Its the first official day of CES today (Jan 6, 2015) and the circus is in full swing. It's hard to miss the big stories of the show because every major media outlet in the world is there and the tech press in particular flock there en masse (CNET is my favorite) but for those of us in the semiconductor world we have to look behind the scenes into the private meeting rooms and suites that surround the main event to understand what's really going on. Remember, at CES we are seeing consumer products that were designed last year or maybe even several years ago so the chips in them are a generation or two behind the ones being announced at this CES. If we take a look at new devices being launched and previewed in the demo suites we can take a unique peek into the silicon crystal ball and have some fun.
So working on my theory that by looking at the chips being launched today you get a glimpse into possible new end products that might appear at the 2016 event. Obviously there are some trends that run for several years so its not that hard to predict bigger TV's or more wearable devices are in the pipeline but the fun part of CES is trying to spot an inflection point or two and make some guesses on what we might see next January.
Some might say that CES has become a Bluetooth show because so many products there are utilizing this RF technology. When Bluetooth first came out (15 years ago) there was much skepticism about how much power it used and whether it would interfere with other radios. Bluetooth has overcome all this to become a de-facto standard for short range wireless comms and the developments continue here at CES 2015. Below is a chart from the Bluetooth SIG on their amazing growth.
Bluetooth SMART and tiny ultra low power devices are vital for the wearables market and Atmel have a triple play with their BTLC1000 chip announced today which is only 2.1mm x 2.1mm in size yet has a Cortex-M0 processor on board and battery life improved 30% over current devices. So here is a perfect example of my point, this device is smaller, uses less power and combines more functionality so after it samples in March it will make its way into new products that simply couldn't exist before. What kind of predictions can we make from this you may ask? Things like smart bandages that take your temperature and remind you to take your antibiotics or food packaging that warns of spoilage, the possibilities expand every year. Expect to see more Bluetooth connected "things" at CES 2016. This is an important step in the Internet of Things becoming a reality and that could be an inflection point.
At the other end of the silicon spectrum we see a wave of multicore 64-bit devices coming out not just from the big names like NVIDIA (see the spectacular Tegra X1 launch) and Samsung, but Chinese innovators like Actions Semiconductor. Actions today announced a 64-bit quad core Cortex-A53 chip today with speeds up to 1.8GHz. Not many years ago multicore was seen as a major hurdle for the whole industry yet today we see new products like this that can run Android and 4K video on a 28nm process. But the deeper point is that this technology is now ready to trickle down to products beyond tablets and set top boxes into products at price points that could never justify the cost of a powerful processor and multimedia display. Thinking that point through the connected kitchen might just become a reality and get beyond the joking to really useful and informative appliances that serve the connected home and the IoT.
Tomorrow we will look for more CES 2016 clues, what did you see at CES that's a game changer?
Second part:Predicting the future using CES, part 2