The new year opened with CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas (Jan. 9-12), a prominent showcase for new digital products, services, prototypes and concepts. And, as a global stage for innovation, CES provided observers with a precise idea of what to expect in terms of new technology over the short term.

As per previous years, new devices and services were unveiled. However, there was an increased shift away from individual hardware and products, towards the growing convergence of the underlying technology and software powered by the Internet of Things, big data and sensors. We are entering an age of artificial intelligence.

 

Internet of Things

Powerful and accurate sensors have already become familiar to us, but their use is set to rise exponentially; the increased use of sensors in all of our digital devices, vehicles, houses and offices will drive the acquisition of larger amounts of information. This data will be collected, analysed and processed by increasingly efficient telematics platforms that are interconnected and share information in real-time.

Gartner estimates that more than 8.4 billion "things" are currently connected to the Internet, a 30% increase in just one year. And the Internet of Things is set to become even more powerful thanks to the introduction of edge computing and the new 5G wireless communications standard by the end of the decade.

 

Next-Generation Wireless Technology

As the number of everyday devices (not only vehicles, smartphones and watches, but also smoke detectors, door locks, household appliances, etc.) that are interconnected into the Internet of Things continues to increase, and the IoT amasses more and more information, the need for greater bandwidth will become fundamental.

The next-generation of wireless technology, commonly referred to as 5G, promises an exponential increase in the speed and amount of data that can be transferred. Although these networks will not be commercially available before 2020, 5G Networks are expected to be nearly 100 times faster than our current 4G network technology, significantly boosting real-time data exchange.

 

Edge Computing 

In the run-up to the next-generation of wireless technology, which will increase the speed of digital communications and virtually eliminate latency issues, a new data processing model that catalyses the speed of telematics systems has come to the forefront: edge computing.

Edge computing, as the name implies, refers to the optimisation of cloud computing systems via data processing performed at the “edge” of telematics networks. This model, which vastly reduces the bandwidth required for communication between sensors/peripheral networks and central AI hubs, will further enhance real-time communication. Real-time communication is a vital feature for systems that will control not only our vehicles and houses, but also a vast range of other complex operations.

 

User Interfaces

Voice assistant and control systems for smartphones, tablets and computers are nothing new, but they too will evolve and move into our vehicles, homes and offices. Indeed, they will become our main user interface, displacing physical switches, keyboards and touch surfaces.

Similarly, advances in biometrics will provide further security measures through fingerprint, facial and iris-recognition systems.

 

The Age of Artificial Intelligence

In short, “Hal 9000” and the future envisioned by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1968 cult film 2001: A Space Odyssey is here. We are entering the age of artificial intelligence.

The integration of the Internet of Things, advanced sensors, big data and faster bandwidths, together with the development of increasingly sophisticated machine learning and pattern recognition algorithms, is set to dramatically increase the role of AI in our everyday lives.

A level-four autonomous driving vehicle was presented at CES. This is a highly autonomous vehicle described as having an "automated driving system [controlling] all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene" and certainly a clear sign that the day when self-driving cars become an everyday reality looms close.

Indeed, advances in telematics, IoT technology and the greater speed and bandwidth of the new 5G standard will be crucial to the commercialisation of self-driving vehicles, providing telematics systems with the bandwidth necessary to collect and process data and to guarantee the conditions necessary for the safe and secure operation of these vehicles.  In the meantime, telematics is driving myriad services for vehicles ranging from driving and parking assistance to intelligent navigation systems. Additional services include: automatic toll, parking and gas-payment services, seamless insurance claims processing, emergency and safety features, and added-value services.

In our houses and offices, the increased integration of telematics systems into domotics platforms will not only promote energetic sustainability, monitor our health, and protect our houses from fire, water and gas leaks, and burglary - immediately alerting emergency services, if necessary – but also allow us to interact more naturally and efficiently with household systems and appliances through voice-control, video cameras and advanced geo-location systems.

Smart cities will also follow suite interconnecting our vehicles, houses and offices. Advances in artificial intelligence and robotic services powered by inconceivably powerful quantum computers – a 50-qubit quantum computer was unveiled at CES - will transform our entire world into telematics networks, providing us with greater safety and security in virtually every aspect of life.