January 26, 2017

What Does a More Connected World Look Like? Beamr & Urgent.ly Share Their Key Takeaways from CES 2017

From innovations in voice assistant technology to developments in IoT products, this year’s CES focused on the theme of connectivity, which has always been core to Verizon. We had several Verizon Ventures portfolio companies on the ground taking in the excitement as established companies and startups revealed new solutions to challenging problems across an array of industries. We caught up with Urgent.ly and Beamr after the three-day show to discuss their CES highlights and key trends they saw on the tradeshow floor.

Automotive Connectivity Dominates the Conversation

Driverless carsand automotive enhancements were popular topics at CES, and in the North Hall of the convention center, there were nearly 50 companies demonstrating autonomous vehicle technology. A wide range of attendees including new and legacy car brands (L’Eco, Faraday Future), map providers (TomTom, Here, MapBox), chip makers (Intel, Nvidia), camera and sensor manufacturers (Mobile Eye, Quanergy), municipalities (City of Beverly Hills), and more hosted seminars and exhibits around innovative connected car technology.

Car companies have been repositioning themselves as mobility providers for several years now and, with most OEMs now directly involved in car sharing services (BMW’s ReachNow, for example) and indirectly as investors (as GM is with Lyft), that effort continues. These advancements are indicative of a growing on-demand transportation ecosystem which includes companies like RideCell, who currently runs operating platforms to manage on-demand car sharing services. And as major consumer brands plug into cars, we’ll see vehicle connectivity truly take off (Click to Tweet). Consumer devices that interact with your car and simplify your life, such as voice interfaces like Amazon’s Alexa, are growing in popularity. For example, as a Hyundai driver nears their home, their car’s integrated Alexa app can automatically turn on their indoor lights. Apple’s Siri and Google Voice have already been integrated with many vehicles in order to control temperature, lights, wipers, and infotainment applications, so there’s no doubt we’ll soon see more players in this space.

Ford and Toyota also announced a joint open source initiative called SimpleDeviceLink that will allow application developers to build solutions against OEM requirements and send them to OEMs who then provision them to cars. This technology differs from Apple’s CarPlay and Google Auto, which have gained a lot of traction in the automotive industry, and has made car companies justifiably nervous about losing control of the customer relationship. It’s also worth noting that over a dozen car makers have signed onto the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) platform, which continues to make big strides in creating open source software solutions for automotive applications.

All of the enhancements we’ve seen will amount to more opportunity for on-demand services, like Urgent.ly’s roadside assistance platform, as additional channels continue to open up for cars. Ultimately, this gives drivers more choice and control over their vehicle ownership experience and allows car makers to customize driver services. 

— Tom Sexton, VP of Strategic Sales at Urgent.ly

Entertainment Devices and the Smarter Home

Display technologies clearly marched toward even more advanced technologies. LG, OLED, and Samsung demonstrated the best use of Quantum dot color technology, which will enable 4K (without wide color gamut) or HDR to become the new standard in definition. UltraHD and HDR are now considered the baseline in today’s televisions, so competitors continue to extend contrast ratios and color palettes, and many showed off their achievements at CES across 8,000+ breathtaking prototypes. VR and 360-degree gear also crowded the tradeshow floor, and with all of the self-driving automobile technology nearby, I can’t help think about how VR may soon keep us entertained while our driverless cars transport us to our destinations.

Since watching high quality content requires advanced media delivery, the wireless industry is now making major investments in 5G technology with the hope of providing “Any Content, Anytime, Anywhere. (Click to Tweet)” Live demonstrations of 5G showcased delivery with speeds of 5-15 Gbps, enabling full UHD, 360-degree VR with the same encoding recipes as fiber to the home. Despite the substantial 15 Gbps throughput, content producers will continue to push the network’s creative and quality bounds and the need for advanced encoding approaches will increase.

At CES, the Home “CIO” concept emerged from an increased focus on in-house WiFi delivery and networking. This year, more service providers showed set-top boxes that serve as a home management hub as well as a video player for their entertainment services. Several major consumer electronics companies, including Intel and Samsung, offered home networking solutions for network & cyber security, content provisioning, IoT connectivity, device enablement, and connectivity. 

— Eli Lubitch, President of Beamr

CES revealed innovations across a number of transformative industries and helped redefine what it means to be ‘connected.’ At events like CES, it’s always exciting to draw parallels to our portfolio companies and track recurring patterns and trends that will likely influence their respective industries moving forward. Here’s to a more connected year ahead.

Tags: Transportation , Urgent.ly , Autonomous Car , Beamr , CES , 5G , OTT , VR