Right after the first of the year, I will make the trek to Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show. I consider myself a veteran: This is an event I have been going to since 1975.
I was in my twenties then, and since my first CES was also my first visit to Las Vegas, the show and the city were both eye-openers for me back then. At the time, video recorders were a big deal, and CES actually hosted a section for the adult film/VCR industry since it had a connection to the world of consumer electronics. Surprisingly, even after the adult section was booted in the early ’90s, CES still allowed centerfold models to show up at various vendors’ booths to sign autographs, which served as a way to get people to come to the booths. That is where the term “booth babes” came from; they were eventually banned from the show.
Today, the products themselves serve as the attraction, and this show has become the most important consumer electronics show in the world. There will be about 150,000 people attending CES from all over the world. The show takes place from January 7-10, 2014.
I follow this show carefully, as I often get to see trends developing that lend insight into what types of technology we will see in the marketplace in the relatively near future. Keep in mind that CES is specifically timed to show retailers the products that vendors plan to have in the market starting near the end of the second quarter and especially in place for the holiday season. With this in mind, here are the eight trends I see emerging during CES for 2014.
1. Connected Cars
All the major automakers will be at CES this year showing off their connected car projects. Some have been at CES in the past, but this is the first year I see them really embracing the show and trying to make a strong statement about smarter cars. These cars’ connections to the Internet will be facilitated either directly via embedded 4G radios or through shared smartphone connections. This is actually a big deal and a highly competitive advantage for automakers if they get this right.
2. Cheaper 4K Monitors and TVs
At the Dell World IT conference recently, Michael Dell said that his company would have 4K monitors on the market sometime in 2014 that were priced around $1,000. Dell currently carries a 32-inch model for $3,500 and a 24-inch model for $1,300. And at least one television manufacturer is said to be launching a 4K TV set for around $1,000 at the show; I expect to see others that will probably be priced between $1,800 and $2,500 — many start at around $3,500 and go up to $10,000 today. I realize that there is very little content available to take advantage of 4K, though I expect personally-created 4K content to get quite a boost: I’m hearing that digital camera and video camera vendors will show off 4K products at the show at much lower prices than we have today. Also, many of the studios are moving their movies to the 4K format starting in 2014.
3. Digital Health
This part of the market is really poised to take off. There are already dozens of health-related products like Nike’s FuelBand, Jawbone’s UP, Fitbit, Misfit’s Shine and others, all of which can be used as part of a personal health-monitoring system. iHealth has a digitally-connected glucose testing kit, and the company’s digital blood pressure cuff uses the iPhone for controlling the cuff and delivering data to the user. CES will have many products within this category.
4. Two-in-One Laptops (Laptop/Tablet Combo Devices)
Intel has new ads out pushing two-in-ones. The theme is “a tablet when you want it; a laptop when you need it.” Some folks think these two-in-ones represent the future of laptops, and I tend to think there might be some truth to this. In a sense, CES will be the big coming out party for two-in-ones: Expect to see about 50 new models launched at the show. Intel, Microsoft and pretty much all of the PC vendors will be showing new models in this category. I don’t think we’ll see huge sales volume in 2014, but this campaign is a multi-year one since these folks are very bullish on the concept. It’s worth checking out, whether you’re at CES or watching from the sidelines.
5. Curved TVs
LG’s will be showing off a 105” curved TV at CES. It looks stunning. Samsung will also show off its version of a curved TV. These curved TVs will be a big deal at the show as TV makers strive to differentiate themselves in a very crowded market. Although curved TVs are more about innovation, they could represent a new angle on the future of digital televisions themselves.
6. 3D Printers
While 3D has not caught on in TVs, there’s real interest in 3D when it comes to printers. We will see 3D printers as low as $499 at CES, and many in the $999-$1,299 range for what you might call a “prosumer” who’s interested in 3D printing. Although these will really still be used for consumer experimentation, I see them as important tools for flattening out the learning curve within the prosumer and professional markets. I kind of liken the introduction of low-cost 3D printers to the early days of desktop publishing when it came on the scene in the mid-’80s. Just as desktop publishing revolutionized the publishing world, 3D printing could create new forms of printing, like becoming an important tool for prototype visualization and small-scale manufacturing projects. If you’re at CES, be sure to check out these lower-cost 3D printers to see what they can do.
7. The Smart Home
We have been talking about smart homes for almost two decades now, but only recently have we seen this area really become interesting. Products like Nest’s thermostat and smoke alarm, and the many new smart light bulbs and other home devices with Internet connections are finally giving us a glimpse at what a smart, connected home can be. This will be a big, interesting theme to follow at this year’s show.
While Google Glass had the big buzz in 2013, the concept of wearable computers is still in its early stages. The most successful wearables so far have been the ones used to monitor health. This past year, we saw some smartwatches hit the scene, but it’ll still take years before someone delivers the right form, function, fashion and technology into a smartwatch so that it really gains traction from mainstream consumers. CES has a dedicated education track about wearables this year as well as a small section focused on wearable products. While 2014 won’t be a big year for wearables, we will see some new and innovative products in this space, and the things we see at CES could give us more insight into what wearables will mean to the tech market and the direction it’s headed.
I am sure there will be a lot of other products that get attention, such as new consumer-related robots, Android running on Windows PCs, new digital cameras and smarter digital video recorders. However, as I have surveyed the pre-show material and looked into my own research on CES trends, I believe the areas I shared above will represent a lot of the news coming out of CES in 2014.
Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every Monday on TIME Tech.