For a few days this week, Las Vegas becomes the center of the technology universe, as CES 2016 draws crowds and attention to the latest in gadgets, devices, services and innovations.
LAS VEGAS — The annual extravaganza familiarly known as the International Consumer Electronics Show kicks off this week in Las Vegas, and the betting line is it will be hard not to notice — not with more than 150,000 attendees, convention floors and ballrooms full of exhibitors, and all the sights and sounds that come with them.
Beginning today, we will be covering this week’s show with daily posts, tweets, photos and videos, as well as more comprehensive reports looking at the buzz and trends we pick up from being there. [Jump to feed of CES tweets from Times staff.]
Here are some things to know going in to the show.
- First, some official things. For years, the show has been known as the International Consumer Electronics Show. The official name has been shortened this year: CES 2016. Officially, it runs from Jan. 6 to 9, Wednesday through Saturday. But the onslaught really starts Tuesday, with a full complement of news conferences and the kickoff keynote speech – by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich – crowding the schedule.
- Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day interviewed Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the show. His organization changed its name recently from the Consumer Electronics Association to reflect the changing nature of the electronics business.
- The Seattle area will be pretty well represented with companies big and small, from Microsoft to tiny startups, showing off their products and services while doing business with potential partners and sellers.
Levl takes a breath to measure its users’ fat-burning rate
Seattle-based startup Levl unveiled its first fitness-tech device at CES: 2016 Tuesday.
The company is developing a tabletop unit called Levl that tests people’s breath and tells them how much fat they are burning every day. The system is designed to help people find the ideal diet and exercise plan for their body, said founder Brad Root.
The Levl measures the amount of acetone in someone’s breath and calculates how many kilocalories of fat his or her body is burning. The device is connected to an app that helps people track their levels every day so they can see different trends while trying new diets.
The company, funded by Seattle’s GM Nameplate, said the device will be available for sale in summer 2016.
Click here for more details on Levl and the device.
— Rachel Lerman
Samsung extends its broad reach across the whole house
Samsung, the sprawling South Korean electronics conglomerate, lived up to that billing on Tuesday.
The company unveiled the latest in its bids to occupy your kitchen, laundry room, living room, and wrist.
Tim Baxter, president of Samsung North America, took the stage to announce the company’s three priorities. They didn’t do much to narrow the company’s broad focus. Roughly translated, Samsung’s strategy is focusing on the range of sensor equipped-devices termed the Internet of Things, mobile devices, and areas of consumer frustration with existing technology (TV watchers struggling with too many remotes was a prime example).
The star of the show was arguably the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, a stainless steel fridge with a 21-inch, high-definition touchscreen. A video demonstration portrayed the appliance as a hub to synchronize and display pieces of families’ digital lives, hosting calendars, shopping lists and the like.
Also, food. The fridge takes a photo of its contents every time the door is closed. Those images can be accessed anywhere via a smartphone, offering instant reminders of what’s running low when you’re on the go. Meanwhile, a partnership with MasterCard and a pair of grocery delivery vendors allows users to order groceries from the touchscreen.
Samsung also remains planted in the realm of more traditional electronics, unveliing the latest in its lineup of SUHD high-definition televisions first announced at last year’s CES. The new models range in size from 49 inches to 88 inches. In a nod to the relative dearth of movies and other content designed for such souped-up devices, executive vice president Joe Stinziano highlighted agreements with studios like 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers to shoot their films in ultra high definition.
The company wrapped up its conference with the unveiling of the Galaxy TabPro S, a tablet-laptop hybrid that runs Microsoft’s Windows 10.
Most of Samsung’s lineup of smartphone and tablets run on Google’s free-to-use Android.
But the South Korean company is said to be uncomfortable with the control Google exerts over the Android ecosystem.
With Microsoft and Samsung settling a long-running licensing dispute last year, and subsequently announcing a deal to put more Microsoft apps on Samsung smartphones, it appears Redmond is making strides toward courting a productive partnership with the world’s largest mobile phone maker.
— Matt Day
Report places consumer tech sales at $287 billion in 2016
The U.S. consumer technology industry will take in a record $287 billion in retail sales in 2016, the Consumer Technology Association trade group predicted in a semi-annual report ahead of the start of the CES 2016.
The trade group expects some of the quickest growth in drones, wearable technology, and the so-called Internet of Things, the umbrella term for devices from thermostats to stoves that can be equipped with sensors and Internet connectivity.
It’s not all sunny for the industry, though.
More widely owned devices like tablets, televisions, laptops are in decline or experiencing slower growth. Those four categories combined are expected to account for $45 billion in sales.
Smartphone sales are expected to grow 4 percent from a year earlier, to $55 billion.
The forecast tallies expected U.S. factory sales to dealers, covering more than 300 products.
— Matt Day
Microsoft works to get its data technology behind the wheel
Microsoft may not be designing the software interface for the car of the future (or the car itself, for that matter). But the company is trying to stake its claim in a fast-growing automotive technology market with its network of data centers and Web-based software tools.
The company on Tuesday announced a tie-up with Nissan to use Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing platform to help Leaf and Infiniti model cars in Europe transmit and receive data. It follows a similar deal with Ford inked last year.
Automakers and a range of technology companies are working to build software tools and infrastructure that go beyond basic navigation and roadside assistance, trying to meet the demands of consumers in cars with enhanced Internet connections and, ultimately, self-driving capability.
“Our strategy is to be the ultimate platform for all intelligent cars,” Peggy Johnson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of business development, said in a blog post announcing a slate of auto-focused deals. Other announcements on Tuesday include working with Volvo on using Windows smartphone and fitness band applications to access some car functions, and a collaboration with electronics maker Harman to integrate Microsoft’s Office 365 software and a Cortana-like digital assistant into its auto entertainment systems.
Microsoft was an early leader in the business of plugging software into automobiles, striking a deal with Ford to use a version of its Windows operating system as the guts for the automaker’s Sync in-car software. That fell apart when Ford switched to a BlackBerry-built software.
Meanwhile, Apple and Google have developed their own software platform for use in cars. Ford and Fiat Chrysler both announced this week that they would include Apple’s CarPlay and Google Android Auto into future in-car software.
— Matt Day
Is CES too big? CTA tries to manage the show
CES, a famously large, noisy conference, has gotten too big, says Gary Shapiro, the president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that puts on the show.
Shapiro said the CTA hopes to reduce the crowding a bit by restricting attendance and broadening exhibit space to a record 2.4 million square feet around Las Vegas.
New to the show in 2016 are clusters of exhibitors focused around technology accessibility issues, app stores, and cybersecurity, among other areas, he said. The focus remains on showing off the breadth of technology business, from automakers or advertising agencies to traditional electronics manufacturers.
“In technology, the deals today that are successful are cross-industry deals,” he said in an interview. “It’s this total shift to outside your normal comfort zone.”
Click here for a fuller version of an interview with Shapiro.
— Matt Day