Monday, January 13, 2014

CES Days 2-4 - Drones, Wearables, and 3D Printing

`Wearables` is still not a word in the Oxford dictionary (and consequentially, marked with a red dotted line every time I type it somewhere), but it would probably be added soon. The idea of equipping humans with sensors is age-old: remember the $6M Dollar man? With miniaturization, advances in technology, and price drops, I'm guessing Steve Austin would probably retail for $199 + tax if he were made today.

Tinke Blood Sensor for iPhone
People and machines generate huge amounts of data, even when at rest. One of the figures I heard this week is 15GB of data per hour generated by a modern car. For humans, many things can be measured: pulse, blood pressure, sweat, salinity, speed, location, altitude, steps - the list goes on and on, with new measurable data added every year. We are finally at a point where, on the one hand, sensors are cheap, and on the other, data analysis methodologies have advanced enough to find useful patterns in huge amounts of data (aka 'Big Data'). These are the main reasons why we're seeing a boom of sensors integrated into watches, wrist-bands, necklaces and clothes.

Smart watch
I don't know the percentage of booths that promoted wearables at CES this year, but it seemed like
there were a good number of them. I've had enough of smart watches on the first day: they all looked bulky, and none looked like it can be worn comfortably on a daily basis, or be worn by a woman.

I did like seeing sensors integrated into shirts, allowing you to improve your athletic regimen on one end of the spectrum, and predict an impending stroke or heart attack on the other. Imagine a day in the (not too distant) future, when your shirt will signal you to take a drink of water, or call a doctor immediately.

Printed chip
Just like last year, 3D printing had a big footprint at the show. It was less interesting to see the printers in action again (I've seen them all last year). But the rapid commoditization of the printers is really exciting: the sizes are coming down, prices are dropping and the resin spools are coming down to manageable prices. Being the non-artistic person that I am, I probably won't be able to design anything to print, even if I own a printer. But the good news is that this opens new markets, where you'd be able to purchase new designs online, to print at home. Or maybe purchase a design, and have a the company print out the result and send it to you - I can already see a potential Amazon 3D Prime offering in the future (you heard it here first).

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