CES 2016: Drones, Cars and Connected Everything “Wow” Attendees
Posted on January 18, 2016
By James Hastie, Product Manager at Intelligent Energy
Las Vegas is often hailed as the “adult Disneyland.” But when you add a week-long show dedicated to new and emerging technology, this small desert city becomes a playground for adults and their tech toys of the future. That’s why it’s no surprise that when people show up they want to fly higher, stay unplugged longer and see the bigger picture. As such, this year’s biggest CES highlights involved drones, self-driving cars, virtual reality and connected everything!
Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy… The Rise in Drones
With no shortage of new UAV technology, drones stole the spotlight in this year’s show. The UAV market can be characterised into four main sectors – consumer, prosumer (consumers who possess a professional level of knowledge with the product), commercial and delivery. The majority of drone products we saw at the show fit the first two categories of consumer and prosumer, with a few in the commercial space.
Chinese company Ehang, debuted a prototype “drone copter” called “The Ehang 184” on the CES showroom floor to great fanfare. This one-of-a-kind drone can be used to transport a single passenger and is controlled via app so passengers can program their flight and enjoy the ride. Not to be outdone, French company Parrot unveiled the new Disco drone, boasting a speed of 50mph and an extended flight time.
With all of the excitement surrounding the UAV market, it’s surprising to see that there is very little new battery technology to sustain drones’ extended flight time – a drone’s current battery life is only about 15-20 minutes. This largely overlooked limitation is where we see a game-changing opportunity. At this year’s show, we unveiled a prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered range extender for drones, which offers longer flight time and fast re-fuelling capabilities, addressing two of the biggest challenges for manufacturers of battery-powered drones.
In addition to battery power, another key differentiator for drones is their camera capability and while many companies are starting to develop their own camera solutions, right now it seems GoPro and Sony still own this space. We anticipate image capture on drones to potentially be the next growth area – perhaps even a convergence of drone cameras and virtual reality technology as we saw some hints of this combination at this year’s show.
Autonomous, Electric and Connected Cars
Car technology, yet again, had a strong showing this year. Mercedes-Benz topped its CES 2015 unveiling by debuting its new 2017 E-Class, the first “standard-production” vehicle to receive an autonomous license from Nevada. Chevrolet debuted its new 2017 Bolt EV, a capable and affordable electric car for the masses that rolls twice as far on a charge, offers more interior space and packs more tech for the same price. Additionally, Bosch unveiled technology that connects cars to homes so the lights on a house turn on automatically and the thermostat inside is adjusted to a preferred temperature when a vehicle gets within a certain range.
But what excited us the most was to see Toyota debut hydrogen as the true successor to petrol and diesel. The automaker’s fuel cell vehicle (FCV) Plus concept is a hydrogen-powered concept car that generates electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell. While the internal fuel cell powers the car, it can also be hooked up to an external fuel cell to power your house! Hydrogen FCVs have longer range than battery electric vehicles on their own and, unlike batteries, take just minutes to refuel as opposed to hours.
The Year of Connected… Everything
Among the most talked about connected devices at CES, the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator garnered a lot of attention. This four-door smart fridge can order your food, read you the news and screen your new favorite Netflix show. But with a hefty price and the connected industry moving so quickly, it will be interesting to see if this smart appliance actually makes it into the kitchen.
There is no doubt that the Internet of Things (IoT) is a main focus in 2016, so it should come as no surprise that our medicine cabinets are now connected too. Withings Thermo debuted a less invasive and easy-to-use thermometer that takes your temperature by simply placing the device on the side of your forehead.
While the technology potential within the IoT market is amazing, the critical element here is determining how all of these connected devices will be powered in the future. In fact, IDC predicts that there will be 20.9 billion connected devices by 2020. To successfully connect and link to all of these devices, we’ll need one platform, not a host of different ecosystems. Once we solve this problem, there will also be the question of how this singular platform will be powered, as today’s infrastructure just won’t cut it. The solution? Adding hydrogen to the clean energy mix holds the promise of increasing efficiency while decreasing harmful carbon emissions and would not require drastic infrastructure changes.
As the CES 2016 excitement cools down, we are getting fired up about the promising new technology that will be emerging in the coming years and how we can make our mark on the future. Featured in the CES 2016: Popular Mechanics Editor’s Choice Awards, hydrogen fuel cell technology is becoming more and more mainstream and we could not be more honoured to be at the forefront of this energy and technology evolution. Until next year, CES!