CTA’s Top Trends for 2016

on January 8, 2016

Two days before the start of CES, CTA’s Chief Economist, Shawn Dubravac shared what he saw as the top trends for 2016 that he gathered through CES’ data-driven research. Shawn often writes for Tech.pinions and we hold him and his research in high regard.

In last year’s address on this topic he stated the big trends he saw for 2015 were:

1 – Ubiquitous computing
2 – Cheap digital storage
3 – Connectivity everywhere
4 – Proliferation of Digital Devices
5 – Sensorization of Technology

If you follow the industry, you know much of what he predicted for last year was on the money. People are computing on more devices and in more places than ever before. Storage prices have come down and the ability to connect via Wifi and 3 or 4 G cellular connections has become commonplace. And, while smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs and TV drive 51% of all CE spending in the US, we are seeing all types of new digital devices such as Amazon’s Echo, connected appliances and even connected beds. We also see sensors in hundreds of products from smartphones, smartwatches, fitness bands, game controllers, vehicles, and numerous other devices that use sensors to deliver all types of apps and services.

For 2016, Shawn is predicting these three major trends:

1 – Ambient Sensing
2 – Aggregated learning
3 – Maturing and nascent ecosystems

One of the key building blocks of IoT is the sensors they use to deliver all types of information. Shawn has said of the 20,000 new products introduced at CES this year, close to 15,000 had sensors in them. He pointed out that a complete ecosystem is emerging that use sensors in one form or another to deliver info or data via devices such as lights, appliances, TVs, home control systems and things like the Nest as well as a whole host of new sensors being built into our cars, wearables, and even our luggage. He believes that, in 2016, sensors will take center stage in delivering a whole host of new applications and services and be used to extend the role of IoT in both business and consumer markets. Dubravac said the data being collected can now be used to customize solutions for each person, similar to the way Netflix predicts what movies you will like based on what you’ve rated in the past.

“We are constantly recording this information.” Dubravac said. “We’ll also see how quickly technology advances when information is shared.”

In aggregated learning, he sees predictive customization or being able to create an AI approach to getting data that can be customized for any particular need as a key trend in 2016. Behind this concept of aggregated learning is more of a collected learning model in which data of all types can be accessed to deliver a total answer to a problem in real time. One example he gave is how this could be applied to autonomous vehicles where a whole fleet of cars is collecting data and feeding things like road conditions, traffic problems etc. to a central database and the AI in the database would meter out critical data to any one of these cars based on location and relativity. He also suggested aggregated learning would be applied to voice and text accuracy. According to Shawn, in 2014, voice recognition could get one in four words wrong. But last year, by applying more levels of aggregated learning and AI, accuracy rates were off only 5%. He sees this concept of collected learning and AI gaining more traction and, in the right application, even more accurate. He expects it to be a big part of the evolution of CE this year.

As for a maturing and nascent ecosystem evolution, Shawn stated content is finally coming together with hardware as better software is being created for wearables, 3D printers, manipulating and controlling 3D environments and within smart homes. Shawn pointed out there is now a whole ecosystem of content hardware and other categories driving this ecosystem forward. “I see the potential for it as an immersive experience,” he said. “The implications for commercial technology are quite pronounced.”

He said, for instance, we’ll never book a trip on a cruise ship without seeing what it’s like to visit the pool or walk through the corridors first. He suggested VR goggles would be used to deliver this type of immersive experience.

Wearables are another category he cited as emerging from nascent growth into a real business. About 5 million are expected to sell this year. They’ll be joined by drones, which are expected to sell 2.9 million units this year. 3D printing is another new category, with 1,000 schools currently using them. “It’s another 10 to 15 years before we see the full impact of it,” Dubravac said.

Smart homes have become a $1.2 billion market and it will be another driver of the overall tech market, he said.

Shawn’s predictions of 2015 were pretty spot on and, given his track record, I suspect his view of 2016 will be pretty accurate too.

To view his slides, check out this link.