The 2018 Consumer Electronic Show is now underway in Las Vegas, Nevada. Each year CES brings forth emerging technologies to the world stage that will soon power the way we live, work, and play. Here are the buzz-worthy technology trends at CES this year:

5G

Of notable buzz is the expansion of 5G New Radio (NR) cellular data transfer and millimeter wave technology. Five years ago, the upgrade to 4G felt like a big deal, but 5G is like nothing we have seen before. Whereas 4G can transfer data at 100 Mbps, by 2020 5G will transfer data at a searing 10 Gbps.  To put this into perspective, 10 Gbps data rates will allow you to download a two hour long high definition movie to your smart device in about three seconds

Such high data transfer rates should catch the US up to other areas of the world that have newer (and therefore faster) data infrastructure like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. The importance of 5G speed isn’t in the fact that we can download more media in less time–5G is important because of the industries it will enable such as streaming 8K video for digital medicine, data streaming for self-driving cars, mega-encryption for the Internet of Things, and so forth.

AI (again)

Be prepared to hear more about AI now and for the next several CES conferences. Specific intelligence, that is intelligence trained for a very specific purpose, is now a mature technology and one that you most likely already use on a daily basis. There is a heavy focus this year on the application of AI to building better and more conversational digital assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and “Hey Google” (seems Google dropped the additional syllable in “OK Google”). 

As AI goes from specific to general (a process that will take many more years), conversational interfaces become more, well, conversational. For example, instead of “Hey Google, find Italian restaurants”, we would have, “Hey Google, I want to go out tonight. The weather is going to be bad so I don’t want to travel far from home. Just go ahead and make a reservation somewhere close–you know I love Italian food but Mexican is fine as well”.

Robotics

AI and Robotics are the peanut butter and jelly of the tech world. You can’t have efficacious robots without strong AI. AI has come a long way in the last few years and this is giving rise to a whole new family of robotics here at CES this year.  There have already been unveiling events for several humanoid robots which, like there predecessors, have been clunky and prone to errors; however, the more purpose-built robots geared towards specific industrial or practical purposes are faring much better. Among such technologies are “smart baggage” and self-driving vehicles. Check back for more detailed articles on such robotics in the future.

Virtual & Augmented Reality

Virtual reality is still limping it’s way to mass adoption with Sony announcing that just under 3 million Playstation VR units have been released as of the Holiday 2017 season. Many of the big names such as Oculus and HTC have announced lower-cost and self-contained VR units in a move to catch up with Sony who currently dominates the space. In our view, VR seems to still be a ways off in terms of mass commercial adoption; however, there are interesting applications such as therapy for post traumatic stress disorder that we believe will be useful in the near term. 

By contrast, augmented reality technology is just beginning to sprint towards mass commercial adoption. When you think of augmented reality, think about viewing the world through the window that is your smartphone rather than through special glasses (though both are happening). What we are seeing here at CES are several applications wherein ordinary smart phone owners can use the phone to overlay useful information onto the real world like where the nearest restroom is. We will be adding more articles about augmented reality in the coming weeks.

Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapy is another big topic at CES 2018. The term “digital therapeutics” encompasses all types of sensor-based diagnostics that enable virtual medicine. At Polyrific, we view emerging technologies in digital therapeutics and virtual medicine as essential for the well-being of US citizens in our changing healthcare landscape. We will be publishing articles on digital therapy in the future, but essentially this topic involves the gathering of personal health data from a variety of sensors in our smart devices and checking that information against oceans of data to indicate trends and even perhaps make a diagnosis. Additionally, with your permission digital therapy enables doctors from across the world to review your medical history and deliver a consultation which, depending on your healthcare situation, might be critical to your well being.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of things is nothing new to CES and is prevalent once again this year as it continues to expand and serve as the world’s digital nervous system. Of particular focus this year are the IoT implementations that drive smart cities and energy conservation.

Various Improvements to Consumer Electronics

As you might imagine, there are many fun updates to consumer technology being announced at CES 2018. We won’t go too deep into these areas but a few highlights include 8k video, thinner, lighter, and more powerful laptops, hand-held mini-camcorders with built-in stabilization gimbals, and new ways to enjoy sports in virtual reality.

So these are the primary trends driving CES 2018! Stay tuned throughout the week and follow @Polyrific on twitter for more CES coverage.

CES 2018 is now over. The parties have ended, the eye-popping demos have ceased, and the amazing booths (if you can even call them booths) have been taken down. As usual, there were some amazing gadgets (HyperVSN by Kino Mo especially), but overall we are left with five major trends that defined CES 2018 and, by extension, our new year in tech. Here is a run-down from Polyrific’s perspective:

5G

As we have previously written, 5G New Radio (NR) cellular data transfer and millimeter wave technology was a much buzzed-about technology and the important trend towards an infrastructure that can be able to quench our growing thirst for a connected world. Broadly, “5G” describes the next generation of post-4G mobile networks. It will be always-on and have almost imperceptible latency.

5G is like nothing we have seen before. Whereas 4G can transfer data at 100 Mbps, by 2020 5G will transfer data at a searing 10 Gbps. Some experts even speculate that 20 Gbps are possible. To put this into perspective, 20 Gbps data rates will allow you to download a two-hour-long high-definition movie to your smart device in just over one second

The importance of 5G speed isn’t in the fact that we can download more media in less time–5G is important because of the industries it will enable such as streaming 8K video for digital medicine, data streaming for self-driving cars, mega-encryption for the Internet of Things, and smart cities.

Smart Cities

What is a Smart City? Definition from WhatIs.com.
Smart Cities were a major theme at CES 2018 and served as a superset of constituent technologies such as AI, self-driving vehicles, and the Internet of Things. Around the world, populations are booming and cities are scheduled to represent 60% of the worldwide population by 2030. In order to operate efficiently and cost-effectively, cities will have to implement smart infrastructures that help to better manage traffic, reduce accidents, improve waste management, analyze terabytes of video for a variety of public concerns, aid in water sanitation and wastewater management, and provide thorough public safety services for our changing threat landscape.

Augmented Reality

Virtual and Augmented Reality were everywhere at CES 2018 and while the VR side of things provides a very immersive and interesting entertainment experience, we haven’t been as convinced about AR (augmented reality) until now. Most of the firms pitching AR technologies at CES had some sort of goggles or glass that the user needs to wear which we think should be reserved for very special use cases. What piqued our interest, however, were the growing number of companies creating useful AR apps that can be used in a familiar handheld way by anyone who owns a smartphone.  A very simple use case for this technology is waypoint finding in shopping malls, casinos, amusement parks, museums, and airports. 

Virtual Assistants

Although virtual assistants have been making waves for a few years now, the intensity was ratcheted up even more during CES 2018. Siri, Cortana, Bixby were a bit scarce at the show–perhaps they were hiding in the shadows of Alexa and “Hey Google” (notice a syllable missing from the previous “OK Google”) which are fast becoming the undisputed titans of the space. It’s easy to understand why this is: Where as Siri, Cortana, and Bixby are confined to their respective devices, Amazon and Google have worked hard to open their VA platform so that it can be used across multiple devices to span the life and clock of its user base. Expect to see a common virtual assistant experience that knows your individual context and follows you from home, into your car, to the office, and back home again very soon. Alexa and Hey Google enabled devices were everywhere at CES. 

Virtual Medicine

Virtual Medicine - BW Primary Care

With healthcare becoming more complicated and less affordable (at least in the US) than ever, we see the new wave of digital medicine as a major force in the healthcare market. Enabled by other emerging technologies such as 5G, 8K video resolution, and IoT, patients will soon be able to consult with affordable health care providers directly from their homes for the most common non-emergency situations such as flu symptoms and sinus infections.  We look forward to watching this technology and hoping for a positive impact on our society.

As we see it, these are the five trends that mattered at CES 2018 and are worth keeping a close eye on as we progress throughout the year. Sure, there are other notable technologies such as self-driving cars, but we think those already get enough air time even though they aren’t quite ready for prime time. 

Feel free to contact us if you need any help in understanding or developing software for use in these areas.

Impresarios of hip hop have long spawned businesses that capitalize on their personal brand. Jay-Z publishes music under his Roc Nation brand, Sean “Brother Love” Combs peddles vodka under the Cîroc label, Lil Wayne joins the fun with Bogey Cigars, his Cigar company.

So it isn’t too surprising that will.i.am created a tech company called i.am+ which began as a purveyor of wearable tech. What is surprising is the fact that he is now leading the company into the enterprise B2B space with Omega for Enterprise, a virtual assistant for the office:

So will Omega carry the same moxy in the office as Alexa, Siri, and OK Google do in the home? It’s too early to tell really. Hip hop and enterprise IT seem to be strange bedfellows but who knows–maybe Omega will get it started in the office, finally.

Machine learning is a system of algorithms aimed at detecting patterns in big data and then learning from those patterns without being explicitly programmed by a human operator. These algorithms take a probabilistic, rather than a deterministic, approach to accomplishing goals. Let’s take a quick look at what that means by way of example:

Deterministic Approach

A human programs software in no uncertain terms to remind him to bring his umbrella to work if the chance of precipitation in his area is greater than 40%:

//Get the weather forecast
var chanceOfRain = myWeatherForecast().precipitationChance;

//Send the message
if(chanceOfRain > 40%){
    sendEmail("Bring your umbrella to work!");
}

This approach is deterministic because the outcome is predetermined by the author of the code in no uncertain terms.

Probabilistic (Machine Learning) Approach

An algorithm crawls big datasets such as tweets about the weather, weather news, forecasts, umbrella sales, and supervised feedback (we’ll get to that later) such as, “did you bring an umbrella to work today?”: