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CES Asia 2017

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Over three days in June, the amazing CES Asia took place once again, in Shanghai. It is hard to believe it was only the third year of this great tech show, which attracted more than 450 dynamic companies including Microsoft, Huawei, Philips, Samsung, and BMW. Even though the main focus was on how tech trends improve daily life for people in China, there were more than 30,000 attendees from the rest of the world, all wanting to get their hands on this massive potential market.

Why are we so curious about China? Once famous for mass replication and trend capitalisation, this market has truly embraced innovation and now leads the world in many aspects of technology. Take a quick glance at these numbers:

“More than 95% of China’s 731 million online population access the internet via smartphone, and more than half made an offline, in-store mobile payment in 2016.” According to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Centre, the Chinese mobile payment market is estimated to be worth over 1.83 trillion US dollars in 2016, mostly realised via NFC and QR codes. No wonder Apple eventually decided to implement the QR reader directly ‘in camera’, since the trends in China are extremely powerful!

Figure 1 - Mobile payment via QR - www.cfp.cn

Figure 1 – Mobile payment via QR – www.cfp.cn

So, in comparison to other global events such as Mobile World Congress, that happened earlier this year, what are the key trends we saw at CES Asia?

IoT coming with big data and cloud computing. Similarly to MWC, IoT stands occupy almost half of the whole CES Asia halls. The variety in the products was impressive, ranging from beds, glasses, food, post, doors, clothes and even dog collars.

The three Giant companies in the Chinese IT industry, or BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), are all gradually building the foundations for IoT, with their own data collection and cloud tech. The stickiness about IoT in China is that people do witness its rapid growth in real life. JD.com (a leading e-retailer in China) exhibited it’s drone delivery robots, and a week later on June 18, their first trial delivery was launched (which was even sooner than Amazon). More details here.

Figure 2 - JingDong drone delivery on June 18th - JD.com

Figure 2 – JingDong drone delivery on June 18th – JD.com

Vehicles with new ways of interaction and more holistic thoughts. As expected, the automobile hall was in the spotlight. One of the big hypes was of course BMW’s i Inside future. First shown at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, this concept car was brought again to CES Asia, delivering the future HoloActive Touch. With the help of a high-sensitivity camera and a discreet ultrasonic source, drivers can experience a haptic interaction on a “touchscreen” without any physical touching. Considering that the gesture control published in last year’s CES came to production in the 5 and 7 series already, we can’t wait to see HoloActive come out as a production feature in the near future.

Figure 3 - BMW i Inside Future in CES Asia - photo by Hui Lin

Figure 3 – BMW i Inside Future in CES Asia – photo by Hui Lin

Other brands, like Mercedes-Benz and Honda, focused more on in-car sensors which detect the driver’s body and emotion data, to provide a more customised service while driving. Besides the enhancement experience for individual customers, many companies are also thinking on a massive urban scale. The topic discussions around autonomous cars and car/ride sharing were extremely heated. Baidu showcased its autonomous tech with its map collecting car, and thanks to its road hackers deployed to capture street view images, all CES Asia attendees were able to experience a test autonomous ride. The “Apollo Plan”, announced by Baidu as its grand vision in autonomous car industry, will provide a completely open-resource developing/testing platform for any car-makers, sharing Baidu’s knowledge in cloud computing, software, hardware and data collection network. It is undoubtedly a milestone for China’s autonomous car industry, expected to accelerate the rapid growth of autonomous vehicles throughout Asia. More details here.

Figure 5 - Autonomous car from Baidu  - photo by Hui Lin

Figure 4 – Autonomous car from Baidu – photo by Hui Lin

VR/AR/MR meets concrete using context. Last year was a cool down for the VR industry. However, in CES Asia 2017, we still saw people lining up in front of VR/AR stands. Compared to last year, these products no longer showcased just games, but were being applied into more practical user context. JD.com brought its new VR shopping platform where customers were able to do online shopping in a virtual environment. As for AR, we see a even brighter future – considering the newly announced iOS 11 ARKit, we can imagine the next AR trend is coming soon. Looking forward to seeing the next era of mixed reality!

Anything else? There were absolutely many other eye catchers during the show. Examples of AR HUD (Head-Up Display) were almost everywhere. Once mainly used in aircrafts but now introduced to the car environment, HUDs enables drivers to view information without looking away from the driving viewpoints, which truly makes you feel that you are in a sci-fi movie. We also saw a plethora of drones, with more and more diverse use-cases, exploring not only the sky, but also underwater. FiFish, as the first underwater drone for consumer market, opened a new field for photographers as well as water-sportspeople. And of course we are seeing a vast array of all kinds of life-enhancing assistant robots.

Figure 5 - HUD stands in CES Asia  - photo by Hui Lin

Figure 5 – HUD stands in CES Asia – photo by Hui Lin

Apart from the big names, it was a great pleasure to see local Chinese tech companies and start-ups becoming competitive in such a short period of time. MOBGEN will certainly keep an eye on what’s happening in China, and share learnings from this rapidly growing hotbed of innovation.

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