The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is traditionally known as the center of consumer technology. Run by the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) in Las Vegas, this show brings out enormous volumes of new technology ranging from smart cars to smart homes to smart sports equipment to smart… well, you get the picture. But within all of these announcements, there were also a number of important announcements that affect the enterprise IT world and the definition of IT that will be important for tech professionals to think about in 2019. Amalgam Insights went through hundreds of different technology press releases and announcements to find the most important announcements that will affect your professional career.
Come along with me as we look at Quantum Computing, Gender Equality, Autonomous Vehicles, Disinfected Smartphones, Low Power Virtual Reality, Neural Net Chips, Internet of Things Interoperability, and, yes, the Impossible Burger.
On January 8th, 2019, IBM announced IBM Q System One, the “first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system” designed for commercial use. From a practical perspective, this will allow R&D departments to actually have their own quantum computers. Today, the vast majority of quantum computing work is done based on remote access either to quantum computers or quantum computing emulators, which provide limits on the experimenters’ abilities to customize and configure their computing environments.
To create a quantum computing system, IBM had to bring together hardware that provided high-quality and low-error rate qubits, cryogenic equipment to cool the hardware and quantum activity, as well as the electronics, firmware, and traditional computing capabilities needed to support a quantum environment. Of course, IBM is not new to quantum computing and has been a market leader in this emerging category.
Quantum computing fundamentally matters because we are running up against the physical limits of material science that allow microprocessors to get smaller and faster, which we typically sum up as Moore’s Law. In addition, quantum computing potentially allows both for more secure encryption or the ability to quickly decrypt extremely secure technologies, depending on whether one takes a white-hat or black-hat approach. But the ramifications mean that it is important for security organizations to both start understanding quantum computing and to either stay ahead of black-hat quantum computing efforts or provide white-hat security answers to stay ahead.
Gender Equality at CES
At CES, a woman-designed sex toy originally given an innovation award (Warning: may not be Safe For Work) had its award revoked. The Ose vibrator designed by Lora DiCarlo was entered in the robotics and drone category based on its design by a robotics lab at Oregon State University and eight patents pending for a variety of robotic and biomimicry capabilities.
The product was undoubtedly risque. But CES has previously allowed virtual reality pornography to be shown within the show as well as other anatomical simulations designed for sex.
Given CES’ historical standards for other exhibitors to present similar products and objects, the revoking of this award looks biased. This is an important lesson that the answer to providing a gender-equal environment is not necessarily to simply remove all sexual content. The goal is to eliminate harassment and abuse while providing equal opportunity across gender. As long as sex is a part of consumer technology, CES needs to provide equal opportunity for all genders to present.
There were a number of announcements associated with Lidar sensors and edge computing innovations. Two that got Amalgam Insights’ attention included:
WindRiver’s integration of its Chassis automotive software with its TitaniumCloud virtualization software. This announcement hints at the need for the car, as computing system, to be integrated with the cloud. This integration will be important as car manufacturers seek to upgrade car capabilities. As we continue to think about the car both as an autonomous data center of its own and set of computing and processing workloads that need to be upgraded on a regular basis, we will need to consider how the operational technologies associated with autonomous vehicles and other “Things” integrate with carrier-grade and public clouds.
Velodyne announced an end-to-end Lidar solution that includes both a hemisphere Lidar sensor called VelaDome as well as its Velia software. This launch reflects the need for hardware components and software to be integrated in the vehicle world, just as it is in the appliances and virtual machines we often use in the world of IT. This is another data point showing how autonomous vehicles are coming closer to our world of IT both in creating integrated solutions and in requiring IT-like support in the future.
UV Partners announced a new product called the UV Angel Aura Clean & Charge, which combines both wireless charging with ultraviolet light disinfection. This product matters because, quite frankly, mobile phones tend to be filthy. That’s what happens when people are holding them for hours a day and rarely wash or disinfect the phones. So, this device will be useful for germophobes.
But there is also the practical aspect of being able to clean phone surfaces with this object more easily. This may lead to being able to use the phone to detect biological matter or changes more effectively without additional dirt and biocontaminants. This could make phones or other sensors more accurate in trying to detect trace elements or compounds and increase the functionality of both phones and “Things” as a result.
Low Power Virtual Reality
TDK Corporation announced its work with Qualcomm through the group company of Chirp Microsystems to improve controller tracking for mobile virtual reality and augmented reality headsets (). Most importantly, the tracking system used for these devices is only several miiliwatts, which is a small fraction of the total power within a standard smartphone battery. This compares to several hundred milliwatts for a standard optical tracking system. With this primary technology in development, both AR and VR experiences become more usable simply because they will take significantly less power to support.
This change may not sound exciting, but Amalgam Insights believes that one of the key challenges to the adoption of AR and VR is simply the battery life needed to use these applications for any extended amount of time. This breakthrough could significantly extend the life of AR and VR apps.
Intel made a number of chip announcements. Amalgam Insights is not a hardware analyst firm, so most of the mobile and laptop-based announcements are beyond our coverage. But the announcement that got our attention was the Intel Nervana Neural Network Processor. This chip, developed with Facebook, is developed to accelerate the detection of inference associated with the algorithmic processing of neural nets and will drive higher performance machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts.
At a time when every chip player is trying to get ahead with GPUs and TPUs, Intel is making its mark by focusing on the detection of iterative inference, which is a necessary part of the “intelligence” of AI. Amalgam Insights looks forward to seeing how the Nervana processor is made available for commercial use and as a cloud-based capability for the enterprise world.
Internet of Things Interoperability
The Zigbee Alliance and Thread Group announced completing the Dotdot 1.0 specification, which will improve interoperability across smart home devices and networks made by different vendors. By providing a standard application layer that works across a wide variety of vendors and works on an IP networking standard, Dotdot brings a level of standardization to application-level configuration, testing, and certification.
This standard is an important step forward for companies working on Smart Home devices or related Smart Office devices and seeking a common way to ensure that new devices will be able to communicate with existing device investments. Amalgam Insights looks forward to seeing how this standard revolutionizes Smart Buildings and the Future of Work.
And, the Impossible Burger
The belle of the ball, so to speak, at CES was the Impossible Burger 2.0, a soy-based protein held together by heme with iron and protein content similar to beef.
So, this is very cool, but why is this relevant to IT? First, this burger reminds us that food is now tech. Think about both how interesting and weird this is. A company has made custom proteins to build a new type of food designed to replace the taste and role of beef. Or at least that’s where they are today.
Meanwhile in the IT world, identity is increasingly based on biometrics: eyes, fingerprints, facial recognition. It is only a matter of time before either protein or DNA profiles are added to this mix. There will undoubtedly be some controversies and hiccups as this happens, but it is almost inevitable given the types of sensors we have and the evolution of DNA technologies like CRISPR that rapidly sequence and cut up DNA.
So, as we get better at replicating the nutrition and texture of meat with plant-based proteins at the same time that our physical bodies are increasingly used to provide access to our accounts… yes, this gets weird. But we’re probably five-to-ten years away from being hacked by some combination of these technbologies as the DNA, protein, and biometric worlds keep coming closer and closer together.
For now, this is just cool to watch. And the Impossible Burger 2.0 sounds like a great vegan alternative to a burger. But putting the pieces together, identity in 2030 is going to be extremely difficult to manage.