's very important," he said.

China's "importance in technology (is) not only in manufacturing, but (in) increasingly getting into innovative new areas like drones, for example, smartphones or even services like WeChat."

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