CES 2016 preview: top consumer tech trends 

Steve Plunkett

Steve Plunkett

Ericsson’s chief technology officer, broadcast and media services, Steve Plunkett, looks at this year’s top trends for CES.

As the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens to an estimated 170,000 attendees in Las Vegas this week, it provides an insight into the consumer tech trends we can expect for 2016 and beyond. Here are the likely topics that we can expect to see and hear a lot more of in the year ahead.

Virtual Reality

This year looks set to see VR really transition from ‘virtual’ to ‘reality’ with next generation VR headsets and supporting tech scheduled for release in the first half of 2016. The leading contenders such as Oculus (Facebook), Sony and Samsung are all due to ship commercial products soon and we can expect a lot of other entrants to appear at CES. Like TV, VR is nothing without the content and we can expect to see a number of new image/video capture solutions being launched that will cater for this area. It will be exciting to see what the content creatives can come up with once they get their hands on these tools.


UHD TVs are of course no stranger to CES, having featured prominently for the past few years. But a lot of industry work has been underway to develop and agree upon the extensions to 4K that complete the picture. High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) implementations will be on show with all the major CE vendors and the UHD Alliance will be announcing their new specifications at the show.

Smart homes

Another regular at CES, smart home technology is an increasingly large set of solutions looking for problems to solve. The proverbial connected toaster may not have set the world alight just yet (just possibly your toast), but the introduction of cloud controlled wireless intelligence into many of our home appliances and heating/lighting systems is inevitable. Mark Zuckerberg has just announced his annual personal project for 2016 is to code up an AI system similar to Ironman’s AI butler (J.A.R.V.I.S) and I have already introduced chaos and confusion into my own house (much to the dismay of my family) with similar home grown gizmos. As William Gibson once said: “The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”. Smart homes are a case in point; just be careful what you wish for.

Smart Cars

One of the more significant new categories at CES in recent years has been smart car developments (smart as in intelligent/connected/electric/autonomous rather than those little two seaters). The traditional auto manufacturers are rushing to make advances in this area, typically combining hi-tech and electric propulsion, alongside the newer entrants such as Tesla and of course Google, Apple and a host of other IT companies. The combination of high speed connectivity, location technology, radar, sensors, computer vision, electric power and a lot of software innovation is set to turn the humble car into one of the most advanced devices in our lives. It’s shaping up to be an industry transforming disruption and one to watch for 2016.


What consumer tech event would be complete these days without the buzzing sound of drones? No doubt CES will have plenty of them. The focus of late has been on the development of drones as flying video recorders rather than mere aircraft so it will be interesting to see what some of the leading vendors such as GoPro have to say on this topic.


2015 saw the launch of the Apple Watch and a host of other smart watches from many tech companies. The traditional watch makers are now getting into the game too so expect to see announcements on that front. Of course wearables are not simply about clever time pieces; many other health and fitness appendages fall into this category so it will be interesting to see the next steps towards our evolution to cyborgs during the year ahead.


There is a new –ables in town, including the so called hoverboards that are being outlawed or setting on fire in many countries. The era of personal transportation devices is being rebooted and everything from scooters, skateboards, bicycles and unicycles are getting electric power installed. There will be plenty on show at CES and probably a few coming to a high street near you too.


Finally, there are of course the robots. They have already overtaken many industrial manufacturing tasks but have still to make the promised impact of making our tea and cleaning the house. This year there are a few interesting examples to watch out for including Buddy and Jibo – check them out.

No doubt there will be a few other surprises at CES and in the year ahead for consumer tech, as the future tries to get itself more evenly distributed.

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