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The Third Connected Era: From Confusion to Fusion at CES 2019



Two years ago, at CES 2017 it became clear that we were entering the Dawn of the  Third Connected Era where AI, IoT and Voice would be the key drivers building on the First Connected Era of Search and E-Commerce and the Second connected era of Smart Phones and Social Networks.

Last Year at CES 2018 we began to notice the rise of Sensing devices that anticipate your needs with AI,  Expansion of voice into all kinds of devices and the drive to Accelerate connection speeds and battery life described as a Sea of Change in The Third Connected Era.

Walking the floors of CES one can be overpowered with stimuli given 4500 exhibitors and 180,000 attendees. It is easy to become confused, disoriented and overwhelmed but if one takes a step back the big trend is the incorporation of technology into every device, the increasing use of voice as an interface and machine learning to anticipate and augment experience and performance.

The theme for CES 2019 was the Fusion of The Third Connected Era as at CES 2019 we continued to see AI, IoT and Voice proliferating and fusing with each other and into everything.

1.Fusion via Assistants

The two dominant forces at CES were Google and Amazon via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa which are the purest form of the fusion of AI, IoT and Voice. The two of them are spreading and colonizing everything from automobiles to television sets.

Amazon has sold over 100 million devices with Alexa inside and Google noted that its Assistant was “available” in over a billion devices. The two of them have over 80 percent of the share of voice enabled assistants (Amazon has half and Google a third) and you saw their logos everywhere.

Google is determined to catch up with Amazon and its exhibit was three times larger than last year including a theme park ride similar to “ A small small world” that you can experience for yourself here.

2. Fusion via Openness

Apple never comes to CES but is always looming. This year Apple was all over CES as it began to open up its Air Play and Home Kit technology which for very many years required Apple hardware or Apple chips. No longer.

Airplay 2 will be available across a plethora of devices including Samsung and LG televisions and Home Kit integration no longer requires Apple chips.

If Apple has any hope of becoming a service company of scale to offset its declining iPhone sales it has to open up.

Once upon a time iTunes was only available of Macs but what made iPods sales soar was porting over to Windows. Expect more and more inter-operability and openness from all players especially as software rather than hardware becomes increasingly the differentiating factor and consumers demand it.

3.Fusion via the Home.

Remember how for many years there was the fight among technologies to get into the living room? How quaint. The first real scaled technology into the home took place via the Kitchen which is where the voice enabled assistants first showed up before multiplying into other parts of the home particularly the bedroom and bathroom.

While Alexa and Google Assistant are embedding themselves into television sets and speakers across the home, Whirlpool and Samsung are planning to attack the kitchen while Kohler and others are staking out the bathroom and a gamut of other companies are hoping to dominate the front door and the porch with secure alarms, two way vision and devices where the post office could secure packages.

We saw Kitchen, bathroom and other operating systems. Whirlpools W Labs Connected Hub Wall Oven is a full-fledged cooking assistant and for 8000 dollars you can have a smart toilet that warms up, lights up, plays you the news and responds to Alexa voice commands. Now one can spend hours in the loo! And while you are there you may want to incorporate Care Os Health and Beauty platform which makes your bathroom mirror an intelligent friend and enabler.

4. Fusion via the Body.

 The Third Connected Era is now bringing instrumentation and augmentation to our bodies. As we move to a quantified self, we see health and fitness apps enable personal dashboards that allow us and others to monitor our health and wellness. As devices get smaller, voice enabled, and AI intelligent they become health assistants, care givers and overseers. We begin to have relationships and emotions for the voices in our head and cuter and friendly robots are being developed to provide companionship to older people.

Teslasuit launched smart clothing which is apparel with haptic feedback, motion capture, climate control and biometric feedback systems. Technology and humans fuse as we slowly become cyborgs.

Implications and Considerations

Data and Privacy: Every fused device was listening, watching, and collecting. Data is being hoovered up now from all parts of your home, your automobile, and your life. It won’t just be Facebook and Google that we will have to worry about. Today many of these technologies are way ahead of legal structures. Will we be sovereign over our own data?

Amazon and Google Dominance: In the Fusion era the companies that have the most computing power, data and widespread presence will dominate. At this CES it became clear that Amazon and Google between their significant lead in voice enabled devices, cloud strength, proliferation across devices and industries maybe the operating systems of the future in the non-Chinese world. This CES made Apple, Facebook, Samsung and many others shrink as it became clear that they were battling with some combination of reputation, pricing, technology or presence limitations in this fusion age.

Societal Impact: In the course of the last ten years 4 billion of 5.5 billion adults have come to own a smart phone. While no doubt there have been challenges, overall the empowerment these devices have brought to society and people are overwhelmingly positive.

There was something not just cool but increasingly magical about what voice, AI and Iot fusion are bringing about. Increasingly like phones, these technologies will spread rapidly and change society in ways that we cannot imagine.

Technology itself is neither good or bad but how technology is used determines whether it is good or bad.

We are the cusp of some amazing times.

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