Trends in Consumer Electronics

Trends in Consumer Electronic

By Francis J. Gorman

Devices with Open Standards.

A challenge for consumers of electronic products is that the company that made or sold the product wants to control all aspects of the experience. While this is understandable from the maker/seller side, it can be a frustration for the consumer. With more software developers and device manufacturers using open standards, consumers could use devices across more than one platform.

Consumer electronics manufacturers are now showing that they realize electronic devices, especially for home-based systems, need to have integrated connectedness; without it, accessing and operating so many different devices becomes frustrating and overwhelming. A new protocol (IPv6) will provide vastly more Internet addresses to support this anticipated growth. At CES 2015 Samsung promoted an “Internet of Things” concept that would connect devices from competitors and different developers with open technology standards. Not surprisingly, Apple has a connectedness concept called “HomeKit” designed to attract “do it yourself” home owners with compliant products and AC outlets that will enable managing your home from an “iDevices Connected” app.

Integrated Circuits That Sense and Perceive.

New technology is producing integrated circuits that do so much more than process data. Prime examples are logging on to websites with automatic facial recognition because your face is in front of the computer and drones that avoid collisions because they sense the presence of other objects (not using GPS). The origin of this trend is sensor technology, but most consumer products with sensors were limited to single-purpose devices for health and fitness. Now it appears that sensor technology is being incorporated into circuits that not only process data, but also perceive motions and images.

Drones for Aerial Photography and Package Delivery.

Small and mini-drones are prominent at CES 2015. Aerial photography is an obvious application for small drones — for example, a roofing repair contractor could photograph the roof before quoting on the repair job. The militarily uses drone for aerial reconnaissance. Amazon has suggested making package deliveries with drones. At CES 2015, Qualcomm demonstrated an early development of robotics and flying drones for picking up and delivering a package to your doorstep.

Wearables.

Electronic devices that are worn to detect heart rate, running distance or speed, and similar information have been trending for several years. Electronic chips are now so small that one can envision circuits embedded in jackets, scarfs, hats, and other clothing. With sensing and perception capabilities so proximate, voice and hand motions could activate and control a wide range of actions.

Vehicle Intelligence.

Autonomous driving sounds scary — have these developers seen the Washington beltway or I-95 near Baltimore at 7:45AM! Besides the driving-the-road aspect of vehicle intelligence, other exciting in-vehicle technologies include driver assessments and predictive diagnostics – so good, in fact, security and privacy concerns are being raised.

New Emphasis on Security.

The hack of Sony Entertainment in November 2014 was a turning point for cybersecurity. Better security in consumer devices has been a recognized need for several years, and the Sony hack has kicked this effort into high gear. See the Cyberattacks blog post here on gandwlaw.com.

Better security in consumer devices will be expensive and could slow down operation speed. The consumer electronic industry has a strong incentives to improve security. Consumers are also employees and customers who use consumer electronic devices to interact and connect with large and very sophisticated business and governmental IT systems. Security of consumer electronic devices and large IT systems are each protected by the strong security of the other.

Streaming TV with Full Program Lineups, but without Cable.

New streaming services are coming online. HBO and Sling Media will enter the consumer streaming TV market. Consumers wanting to be free of the high monthly fees of the cable monopolies are leaving, and many more would have deserted cable for online streaming services if cable did not have ESPN.

What consumers want, however – a full lineup of programing — is not being provided by the different streaming services. Hulu, Roku, Netflix, etc. offer different lines up of TV shows and movies, and in that sense each is incomplete. Before streaming, the consumer decision was what to watch on TV; now with streaming, the first decision what service to choose to receive the shows and movies you like to watch. Consolidation of streaming providers could bring more complete program line ups, but it could also bring cable-like prices.

The Honeymoon with Tablets Is Over.

Tablet sales rose in 2014, but at a slower rate. Consumers are not upgrading or replacing tablets. Tablets are losing to bigger smart phones and the resilience of the laptops, more flexible and still the work horses in many businesses and professions. And you do not want to be behind someone taking a picture with a tablet. The honeymoon is over.