CES 2020 Quick Recap!

More than 175,000 people and over 4,400 companies exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 in Las Vegas. This is down slightly from past years, but it is increasingly more difficult to get an accurate count of overall attendees. More meetings have moved from the convention center to hotel suites as it is less costly, and companies can better control the message.

The show continues to shift away from a telecom or mobile devices show – this is saved for ‘Android spring’ OEM launches and MWC Barcelona. The show continues to grow within the segments of electric and autonomous vehicles, AR/VR/gaming, TV / 8k / entertainment, and IoT / connected home.

This year, digital money presence grew significantly. Many large companies are attempting to break through including Uber, Google, Facebook and T-Mobile. Challenger ‘banks’ were plentiful. Lots of action here as regulation, thus far, has been limited.

Counterpoint analysts met with over a hundred companies and spent a lot of time roaming the convention halls of the Sands, Mandalay Bay, and the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here are our quick take-aways:

Automotive: The entire electric vehicle / autonomous ecosystem was present at CES. Byton gave an update to the M-Byte (electric automobile), which will have its commercial launch in 2020. Fisker announced an electric SUV. Many partnerships were announced including Microsoft – Ericsson, Amazon Fire TV with Chrysler, Fiat, and BMW, and Hyundai – Uber announced a plan for delivering passengers via drones by 2025!

Along with the auto OEMs, there were many sensor companies, sensor fusion companies, network equipment companies, and memory companies with automotive-specific solutions in their booths. Within memory, SK Hynix, Kingston, Gigabyte, OWC, Quantum and others were present.

The largest news within automotive was Qualcomm’s introduction of ‘Snapdragon Drive’ – its first autonomous vehicle platform. Qualcomm already has its infotainment tech in over 100 million cars worldwide, but it is behind assisted / self-driving solutions provided by NVIDIA and Intel’s Mobileye, for example. Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Drive will be available to automobile OEMs 1H20 and first cars to have it in production in 2023. There were hints that GM could be an early adopter of the platform.

For more on EV, see here.

Big TV’s, 8k and volumetric cameras!: Samsung, LG, TCL, Sony, Panasonic, Visio and others launched TV’s at CES. The TV’s get larger, thinner, and close to bezel-free. All brands advertise their AI enhancements and integration. 8k has been talked about for a long time, but it is coming. The Olympics will drive 8k content.

Intel continues to develop 3D cameras and volumetric cameras which could drastically change sports and TV viewing. This will enable a viewer to watch a movie or sports event from any angle—virtually be “in” the event. It requires large compute power—60GB per second for each of the dozens of cameras used. This data is compressed, sent to cloud, produces streams, and viewers get to choose a ‘roving’ camera view. All tech buzzwords included here—5G, edge compute, storage readily accessible…

Takeaway: Samsung, LG, Panasonic and all others are fighting for the installed base of 8k. For this, partnerships are needed with 8k content providers (today, YouTube is the largest) and cloud storage players.

5G in the wild!: Demonstrations of 5G use cases were plentiful. Real 5G use cases included:

  • Interactive gaming and VR for training
  • Cities using 5G and cameras to “patrol” instead of dispatching police
  • Ticketless stadiums using facial recognition
  • 5G at construction sites
  • Industrial use cases
  • Better video experiences on mobile

For Counterpoint’s 5G forecast, see here.

Wearables poised for growth: The large players who dominate health tracking via smartwatches were all present—Garmin, Suunto, FitBit, Huawei, and others. Only Apple, of course, was missing. Many Chinese brands which sell online and within Walmart and other budget retail were also present. Often, these players sell under white labels and are not known, but their volumes are increasing. These include Gold-East, iTouch, Let’s Fit, and others.

Takeaway: Look for the space to see increased growth. There are huge improvements in power management enabling even low-cost wearables to track heart rate, sleep, core body temp, and other vitals for days between re-charging. The leap in power management is important because the wearable needs to collect data at night and not be charging. Other ‘uni-tasker’ wearables hitting the market will track illness/bacteria, COPD, heart abnormalities, blood pressure, diabetes, sweat, sugar, stress…

Company watch: Bodytrak is a company which has been around for years. The company has grown selling smart sensor solutions which it supplies to first responders, military, athletes, remote/hazardous environment workers, and more. Look for more competition in this space.

Notable launch: Suunto 7 smartwatch (sportswatch) is the first from Suunto utilizing the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform. The company noted it is the first wearable OEM to make use of the platform’s ultra-low-power co-processor. It also utilizes a Valencell heart rate module with an Ambiq Micro MCU. Both solutions are best-in-class for battery optimization. We were only able to use it for a few minutes but look for it to set new benchmarks for Android wear products.

For more on hearables, see here.

IoT and module players had a strong presence: Quectel, Telit and other module players launched new IoT modules at CES with mmWave and sub6 5G.

Takeaway: There has been a spike in cellular IoT modules due to falling costs. More IoT application vendors are adding cellular connectivity because of the spike in use cases such as asset tracking, fleet management, and outdoor sensor applications. Some low-cost, low-data use cases which do not immediately need 5G are sometimes implementing 5G to future-proof the device to be in the market up to 20 years. Automotive and CPE are implementing 5G, too. New opportunities will include private LTE networks and CBRS.

5G smartphones for the mid-tier en route: TCL (formerly Alcatel) announced three 5G smartphones headed for North America with Snapdragon 7-series processors. These devices are expected to be priced under $500. We saw 5G smartphones from other vendors we expect to reach about $400, but these have not yet been made public.

Samsung launched the XCover ruggedized smartphone. It is targeted at SMB/retailers and first responders/police. It is a 6.3” AMOLED, LTE, P2talk functionality, point-of-sale solution ready, full Knox security suite, and a 4050mAh replaceable battery. It will not be a replacement to the Samsung Galaxy Active series.

Takeaway: US operators believe there will be an appetite for 5G within the upper mid-tier. In addition, US operators want their entire postpaid line-up to be 5G by 2H2020. The US market will not see the cost erosion of 5G that the China market will see, but it will see OEMs hitting sub-$400 in 2020.