CES Recap: Trends, Challenges and Predictions for IoT

By Shannon Wenkoff / Jan 12, 2017

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CES has always been at the forefront of revolutionary technology and this year marked the event's 50th anniversary. In 1969, ARPANET, a forerunner of the internet made its initial appearance at the event, along with the first personal computer and BETA VCR. Keeping with this tradition, this year was no exception for innovation, especially in the IoT domain.

Among the insane crowds (200,000+ attendees), traffic and lack of sleep, the Marketing team at AppHelp had the chance to see some groundbreaking devices and hear some insightful thought leaders talk about the latest innovations in connected technology. So, what are the major trends, challenges and predictions for IoT in 2017?


UI is Dead! Long Live Alexa!

Credit: Amazon

Who is Alexa exactly? Alexa is a virtual assistant and the voice behind the Amazon Echo speaker. This speaker enables you to control connected devices through voice commands, allowing you to play music, check the weather and even adjust your smart thermostat. Reports suggest that there were between 700 - 1,100 Alexa controllable products and services at CES. Some of the compatible devices included: LG’s Instaview refrigerator, Land Rovers, smart lighting and even services such as Spotify and Uber. What makes Alexa so revolutionary is that it’s the first effective “Smart App” that lets users unify their IoT devices. The Amazon Echo also has smaller models called Echo Dots, helping customers make their whole house voice-enabled. The exciting part is that you can add new capabilities to Alexa by teaching her new skills. Despite this innovative technology, there are definitely still some improvements to be made. Earlier this week, a child accidentally bought a $160 dollhouse and 4 pounds of cookies from an Alexa device.

To learn how to teach Alexa skills, visit the Amazon site here.


Smart Home Devices will be more Affordable

Companies are already aware that IoT is a profitable revenue stream. The Consumer Technology Association states that current global market for smart home products is currently $25B and is expected to grow to $122B by 2022. As companies' investments and production of IoT devices increase, it will lower the cost for everyday customers.


Device Fragmentation

Getting all devices to work together is one of the biggest pain points for consumers and businesses. Currently, many devices are disjointed and are unable to communicate with each other effectively. In an ideal world, when a X-Brand device in the home detects smoke, it can notify a Y-Brand cloud-based video camera to start recording the incident so that the user can be made aware of the problem. The current market makes this difficult because there are multiple competing device environments. For example, not all IoT devices and accessories will be compatible with the Apple HomeKit. However, Alexa is being positioned as the solution to providing this needed communication between different connected devices. In the past, both Apple Homekit and Google Home promised to unify the smart home but was unable to deliver.


In 2016, hackers launched a denial-of-service attack that targeted IoT devices. This created one of the largest cyber attacks ever seen. Hackers were able to gain control over systems and services such as Spotify through IoT devices’ security vulnerabilities. In 2017 security will continue to be top of mind for both customers and manufacturers. During the CES talk, Next Big Thing: Smarter Homes for Everyone, the experts from Samsung, Amazon, and Google Home discussed preventive security measures in IoT. They believe that security should begin at the foundation when the device is first being manufactured. Currently, there are countless smaller companies flooding the market with their devices and they usually don’t specialize in creating secure software. In the IoT industry, security is seen as an open collaboration. Large companies have already started sharing their security software with small manufacturers. As a result, these companies don’t have to build it themselves and can implement stronger security mechanisms. This can be deployed in their devices to prevent future attacks. By doing so they can remove some of the existing vulnerabilities and keep all customers safer in the process. As we move towards more devices being interconnected, it's important to remember that you're only as strong as your weakest link.

If you're interested in watching the Next Big Thing talk, you can access it here. It starts at 06:30:00


Credit: Creative Commons

Privacy is also a major concern for IoT device owners. Many devices such as Google Home and Alexa collect massive amounts of personal data. This raises the question: who is able to access this information? Just weeks before CES, Arkansas police issued a warrant to extract data from an Amazon Echo during a murder investigation. Amazon refused to hand over the data to police but, the police were easily able to extract data from the device. Read more about that here.

The Role of Professional Services in IoT

As the amount of connected devices rises and in-home IoT products become more mainstream and accessible, this will create a greater demand for support. Everything from your fridge, to your thermostat, and even your dog treat dispenser will be connected. In addition, usability support will play an increasing role in the security of IoT devices. Critical devices such as smart locks and smoke detectors will also be connected and vulnerable to security breaches and malfunctions. This makes proper installation and ongoing support of these devices vital to the safety and security of the user. According to Alex Hawkinson from SmartThings, support services will be important to get people up and running and see the immediate value of their products.