As a few hundred thousand members of the tech industry descend on Las Vegas this week for CES, there's plenty of buzz about what to expect. With almost 5,000 companies on the trade show floor, and 175,000 attendees, there's plenty to see and take in, but if you're curious about the big trends we're likely to hear about most, here are five things you can expect, and one thing you won't see.
1. 5G Wireless
Right now, 5G is one of those things you hear about but doesn't yet affect your day-to-day life. That's because despite the fact that there are a handful of devices, rollout of network capabilities has only just started. There's a good chance that you don't have a 5G device--yet.
In reality, the biggest impact of ultra-fast wireless technology won't be the smartphone you carry with you all the time. Industries like manufacturing, medicine, and entertainment are far more likely to be transformed when 5G becomes mainstream across the U.S. We'll likely see what that really means this week.
2. 8K Televisions
8K video is already a thing, though mostly in ultra-high-end cinema cameras. There aren't a lot of options for actually watching 8K video. Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio (among others) are all expected to introduce the latest in screen technology this week, meaning we might see some pretty cool displays.
Still, most of the content we watch on a regular basis isn't filmed in 8K--a lot of it is just now starting to shift to 4K--so there's a ways to go before most of us start buying these televisions. On the other hand, there's a good chance that the price on the 4K TV you've had your eye on will fall in the next few months as new higher-end devices become available.
3. Smart Home
While we probably won't see a major new device, we could see some interesting smart home tech this week. Primarily that means getting a look at how manufacturers are integrating connectivity into many of the devices we already use, from light bulbs to kitchen faucets (yes, really).
And, with the recent announcement that industry leaders including Google, Amazon, and Apple are partnering to create a unified smart home standard, expect to hear from each of those companies about how their smart assistants are getting even smarter. Google, for example, has a team in Las Vegas focusing on Google Assistant, and Amazon has plenty to show off Alexa and Echo devices.
A big topic at CES, as well as in the tech industry at large, is how companies are protecting your personal information as the world grows more connected. This is especially true as more and more of the devices in our homes become connected, exposing us to potential risks that we've never really considered before.
That, along with the fact that a sweeping new privacy law has gone into effect in California, means that companies are being forced to reconsider how they interact with our data, and how they use it to monetize users and consumers. There is even a panel with heavy hitters like Apple's senior director of global privacy, Jane Horvath, and Facebook's VP of public policy to talk about the topic.
5. Entertainment and Streaming
NBC is in Las Vegas to talk about its upcoming Peacock streaming platform and is giving a keynote. So is Quibi--the mobile-first streaming platform headed by former eBay and HP CEO Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film producer and former chairman of Walt Disney Studios.
While the streaming wars have been heating up for a while, it's fair to say that things are just getting started with the upcoming launch of HBO Max in March and we're likely to see more about how the battle is shaping up this week.
One Thing You Won't See
It's unlikely that we'll see any truly revolutionary technology at CES 2020. That's because no one is introducing any new gadgets this week, at least not anything you haven't seen before in some form. That never happens at CES. Instead, we see a lot of iterations on what already exists, along with major PR horsepower trying to attract enough attention to drive sales over the coming year.
If Apple ever introduces a TV or an electric car, it won't do it at CES. It doesn't even have a booth. Dell isn't introducing new laptops here--it did that last week. Samsung isn't announcing any new phones. You get the picture.