CES 2020: The new IoT, or 'intelligence of things', is the major tech trend of the decade

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Consumer Technology Association vice-president of research Steve Koenig, talks about 2020 trends to watch at a news conference prior to the kick-off of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, on Jan 5, 2020. PHOTO: AP

LAS VEGAS - A new idea surrounding IoT will steer how technology will go in the new decade - instead of standing for the Internet of Things, the acronym should stand for the "intelligence of things", said Consumer Technology Association's (CTA) vice president of research Steve Koenig.

"This new IoT bears testimony to the extent that artificial intelligence (AI) is permeating every facet of our commerce and our culture.

"Now, commerce is pretty well-understood and we endorse that as we want to advance our economies around the world, but culture is really interesting to me as a researcher, because we're talking about technology's influence on human behaviour," he said.

He brought up the example of how fast food giant McDonald's is looking at bringing AI-powered voice assistants to its drive-through restaurants in the United States.

"People working in fast food - they've got a tough job. They've got to take the order, and they want to get that right, then they have to handle the transaction, and they better get that right so that they don't shortchange anybody, and then they've got to organise the order, you know, don't forget the ketchup... so by adding a little bit of intelligence for that first initial interaction of taking the order, frees the human worker to really focus on handling that money transaction and providing better service."

Mr Koenig was speaking to the press at a media preview event before CES 2020, the latest edition of the biggest tech show in the world, officially opens its doors on Tuesday (Jan 7).

Indeed, going by what was showcased at CES Unveiled last Sunday (Jan 5) night - a preview event of just some of the technology that will be seen at CES later in the week - AI continues to make its mark in the consumer tech world as it inches its way into almost every product imaginable.

Japanese company Groove X showed off its Lovot companionship robots, which make use of AI via facial and speech recognition technology to identify its owners to ask for cuddles and stay by their side. The cute, pint-sized robots received many coos from onlookers as they waddled their way around the hall on their own.

French beauty giant L'Oreal debuted the Perso, an AI-powered system that creates on-demand and personalised formulas for skincare, and custom shades for foundation and lipstick. Users can use a paired app to discover the perfect lip colour to match their outfits, for example, and have the exact shade mixed at home on the spot.

Powering this new idea of the intelligence of things on a grander scale, of course, is 5G technology, added Mr Koenig.

Even though 5G is the fifth wireless generation, he said, it is the first that will eventually be led by enterprise applications, whether it be for smart mobility or powering health operations remotely, among numerous others.

He discussed, for example, how 5G can be used to help farmers better plan crop yields via drone fleets with sensors that can fly over massive plantations to look for plant disease or mark out the areas that need more water. "This is truly a case of enabling digital tools to solve a very real-world problem," he said.

5G is said to be at least 10 times faster than 4G, and can support 100 times more connected devices.

From a consumer's standpoint, 5G matters via the launch of 5G mobile devices.

CTA's director of research Lesley Rohrbaugh said at the same media event that over 50 networks worldwide will be deploying 5G capability this year, which will only fuel the demand for 5G handsets globally.

She said: "According to our CTA forecast... 2020 is an inaugural year for 5G-enabled handsets, and by 2022, we're expecting the market to essentially flip. So two-thirds of the market will switch from a 4G focus to a 5G focus for handsets."

In a report launched on the same day, CTA predicts that over 20 million 5G handsets will be sold in the United States alone this year, which is 10 times of last year's figure.

CES 2020, owned and produced by CTA, officially runs from Jan 7 to 10 in Las Vegas and is expected to draw more than 170,000 attendees. Even though it is primarily seen as a tech products show, the technology behind these products often signal the biggest tech trends of the year.

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