Five Technology Trends to Watch. This annual Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® Download full report here
1. 3d Printing
2. Next-Generation TVS and Displays
3. Technology and Entertainment
4. Mobile Revolution in Africa
5. The Education Revolution
The Multiple Applications of 3D Printing
A diverse group of industries have discovered the benefits of 3D
printing, including automotive, aerospace, industrial and medical.
“3D printing enables applications as diverse as customized in-ear
hearing aids, fuel efficient transportation, better and more affordable
consumer products, to medical and dental models and individualized
implants that improve patient outcomes,” says Cathy
Lewis, vice president of global marketing for 3D Systems. “And it
is all manufactured with near to zero waste because of the additive
nature of 3D printing.”
As part of its 2012 report, Wohlers Associates conducted a survey
of manufacturers of 3D printing systems and 3D printing service
providers to determine which industries were most commonly
serviced by 3D printing. The survey found that the number one
industry served by 3D printing firms was ‘consumer products/
electronics’ at 20.3 percent, followed by the ‘motor vehicle’ (19.5
percent) and ‘medical/dental’ (15.1 percent) industries
Despite already being the largest segment of the 3D printing industry,
consumer products should continue to grow and boost the
3D printing industry as the cost of 3D printing drops. Already, a
number of affordable systems and services have surfaced.
New York-based Shapeways (Shapeways.com) offers users not only
a way to print their designs, but also a community with which
to share their creations. Originally a part of the Philips’ Lifestyle
Incubator (PLI), Shapeways spun out in late 2010 and moved its
headquarters to New York City.
The website enables users to upload their designs and have them
created by Shapeways’ 3D printing systems. The community aspect
comes into play as other users can rate, purchase and print each
other’s designs. “Anyone can be a creator, the necessary toolbox
is now just a computer and an idea, time to market goes from
months to hours, designers can rapidly iterate on products and incorporate
feedback after launch,” says Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO
and co-founder of Shapeways. The community currently boasts
160,000 members and more than 6,000 shops, and has printed
more than a million products. Submitted designs range from
unique cell phone cases to jewelry and eyeglass frames.
Next-Generation TVS and Displays
OLED Accelerates and 4K Emerges
“We’ve essentially had two successful migrations over the last 20
years,” says Richard Doherty, research director at The Envisioneering
Group, a technology assessment and market research consultancy
based in Seaford, N.Y. The first transition to digital TV took
place from 1998 to 2008, with the launch and consumer acceptance
of HDTVs alongside digital broadcasts. “It was a home run and
CEA deserves kudos for making that possible,” Doherty says. “The
transition that wasn’t driven by CEA was driven by the Internet
generation. That was IPTV (television and video programming
delivered from online sources), and it’s still growing.”
In 2011, the number of DTVs shipped that could connect to the
Internet via a home network totaled 6.4 million, and this year
the figure is projected to grow to 10 million. Shipments of DTVs
equipped with embedded apps totaled 3.3 million units last year,
and these are expected to grow to 7.3 million units this year. And
shipments of DTVs capable of displaying the best Full HD (1080p)
resolution totaled 15.3 million units last year, and are projected to
grow to 17.1 million this year, CEA says.
The TVs that are expected to show significant upward growth and
carry the TV industry to the next decade, are two new television
technologies: OLED and 4K.
Next-Generation TVs and Displays Primer
• 3DTV –– A 3D television set is one that adds a simulated sense
of depth to video playback by any of several different means.
These include two types of “stereoscopic” systems that require
users to wear special eyeglasses while watching the video playing
on the TV: a “polarized 3D” system that uses “passive glasses” with
polarization filters in the lenses; and an “active shutter 3D” system,
which uses “active glasses” with lenses incorporating shutters that
automatically open and close in sync with the video and thus
trick the eyes into perceiving 3D. Additionally, “glasses-free 3D” or
“autostereoscopic” TVs can produce 3D images without requiring
the viewer to wear any special eyeglasses at all. There is now also
at least one example of a “head-mounted 3D display,” which creates
the perception of 3D using eyeglasses with temple-mounted
projectors that cast the video directly onto the lenses.
• 4K TV –– A 4K television set provides quadruple the total display
resolution of today’s best Full HDTV sets by doubling the number
of pixels shown horizontally and vertically: to 3840×2160 or
8.3 megapixels from 1920×1080 or 2.1 megapixels. 4K TV is also
known as quad full high-definition (QFHD) TV. It also is the
lower-resolution of two versions of what is known as ultra-highdefinition
• 8K TV –– The higher-resolution version of UHDTV, 8K TV offers
a total display resolution that is 16 times greater than today’s best
Full HDTV sets by quadrupling the number of pixels shown horizontally
and vertically, to 7680×4320 or 33.2 megapixels.
• OLED TV –– An OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is a
type of LED (light-emitting diode) that contains a layer of film
composed of an organic semiconductor compound. This emissive
electroluminescent layer, situated between two electrodes,
lights up in response to an electric current. And since one of those
electrodes is transparent, the resulting light can be used as a pixel
element in a digital display, such as an OLED TV. Compared to a
typical LCD (liquid crystal display) television set, an OLED TV is
thinner and lighter, uses less power, and achieves a higher contrast
ratio to display deep black levels.
• Head-Mounted Displays –– As the nomenclature suggests, a
head-mounted display is one worn on the head. It may be housed
in a monocular form that covers one eye, or in a binocular form
that covers each eye but forms one display image.
Technology and Entertainment:
If it is true that history tends to be written by the winners, it is
also a fact that the most successful ideas, in hindsight, seem logical.
Pocket-sized devices that store entire record collections and
designer headphones that cost as much as – or more than – small
TVs are no longer depicted as visionary so much as inevitable
creations. Predictably, with these products securely established in
the marketplace the question arises: What’s next?
Not so fast. Forward-thinking minds are undoubtedly designing
new devices that we may well consider essential five years from
now. But perhaps the more important question today is how much
presently-untapped potential still exists in the market. For the
foreseeable future, companies can and should take full advantage
of the incredible window of opportunity surrounding the audio
sector. Put simply, these days anything associated with a tablet or
smartphone has the attention of a very wide audience.
“You figure out a way to connect yourself to these products,” says
Al Baron, who has been a product line manager for the majority of
his 25-year tenure at Polk Audio. “There is a larger demographic
than ever prepared to spend money on audio-related products.”
A company like Polk is well-positioned for continued growth, having
built up credibility over a long period of time. Nevertheless,
the rules of engagement have changed a development that is not
lost on Baron. “Whatever you design and develop today has to be
aesthetically compelling and attractive – as well as functional,” he
says. Understanding the cultural elements informing the high-end
headphones explosion has proven to be invaluable. As such, Polk
has a revamped design center where considerable attention is being
given to detail and style. There is undeniably a fashion-related
aspect involved with appealing to today’s consumer that was not
nearly as pronounced or definable a short time ago. “More people
shop with their eyes as much as their ears,” Baron says. “To even
be considered you must pass a certain muster that is in many ways
higher than it’s ever been.”
Baron’s impressions are consistent with those of another industry
veteran, Petro Shimonishi, who manages Denon’s headphones line,
and has immersed herself in the audio sector from both a productand marketing perspective. “It’s all about integration,” she says.
“Headphones, for instance, need to cater to the types of solutions
consumers are seeking.” An example she gives is the Denon Sport
App, which enables users to track their workouts using computing
metrics—in short, doing things that used to be possible only on
“Consumers expect devices to be smarter and smarter these days,”
she says. Echoing Baron’s observation, she agrees products need to
look appealing, but adds that the more accessible and functional
they are the better. The key term is lifestyle: products that can
seamlessly incorporate a consumer lifestyle will be more compelling.
In today’s market, that might mean – unlike what we’ve seen
with displays or even last generation’s home audio products – that
smaller is better. “Today’s receivers have better performance, but
the form factors are also evolving. Design has a huge impact here.”
This insight reaffirms the primary trend in contemporary CE:
modern consumers put a priority on products that are both connected
This trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. CEA recently found
that 39 percent of the Internet population listened to online
streaming content in the last 12 months and 42 percent listened to
MP3 files. Internet radio has become a destination rather than an
alternative. Now the onus is on manufacturers, including software
companies, to continue creating, and refining, products consumers
will use to enjoy this entertainment. Just as it has arguably never
been a more encouraging time to be a content receiver; it is likewise
an advantageous time to be in the position of designing and/
or delivering content.
Innovation coupled with the freedom of choice has always been
the lifeblood of the CE industry. The chief beneficiary of these
advancements is the consumer.
Mobile Revolution in Africa
Many of the CE industry’s heaviest hitters were on hand
at the 2012 International CES showcasing the latest in
mobile phone technology – razor-thin smartphones
with lightning speed dual-core processors, front- and rear-facing
cameras, and super-sized screens. Mobile phones in the U.S.
have steadily been replacing landlines as the dominant form of
communication – there are now more mobile phones in the U.S.
than people, and mobile phones outnumber fixed-line phones by
But for the majority of the world’s population, the most powerful
device in their CE arsenal might be a $75 smartphone that lacks
most of those features showcased at CES but still invaluably serves
as a business tool, a banking device, a Web portal, a messaging
service – and, of course, a phone.
Smartphone shipments to the U.S. grew 348 percent between 2007
and 2011, and are expected to grow another 44 percent through
2013, according to CEA Market Research. A 2012 Google survey
found that 93 percent of U.S. smartphone users had used their
phones to access the Internet every day in the preceding seven days.
Meanwhile in Africa, about 64 percent of people have access to
a mobile phone, and in some countries, like Nigeria, that figure
is much higher. What’s more, the number of mobile phone
users has risen by nearly 20 percent there in each of the last five
years, according to a 2011 report by the Groupe Speciale Mobile
Association (GSMA), and that trend is expected to continue.
In some ways, usage of mobile phones in western countries and
across Africa is very similar. However certain mobile phone
applications in Africa, such as those used in mobile banking
(m-banking) and social networking, are quite different from their
Western equivalents, largely because smartphones are the primary
Internet access point for many Africans. And, due to use and
market differences, the hardware that supports these applications
is different from that in the West in important ways. Accordingly,
production opportunities are growing for manufacturers who are
able to deliver low-cost devices that run on open-source platforms.
4G LTE deployments are expected to
reach 11 million customers across the
African continent by 2015.
The Education Revolution
No more pencils, no more books.” This popular chant
of students from Alice Cooper’s song “School’s Out,”
alluded to the excitement of school ending for the
summer. Now it has taken on a different connotation, characterizing
the shift toward technological advancements in
education. Education as we know it is being revolutionized.
This article examines the technology-driven paradigm shift in
education and identifies opportunities in the market by outlining
how educators are looking to employ technology in their
A Look Back
Technology is increasingly being used to supplement elementary,
secondary and higher education, and has become more
prevalent in the classroom in the last thirty years. For instance,
when Smart Boards entered the market in 1990, educators were
at the forefront of replacing two iconic classroom teaching
tools – the overhead projector and chalkboard – with this new
technology. Likewise, educators quickly moved from typewriters
to computers once the latter technology became affordable
for schools. But which technologies made a difference in the
quality of education?
When the radio and film projector brought sound and image
to students in the 1920s, inventor Thomas Edison predicted,
“Books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be
instructed through the eye.” Fast forward thirty years to the
1950s where this trend continues with the release of the television.
Along with this comes educational broadcast programming
and the iconic videotape, changing the classroom yet
again by adding entertainment to the education curriculum.
Another three decades later, in the 1980s, one of the most influential
technologies to impact education is released: the computer
followed by the introduction of the World Wide Web.
Today, slimmer, faster and more cost-effective computers such
as notebooks, e-books and tablets are transforming the classroom,
giving educators opportunities to provide students with
increased access to computers. The development of apps, social
media and the cloud provide students with opportunities to
learn in new and exciting ways using technology they’ve grown
up with and interact with on a weekly if not daily basis.
As we inch closer to a model for education that more closely
resembles Edison’s vision, will students be taught “through the
eye” as well as their other senses? How will modern technological
advances like e-books, augmented reality programs and
educational apps be incorporated into the classroom in years to
Consumer Perceptions of Technology in
With 58 million U.S. kids ages five to 19 enrolled in K-12 public
and private schools, and another eight million young adults
ages 20-24 in college according to the most recent census,
education is a priority on the mind of many across the nation.
Among those adults with kids currently enrolled in school,
three quarters (75 percent) believe technology improves the
learning experience. However, with a growing number of
students and budget limitations, most classrooms have limited
access to technology at best.
Over half of those with children in school agree that all students
enrolled in K-12 should be provided with a computer
to aid in their education. And seven in 10 adults with children
enrolled in school believe students should have access to the
The Educa tion Revo lution
By Jessica Boothe and Rhonda Daniel
Among those adults with kids currently
enrolled in school, three quarters (75
percent) believe technology improves
the learning experience.
Source: CEA Market Research
Public Concerns about Education
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