The shape of things to come

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With the great and the good of the CE world having converged on CES at Las Vegas, what was announced that would or could enhance our lives?

Perhaps the biggest indicator of how we will be encouraged to live sooner rather than later was Samsung, which pledged that all its devices will be Internet of Things-compliant in five years’ time – in other words, products in many rooms of your home that will be controlled from one human interface.

With the UK officially building the smallest new-build homes in Europe, a gargantuan TV may not be on most wish lists, but there were plenty on show. Take LG’s OLED range, with sizes between 55in and 77in with both flat and curved designs. Also revealed was its 77in flexible curved flagship model, which can automatically adjust the curve of the screen to suit any viewing angle, perhaps creating space to let you stand in the room. Seriously though, brands like Samsung, LG and Sharp have created amazing TVs with depth, speed and smart functionality that enable us as consumers to enjoy TV the way we want to – not how broadcasters would like.

Samsung also revealed a number of SUHD TVs, representing its range of Quantum Dot LED TVs. QD technology delivers “the highest colour purity and light efficiency available today”. Benefits include near 100 per cent compliance with DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) colour range requirements, with very good quality images, similar to OLED. All the TVs shown come with 4K as standard, 48in being the smallest size.

2014 was only the start for the wearables market. Brands tested the water last year to gain valuable insight into what consumers want, how it should look and how we use it and have now created some amazing second-gen products, such as Garmin’s Fenix 3, Fitbit Surge and Sony Smartwatch 3 Steel.

The connected home in 2015 is going to be big. Nest and Hive have developed propositions that make the concept of the connected home more real to many homeowners. We are on an upward trajectory that will see the CE landscape change in retail, at home and in functionality.

Nest made waves at CES when it revealed its partnership with 15 brands under the ‘works with Nest’ moniker. Further integration of smart-home systems and Apple’s HomeKit integrated connected-home devices were revealed, such as the iDevices smart plug system that can control multiple devices, via Siri, by plugging existing appliances into the mains. There are definitely signs of competition heating up between Apple and Google for smart-home dominance.

Wearables are no longer for the early adopters or niche retailers, it’s a category that will continue to grow and by default we will all be wearing a piece a tech that moulds seamlessly into our lives.

At CES 2014, the Oculus Rift made its debut and stimulated the sector’s interest in VR/wearables. Since then, Samsung, Sony and Google have all made leaps in producing their own VR experiences, which will come to market in 2015. If wearables were last year’s breakout category, will 2015 be remembered at CES as the year Virtual Reality leapt to prominence?

Back to TV and how we stream and consume what we watch when we want and in UHD, which perhaps will be more mainstream on digital platforms. Whether subscription services or free-to-air, the significant change in CE is how we consume our entertainment on a quad-play platform.

Samsung, LG, Sony, Sharp, and Panasonic have announced a partnership with Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox to form the UHD Alliance – a group tasked with setting the standards for UHD content, outlining plans to increase availability of 4K content in coming months, perhaps a good sign of more 4K content to come.

Samsung revealed more details of its improved Tizen smart TV operating system that will power all of its new smart TVs in 2015. The new OS improves on the previous iteration’s features, as well as improving connectivity with devices over wi-fi and Bluetooth. This innovation follows a trend among manufacturers for developing more user-friendly interfaces (UIs), also seen at CES with LG’s WebOS 2.0.

Guy North, managing director of Freeview, agrees: “In general, UIs are evolving and getting simpler and more user-friendly, making it easier for viewers to navigate around the different services, which is a good thing.”

Samsung announced a partnership with Sony to have PlayStation Now games streaming through selected Samsung TVs in early 2015, bringing limited gaming content to homes without PlayStation consoles.
There were scares in 2014 about cloud sharing and the privacy issues surrounding exactly where those personal photos get stored and who has access apart from you and those hackers. Fear no more, because having your own cloud and uploading to your data storage device is now possible and these are peripherals I guarantee we will all own, either as new or to replace an ageing device.

There are lots of products coming to market and some to meet the needs of the style-conscious among you – from LaCie’s 1TB in Gorilla Glass designed by Pauline Deltour, and Seagate, which has released two wi-fi-enabled portable hard drives that act as personal cloud storage devices.

Toshiba announced its simple Canvio Basics drives and sharing-friendly Canvio Connect II model – a 3TB drive that lets you access files from anywhere via the internet, but there’s no wi-fi connection, so you can’t share files independent of a PC. Samsung also announced a new SSD [sold state] portable hard drive, the T1 with very quick data-writing speeds, available in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB models, but unfortunately this does not include a cloud storage option.

Streaming is mainstream now, but for those who don’t want a subscription, there is Sling TV (not to be confused with Sling Box) that enables you to stream on multiple platforms, including mobile devices with no contract, instead using a pay-per-view model. Currently only available in the States, will a similar service soon enter the UK market?

When it comes to the brains that make our mobile devices work, Nvidia announced its new Tegra X1 ‘super chip’ for mobile devices, powerful and energy-efficient enough to bring PC-grade graphics to handheld devices, challenging Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, where we’re seeing a battle between these and Intel to dominate the smartphone chipset market.

In summary, smart-home innovations sat front and centre at CES 2015. While prominent at CES 2014, in 2015 the category was given a dedicated exhibition space – a good indicator of how far the smart home category has come in the past year.


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