CES 2019: Advances in AI, Connectivity, and Memory Will Power New Products

What to expect from Las Vegas next week

3 min read
CES logo from 2018
Photo: John D. Ivanko/Alamy

Next week, Las Vegas is hosting the massive annual CES trade show. It will be a showcase for innovative technology that will soon impact our lives in many ways, including transportation, health services, and entertainment.  In addition, the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE) at the end of the show will give a view of the future of consumer electronics looking out over the next 5 to 10 years. Let’s look at some things that we expect to see at CES as well as at the ICCE conference.

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are ubiquitous in new cars. ADAS uses sensors, memory, processing, and networking to detect road conditions and provide feedback to drivers—and in some cases to drive the vehicle off the road if there are unsafe conditions. As in the last few years, the 2019 CES will have a heavy automotive company presence, showing ADAS advancements as well as concept cars incorporating even more ambitious technologies. One of those technologies will, of course, be autonomous vehicles. 

Real-world fleets of autonomous vehicles are now ready for commercial deployment and many auto companies already provide some level of autonomous vehicle technology in their latest models. It is likely that on the show floor and in conference presentations we will see new uses for these AI-driven vehicles. We’ll also see how possible problems are being tackled before the technology moves more into the consumer space

Autonomous vehicles are of course highly dependent upon the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a general term that includes algorithms such as machine learning and especially for the future, deep neural network learning. Besides powering ADAS and autonomous vehicles, AI is also a key enabler of voice recognition technologies, smart cities, and the Internet of Things (IoT). AI alongside the development of greater universal connectivity will enable new services that can benefit consumers in many ways. 

Much of the work presented for improving connectivity will be focused on 5G. The major telecommunication companies will be talking about their planned rollouts of 5G or 5G-like communication networks (since 5G hasn’t actually been established as a standard yet).

AI, IoT and new memory, communication and processing technology will lead to improved personal medical devices.  Some smart wearables provide ECG capabilities and I am looking forward to seeing amazing advancements at CES and the ICCE about where smart wearables and implantable medical devices will be going in the future. In addition, home health care, particularly for seniors, is undergoing important changes. We are not too far from having technologies that mimic the Star Trek medical tricorder and “senior assistance” robots in practical use.

The growth in mobile and personal devices, and their need for energy-efficient electronics, will lead to new ways to store information for immediate processing as well as long-term storage. The CES show will include many companies offering storage and memory products including those using emerging memories, such as phase change memory (PCM), magnetic random access memory (MRAM) or resistive random access memory. With the end of Moore’s-law computer-lithography scaling, there is also a move to more specialized processing capability, tied to particular applications. These special-purpose processors are often called accelerators. 

These products can be used to do interesting things, such as moving processing closer to storage, as in the Samsung SmartSSD that includes a Xilinx FPGA with an ARM core. This is aimed toward applications like databases, freeing general-purpose processors from additional overhead, and allowing faster processing of data. In the wings are so-called in-memory computing technologies, perhaps using the emerging memories I discussed earlier both as memory and as neuromorphic computing elements.  The future will be driven by these developments in speeding up processing and saving energy.

A very interesting area to visit at the CES is the lower floor of the Sands Exhibition Center. That is the area where many startup companies, including many companies from outside the United States, will be displaying their technology and products. It is one of my personal favorite areas to visit at the CES, because you often run into surprises and sometimes companies and technologies that are on the verge of taking off.

Whether you can attend or not, CES and the ICCE showcase technology that will change your world. If you live in the Santa Clara Valley area in California, you might want to come to the annual CES download that will be held in late January 2019.

Tom Coughlin is the 2018 President-Elect of IEEE-USA and is a member of the 2019 ICCE executive committee.

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