Computing evolution, 'sensorization' usher in new digital era

The changing face of computing with new features such as gesture and voice, and the inclusion of sensors in Web-connected devices are some key trends highlighted in CES 2013.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

LAS VEGAS--The way people perceive consumer electronics and computing will change inevitably, according to some of the industry trends highlighted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research at CEA, said in a briefing Sunday that there are overarching industry trends that will likely re-shape how consumers view their tech gadgets in the year ahead. These trends include how the face of computing is changing, the "age of algorithm", and the blurring of lines between primary and secondary screens for consumers, he highlighted. The executive was speaking at a pre-show briefing before Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 commences on Tuesday.

Elaborating, DuBravac said innovation in terms of how laptops are designed have not changed much since the clamshell design was introduced decades ago. But this is changing as more PC makers are experimenting with different features and form factors, such as removing the optical disk, replacing hard-disk drives (HDDs) with solid-state drives (SSDs), and including touchscreen functions.

As for form factors, Samsung is one manufacturer the executive highlighted that is pushing the boundaries with its bendable screen innovation. Samsung Display, the subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, will be showcasing its 5.5-inch flexible screen for smartphones, as well as a TV-size 55-inch screen, according to ZDNet Asia's sister site, CNET.

Gesture- and voice-based functionalities are also another area of innovation for manufacturers, he added. Lenovo, for one, showcased its 27-inch IdeaCentre Horizon 27 tablet-cum-surface-computing device at the pre-show exhibition Sunday. Running on Windows 8 operating system, the tablet acts as a conventional, large-screen PC when positioned horizontally. When vertically-positioned, it becomes a table-top computer with its Aura user interface providing multi-user computing capabilities, according to a company spokesperson.

He added the device will be launched end-March, and will be shipped to China, the United States, and western Europe then.

In table-top mode, the IdeaCentre Horizon 27 turns into a rather compelling games platform for family and friends. Credit: Kevin Kwang


"Sensorization" of connected devices
DuBravac also pointed to how the cost of sensors has dropped significantly in recent times, and this allowed manufacturers to "waste" such resources by installing more than one sensor in electronic devices to enhance their capabilities.

Apple, for example, included another microphone at the back of its iPhone 5 device in order to minimize ambient noises during calls, he added.

The embedded sensors can collect information from the device and store in on cloud computing services too, and this opens up opportunities for manufacturers and service providers to collaborate and offer more seamless products. In the near future, for instance, various service providers in the healthcare industry can pool together their digital data on people's high blood pressure and overlay it over their smartphone calendars, the executive explained.

"Data is the new currency [in today's IT scene], DuBravac said.

Bigger is better for TVs
The executive pointed out that screens with higher pixel density will become more of a norm and migrate to larger screen displays beyond tablets and smartphones. Ultra HD (high-definition) television sets look set to be the primary focus for many TV makers, and this is seen by the number of exhibitors at this year's CES to tout their Ultra HD TVs.

Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at CEA, added in another briefing Sunday that more people are showing an interest in buying bigger-sized TV sets with higher definitions. Citing an internal research, he said 72 percent of people polled were acquiring TVs with screen size of over 40 inches in 2012.

By contrast, 48 percent indicated they had bought TVs that had smaller than 40 inches that same year, Koenig said.

To corroborate the researchers' findings, TV manufacturer LG was one which showcased its 84-inch TV replete with 4K and 3D display technology--the LG 84LM9600--at this year's CES. It's named 4K because the display resolution is four times the number of pixels offered by 1080p TVs.

Media participants get up close and personal with LG's rather imposing 84-inch monster of a TV during CES Unveiled. Credit: Kevin Kwang


 Kevin Kwang of ZDNet Asia reported from the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas, United States.

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