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What to expect from CES 2019

Written by Mon 7 Jan 2019

Starting Monday, the world’s largest consumer technology fair will focus on AI and 5G amid heightened tensions between Huawei and U.S.

Monday marks the start of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which will attract 180,000 tech evangelists keen to get a glimpse on the freshest, most advanced (and often most bizarre) tech concepts, and the organisations trying to convince them of their shiny new product’s value.

The world’s largest technology fair is of particular interest this year for a number of reasons. First off, the gargantuan festival is getting even bigger: 4,500 companies are set to take part in this year’s show.

This expansion is in part due to natural growth, but also reflects how the show is moving beyond its traditional identity as a show for consumer tech to one encompassing breakthroughs in enterprise technology: expect more companies showing off their industrial or mechanical use cases, particularly when it comes to automotives and 5G.

The show also comes at a time of heightened tensions between China and the host country U.S. The two are embroiled in a trade war, but the confrontation turned tech-wards before the end of 2018 following concerns about the data security of Huawei hardware and the arrest of its CFO at the request of Capitol Hill.

People will be on high alert for any comments from Huawei on the matter as the firm will be keen to ease the concerns of its enterprise customers. Most – if not all – will be present at the show, so it presents a good opportunity for the firm to engage in some reassuring PR.

By the same token, we can expect organisations that have forged long, established and successful relationships with Huawei to defend the firm from criticisms of cyberespionage. The firm has a long history of working with Western companies and has arguably gone above and beyond their cyber duties by handing over their chips for security checks on a regular basis. There are many Western IT execs that will be irked at allegations against their Eastern counterparts.

Judging from the schedule it’s evident the two watchwords for this year’s show will be AI and 5G.

LG CTO Dr I.P Park kicks things off with a keynote offering fresh perspectives on the evolving AI landscape, with IBM, Google and Amazon all following suit to showcase their competing AI capabilities.

Expect the blue-chips to also compete for thought leadership on the question of AI ethics. In 2018 AI ethics had its moment in the spotlight: the big firms are now expected to do more to show how they are safeguarding against the technology’s potential harms. In December Microsoft called for government regulation of facial recognition technology, shortly after Google launched its social impact challenge for AI.

Expect major players to reassure that they are switched on about this issue – and to sweeten the deal by highlighting their AI social impact projects.

5G is also set to be a hot topic at this year’s show, as numerous telcos around the world all prepare to join Verizon in launching their 5G commercial services.

Beyond offering blazing fast speeds for consumers, 5G will be central in driving autonomous automotives and for building out smart cities infrastructure. On Tuesday, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg will evangelise about all things 5G (and no doubt shower his firm’s pioneering 5G service with praise).

Written by Mon 7 Jan 2019

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