Upcoming 2019 Trade Show Season in the USA
It's December, and we are about to start the trade show season. We start with CES (previously known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a few weeks (Figure 1). Following CES, there will be the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim, California; the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, which will be more electronics than tires; then IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego, California; MD&M (Medical Design & Manufacturing) in Anaheim; and that only takes us about six weeks into the new year. Spring brings E3 (The Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles, California, and then AWE (Augmented World Expo) in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Figure 1: CES logo.
There will also be other events that we may or may not cover since some are within a few hundred miles of each other. I hope to cover most of them, but for now, we will focus on CES—the first, largest, and most influential and predictive of global electronics trends of this group of trade shows. So, let’s get started with a look back at my predictions made a year ago, and a preview of what we might see at CES 2019 along with some new projections.
Predictions: Past and Future
1. Upcoming TV and display technology will obsolete the best displays of 2016, so wait a few months before buying a new TV or monitor.
This has absolutely come true. We how have large HDR 4K 144-Hz TVs at half the price of the then state of the art—but which are now low-end—1080P units from just a few years ago. When you add in all the new smart TV capabilities, the advice to wait before buying seems like it was solid.
As a prediction for 2019, 4K is becoming more mainstream, so there will be more 4K content available. I expect higher quality with more OLED HDR screens in larger formats, but I do not see a big move to even higher resolutions such as 5–8K. If you are in the market for a new TV, there’s no need to wait because nothing revolutionary is coming unless you want more smart features such as voice command built in. Are you really interested in a transparent TV? There may be an attempt by the major brands to start this new trend, but remember how just a few years ago, 3D TV was going to take over everything.
2. You will have a new friend at home in the form of a robot within the next few years.
Figure 2: Robot from CES 2016.
This has started to come true. Robot vacuums have been available for years, but now they are getting an infusion of AI, and the new ones even empty themselves (Figure 2). Of course, there are many toy-like robots, but if you are serious, the International Research Robot is a two-foot tall humanoid that responds to over 500 voice commands. It is used for research and in the education arena. It is extremely articulate, and its limbs are so precise that the robot can pick up and hold objects with its hands and walk across multiple floor surfaces. What a deal for only $9,000. Then, there is the celebrity robot avatar, which is the adult-sized robotic avatar that has appeared in movies and television programs (Figure 3). This unit is very capable, and seems to become a friend and get to know you; it only costs $345,000. Stay tuned regarding robotics; advances are coming at light speed.
My prediction for 2019 is robots will be used both as manufacturing automation, and will become part of everyday life with very human-looking units available for specific purposes already available. Add in machine learning and AI, and I expect to see some amazing prototypes not only regarding how they look but also seeing what they can do at this year’s show.
3. All vestiges of privacy—even in your home—may soon go away, but the biggest surprise is that many people realize this and do not care.
Again, this has now been proven true, but far more intrusion is still possible. Intelligent assistants such as Alexa, Google, and Cortana will play an increasing role in our lives and a large role in reducing our privacy. This coming true is no surprise. Smart home devices and social media platforms have been shown to spy on you, and bring the “Big Brother” culture into the mainstream. Just think what is possibly happening if you get a new TV with voice command or devices used for video calls, and you start getting targeted advertising specifically on products you were discussing privately at home. When that happens, consider other topics discussed or activities both visual and sound in your home that just may be in some database.
4. 3D printing will take on an ever-increasing role in all types of manufacturing well beyond what was expected just a year ago; health maintenance, medical diagnoses, and treatment advances will make amazing progress; and 3D printing of prosthetics will become common.
See my recent column “3D Printing and Medical Electronics: A Disruptive Beneficial Technology” in the November 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine. No doubt this is true. 3D printing may be one of the most disruptive manufacturing technologies ever. 3D printing PCBs is now becoming an established alternative process with the finished boards having advantages over the last half-century of plate or print-and-etch processes.
5. VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), as well as mixed reality, will be in wide use for many everyday applications, and it will happen fast.
Again, this is true. We have come a long way from Google Glass to the use of XR (extended reality, previously called VR and AR) for far more than games and entertainment. If this is a topic that interests you, read our coverage of AWE 2018 (see Further Reading at the end of this article). It will not be long before it will be easy for you to do your own repairs or upgrades on devices in your home or business, not by calling a technician but by putting on your XR headset and having an on-call technician talk you through the process while observing what you do and showing you how to do it. Also, sitting around a virtual table with a gathering of holographic images of associates or friends is about to become commonplace within the next two years. Very powerful GPUs and the inclusion of ray tracing and 5G connections will make this almost easy to do.
6. There will be some setbacks in the march to autonomous automotive use, but it will happen soon.
This prediction will happen, but the march to widespread autonomous transportation seems to have slowed; however, keep that in context (Figure 4). It has slowed from hypersonic speed to just plain jet speed. There have been a few accidents, and machine-learning capabilities and the ability to communicate with other autonomous vehicles regarding road and traffic conditions and hazards is not quite up to speed. Just wait an additional year or two and see what happens when 5G becomes more commonplace and gives the autonomous transportation universe the ability to communicate and adjust instantly. Advances in AI, machine learning, and 5G will totally change transportation over the next decade. This is one area that will get a lot of focus at CES, the Detroit Auto show, and the executive forum on advancing automotive electronics at IPC APEX EXPO 2019.
Figure 4: Autonomous car for the masses at CES 2017.
As you can see, it did not take a genius to make these predictions, as they virtually all came true. Next year we will see how good my 2019 projections are. CES will be an indication of what will become reality in the coming year as some of what we expect—or in some cases, do not yet expect—to happen will be announced, shown, or at least indicated that it is coming. In addition to what has already been mentioned, we have the not yet fully cataloged capabilities of new ray tracing graphics cards from NVIDIA, new CPUs from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Intel, new highly capable and much lower cost drones, as well as all of the “Shark-Tank-like” announcements and showings at the Showstoppers event at CES, and so much more.
CES Details and Announcements
To set the stage, one must realize that CES is one of the largest events of its kind globally, and it seems to grow exponentially every year (Figures 5 and 6). There will be over 4,400 exhibiting companies as well as many additional non-official exhibitors. By non-official, I mean those that rent hotel rooms or suites and are not officially part of the show, but come to Las Vegas that week to show their wares anyway.
Figure 5: CES 2014 exhibition.
Figure 6: CES 2015 exhibition.
Of the over 4,400 official exhibitors, CES states that the Eureka Park marketplace, which is for startups, will have more than 1,000 exhibitors this year. Overall, the exhibit space at the official CES halls, pavilions, and suites is expected to be over 2,700,000 square feet spread over multiple exhibition buildings, locations, and hotels across the city (Figures 7 and 8). The number of attendees is expected to approach 200,000 with over 60,000 from outside the U.S. Any tech company who is anybody will be there unless they have an ego that is beyond stupidity or just do not have the resources. I will be one of over 4,200 media in attendance with more than half coming from outside the U.S.
Figure 8: Navigating CES table.
No one can cover this event single-handedly, so Racheal Feinberg will join me again this year as our photographer, along with Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007’s managing editor for SMT007 and PCB007, who will attend CES for the first time, which significantly expands our coverage. We will focus on disruptive technologies and devices that will have an impact on electronics design, fabrication, and assembly. As usual, we will see devices and technology that are just plain amazing and interesting.
Figure 9: Royole’s FlexPai phone.
The weeks before CES are always packed with rumors of what will be launched, announced, shown, or promised, and this year is no exception. Already, and without breaking any embargos, we are hearing about foldable portable computers. These include a smartphone, but it seems that the goal is to provide a true fully portable and functional computer into a foldable, rollable, expandable, and pocketable device with cellphone capabilities being just a small part of its features (Figures 9 and 10).
One rumor that is fueling the anticipation of more advanced devices is talk of a possible partnership between Samsung and Microsoft. These rumors have persisted for the last few years, but appear to be gaining credibility with units such as the Surface Phone or the Centaurus being mentioned by name, and with preliminary pictures available (Figure 11). These may not be announced formally at CES, but I would expect there will be some kind of announcement this year. There are also others such as the ZTE Axon (Figure 12) and are more—way too many for some of them to be more than a leaked rumor, but we will see.
Figure 11: Microsoft’s Centaurus device.
Further, LG has announced that it plans to show off its first foldable phone during the upcoming CES (Figure 13). LG describes a flexible display that wraps around the frame entirely. This means that when folded, the device can be used just like a traditional smartphone curved display. It is reported that the rear folded portion of the display when not being used is automatically turned off in this position. Also, in preparation for the big reveal, LG has filed trademarks for some names that could be associated with a folding device (Figure 13). Moreover, Samsung has teased its upcoming Galaxy F smartphone. Could this be part of the rumored possible partnership with Microsoft?
Figure 12: ZTE Axon.
Lastly, LG and other companies such as Huawei should reveal their new contenders early in 2019, possibly at CES. One thing I would recommend is that if you are soon to be in the market for a new advanced portable device (formally called a smartphone), I would wait. Either there will be something new and amazing you will want, or the existing smartphone you have been considering will greatly drop in price.
Figure 13: LG foldable phone with a flexible display.
The official announcements do not start until January 6, which triggers almost two days of a press frenzy before the official opening of the show. We can expect the unconfirmed buzz to grow louder from now until then. The first two days are usually loaded with announcements, so stay tuned. We expect to report on as much as we can before the doors open. Welcome to 2019, and what promises to be an exciting time.
Further Reading: AWE 2018 Coverage by Dan Feinberg
- “AWE: Introducing the Augmented World Expo.” June 7, 2018.
- “The Augmented World Expo: “Go XR or Become Extinct.” June 13, 2018.
- “Seeing Clearly: XR Headsets and Flex’s Reference Design at AWE.” June 26, 2018.