A Sneak Peek Into Technologies and Trends for the Rugged User
It’s hard to believe the holiday season is upon us, and 2016 is just right around the corner. For most of us, the holidays are a time of rest and rejuvenation, and for family and friends. For those of us in the mobile and electronics industries the holiday season also represents something very significant—preparation and anticipation of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas, January 6-9, 2016. For many in the industry, it is the cornerstone event that kicks off all sorts of product launches and introductions, and offers the tech world a glimpse into the year ahead.
At Kyocera, we take a hybrid approach to CES. Our media and tech teams cover the show floor, while our corporate product, sales and marketing teams meet with partners at offsite meeting locations. This approach allows us to track upcoming trends and chart a course for 2016 and beyond for rugged mobility with our key partners and customers.
Personally, my time is usually split between the two, but when I do get to the show floor there are always trends and products that top my list. Here are some buzz-worthy rugged trends and products I am keeping my eye out for at this year’s CES:
- IoT: The Internet of Things (IoT), otherwise known as embedded software and sensors, basically means connection anywhere and everywhere, amongst all of the “things” in our environment. This has been a buzzword for the past several years, but it will be interesting to see what traction has been made for businesses and the enterprise markets. Companies like Intel, Qualcomm and ARM are creating silicon and software for secure interconnectivity of IoT and will undoubtedly be sharing updates to their plans to help connect the next billions of devices. There are roughly five conferences on Thursday, January 7, regarding IoT, and I am planning to attend the Super Session track, “Business Strategies: Partnerships for the Sharing Economy Presented by Internet of Things World.” Given our company focus on rugged mobility, we’re not looking to embed our tech in toasters or refrigerators. But we do see lots of opportunity in connected devices in harsh environments alongside our rugged mobile solutions.
- Augmented Reality: A little known fact about me—I am a long time “gamer.” Without a doubt, the hottest topic in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is the anticipated Oculus Rift, and its ability to create immersive gaming worlds. Beyond the hardware of the Rift I’m very interested in how the technology is applied to other areas, including mobile ones. As great as the Rift is, it is still tethered to a PC with quite a large cable. There is a huge potential for AR applications in field environments where you typically see our devices. From construction to maintenance and healthcare, the sky is the limit when it comes to AR and VR technologies to improve efficiencies and productivity in a rugged environment.
- Automotive: Although we have another division at Kyocera that focuses on automotive tech and telematics, I still see this space as an early incubator for future mobile technology. Sure, the technology integration takes a lot longer, but we always learn a lot about user interactions, especially ones that benefit rugged devices, from this space. This year, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is devoting an entire conference track to automotive, including building consumer trust in vehicle technology, reinventing the phone-car connection and the future of the connected car.
- Battery Tech and Accessories: I’m always hoping for a huge breakthrough in battery technology as most of the recent advances have been linear—small steps towards full day, and now multi-day, battery life for smartphones. However, whether you’re at home or in the office, nearly all plugs seem to be USB devices. During CES, TYLT’s ENERGI Desktop Charging Station (2016 CES Innovation Award in the Portable Power category) will showcase a five port charging station that juices devices twice as fast as most standard wall chargers. The ENERGI features four rapid charging 2.4A USB ports and an additional 1A port, which doubles as a removable, rechargeable 3200Ah battery pack offering portable on-the-go charging power to field workers and outdoor users. I hope they can deliver on that promise. Either way, I think it’s worth picking up for the industrial design alone.
- Displays: Sure, the hype cycle is out of control in the display space each year (3D, curved, etc.), but there are glimmers of things to come – particularly in spaces you don’t expect. I’ll be looking for display tech that allows better “viewability” in outdoor conditions. This is a big pain for most mobile users, but it is especially painful when you mostly work outdoors or in tough and rugged environments. Earlier in 2015, Research and Markets released a report called, “The Global Smartphone Display Marketing 2015-2019,” where they investigated all things display—from weight to durability to foldability and flexibility. I am excited to see who is ahead of the curve come 2016 CES.
- Audio Technology: New technologies continue to enhance the audio experience in mobile, and this year’s CES will be no different. For example, ToughTested’s JobSite Earbuds (CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree in two categories: Fitness, Sports and Biotech; and Wearable Technologies) are ideal for workers in construction, aviation, safety and security or any environment with loud noises, music or blaring sirens. Kyocera has been innovating in audio for many years, specifically with Smart Sonic Receiver and push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities. With the Smart Sonic Receiver your mobile display vibrates to transmit sound from the other party using sound waves and vibration, making it easier to hear them even in noisy environments. And, with PTT technologies we are enabling our enterprise customers and consumers alike to share information instantly with just the simple push of a button. PTT allows you to make calls with up to 50 team members and use one device and number for all instant communications and voice calls.
- Extreme Sports/Fitness: The Mettis Trainer shoe insert by Bend Tech (CES 2016 Innovation Honoree in the category of fitness, sports and biotech) is a low-cost tool to help athletes correct their form, avoid injury and improve their game. The insert detects forces like balance and weight distribution to send real-time feedback to Android devices. It can also provide tips for specific sports, such as letting a runner know when he is hitting his heel or toe too much. The insert utilizes a single-layer Bend Sensor that, unlike FSR sensors, can withstand water exposure and saturation—making it a perfect fitness-assist option for all terrain runners, hikers and other athletes.
- Wearables: TempTraq (CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree in two categories: Fitness, Sports and Biotech; and Wearable Technologies) is a wearable intelligent Bluetooth thermometer that continuously monitors body temperature for 24 hours—delivering real-time temperature data every 10 seconds for 24 hours to Android devices, and features alerts when temperatures hit user-defined levels. This is the perfect remote monitoring tool for anyone who works in healthcare, in extreme work environments, or who wants to keep tabs on an extreme athlete in training.
CES 2016 is sure to be a bonanza of outrageous new product introductions, new user applications and more and more connected things. Many manufacturers around the world are taking rugged, durable design to heart as they bring new products to the marketplace, and CES 2016 will prove that to be true. See you on the show floor.
Lane Paxton is the senior director of marketing at Kyocera Communications. An industry veteran of 18 years with experience in marketing, product management and product development, Lane has been with Kyocera since July of 2008. Prior to Kyocera, he was responsible for product marketing and product planning for the U.S. and international business units at Gateway. Additionally, Lane was a co-founder of a successful software company and was a key driver in taking a wireless startup through IPO. When not working or shuttling his two kids to their activities, Lane likes to ride waves and mountains sideways…right foot forward.