It's a strange way to start the New Year, but in the first week of January the world's tech industry gathers together in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronic Show. Now in its 50th year (and my second), the show is a chance for the great and the good to demonstrate their latest innovations to a willing audience of over 175,000 visitors. I use the term 'innovations' in its broadest sense, as while many market defining products and trends first emerge at CES, the show is also littered with novelties that will never see the light of day - connected hairbrush anyone?
For me, the defining trend this year that will genuinely resonate with people in the 'real world' and convince them to part with their hard earned money, was voice activation. Amazon's Alexa was the star of the show and integrated within a whole host of different devices across sectors. Voice activation will undoubtedly revolutionise how consumers interact and use technology both in and outside the home. Seeing Alexa integrated into TVs that are shortly to go on sale in the US was particularly interesting to me. In a world where we watch content via live TV, catch up, on demand and OTT services, finding what you want to watch has never been harder, but voice activation has the power to change that with a simple command.
Talking of the big US players, it was encouraging to hear that manufacturers and service providers with designs on the UK market realise just how important simple access to live TV still is to British viewers, as well as the OTT services that they are so keen to offer. Seeing as over 80% of TV consumed in this country is still live, for any global player wanting to crack the UK, access to live TV must be front and centre of the viewer's overall TV experience.
Elsewhere, battle lines were being drawn for taking picture quality to even higher levels across manufacturer's new ranges of TVs. OLED, QLED, HDR, HLG TVs will be hitting stores soon, giving consumers a whole new host of acronyms to learn and technology to get their heads around. But as manufacturers strive to differentiate their products, this competition is offering viewers an even better viewing experience, and that ultimately can only be a good thing.
So what lasting impact will CES 2017 have on consumers? Well, apart from precisely coiffured hair, they can look forward to even better picture quality on their TVs and the prospect of telling their many connected devices what they want from them. It remains to be seen whether these devices are up to the task....