LAS VEGAS—CES 2016 isn't all about the Internet of things, but as time marches on, that potentially huge market becomes more and more of a target at this, the world's largest consumer electronics trade show. After all, it appears that nothing on Earth will not be connected through the Internet at some point.
Companies large and small—mostly small at this stage—are showing new and unusual devices and technologies that wouldn't have been conceived only a few years ago. Most of them revolve around personal fitness and health care, home entertainment, business efficiency, transportation and specific hobbies. But more of them this year appear to be business-focused.
Management of all these devices will be a huge sector within the sector. With more than 28 billion connected devices predicted by industry analysts to be online by the year 2021, the IoT revolution will require a massive number of connections—orders of magnitude higher than current systems use—and solutions that work together and scale to provide for the diverse requirements of that multitude of connected devices.
Here are some of highlights of CES 2016 involving the enterprise and consumer IoT.
Wireless Charging: Trend for the Next Year
Kensington, which specializes in PC and laptop peripherals, won a CES Innovation Award for its new SmartFit Wireless Charging Laptop Riser. This is a well-designed device that reduces desktop clutter by supporting a laptop above the desk, and also includes a wireless charging station on its sturdy base.
Wireless charging will become a key tool in the IoT era, analysts have said. As 2016 moves along, we will be seeing more and more devices capable of receiving wireless charges; of course, we will be seeing an increased number of wireless charging stations to provide that intake.
With all the new autonomous IoT devices (cameras, sound detectors, weather sensors and so on) coming into the market, even ultra-low-power devices will need recharging on a regular basis at some point, and wireless is an efficient way to do it. Geographies and effective location-based services for this are still under development.
Lenovo's new ThinkVision X24 Pro, a 23.8-inch 1920×1080 AH-IPS display that includes a flexible/pivoting Intel RealSense 3D camera, is among the new-gen devices that can be charged wirelessly. Likewise for Bedphones, very thin, foam-covered headphones that its maker, Eric Dubbs, says are comfortable enough to wear to bed.
Ericsson Moving Into Smart Cities IoT Solutions
Stockholm-based Ericsson on Jan. 6 announced the launch of three new IoT solutions for smart homes and connected cities. The new solutions will equip communication service providers and energy companies with services to better address this fast-growing market and make ubiquitous connectivity a reality.
At CES, Ericsson released three IoT solutions:
--Smart Metering as a Service (SMaaS): Ericsson already enables more than 42 million utility meters worldwide and will build on this leadership by launching a complete, end-to-end, automatic smart metering and data management solution. Smart Metering as a Service will be commercially available in the second quarter of 2016.
--User and IoT Data Analytics: This is a real-time analytics engine designed to provide telecom operators with deeper insights not only into user data, but IoT data within their networks, enabling them to have and benefit from a more complete picture of customer behavior and data use across their entire network. Ericsson User & IoT Data Analytics will be commercially available by the end of the second quarter.
--Diversifying Cellular for Massive IoT: Networks Software 17A for Massive IoT is designed to strengthen an enterprise infrastructure required to support huge numbers of different types of connected IoT devices, driving efficiency for varying device uses and requirements. More specifically, it supports millions of IoT devices in one cell site, with an estimated 10-plus years of battery life and a 7X cellular coverage improvement, the company claimed. Ericsson Networks Software 17A for Massive IoT will become commercially available in the fourth quarter.
IoT Standards Groups Starting to Work Together
As is virtually always the case, standards lag far, far behind innovation in just about every sector on Earth. It's no different for the IoT market.
The ZigBee Alliance is running ahead of the standards pack, it seems. The Davis, Calif.-based non-profit association of companies is busy creating open, global standards that define the IoT for use in consumer, commercial and industrial applications. On Jan. 6, ZigBee Alliance announced it is working with the Thread Group on an end-to-end solution for IP-based IoT networks.
The new solution will become part of the ZigBee Alliance's comprehensive set of product development specifications, technologies, and branding and certification programs.
The ZigBee Alliance maintains the world's first and largest widely deployed applications library for the newly developed Thread networking protocol. Thread Group is maintainer of the newly developed Thread networking protocol, which developers are flocking to in droves.
After a full year of due diligence and discovery, the two organizations have now completed their evaluations and the ZigBee Alliance has begun development of a combined solution that will streamline product development, improve interoperability and ultimately enhance the consumer's experience in the connected home across a variety of smart IoT applications, a spokeswoman said.