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CES 2019 preview: A connected future

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CES 2019 preview: A connected future

As nascent technologies start becoming consumer realities, interesting gizmos and gadgets will be spotlighted at the world’s largest technology conference next week.

There has been an increased focus in recent years at CES on solutions expanding beyond personal devices to streets and cities. Artificial intelligence, driven by machine learning and the internet of things, and automation of transportation took center stage in 2018 during keynotes from large corporations like Toyota Motor Corp. and Intel Corp. That trend will likely continue in 2019 as companies such as Dell Inc. promise to focus on the intelligent future.

Smart solutions will be featured in keynotes from the major automobile manufacturers, as well as from companies such as LG Corp., which has been teasing new AI advances, and Bosch, which promises a focus on smart cities and automated transportation. Also, look for the world’s largest semiconductor companies to present their new products and visions for supporting a connected AI world at events such as NVIDIA Corp.'s Jan. 6 media day presentation and Intel’s keynote on Jan. 7.

All of the new connectivity depends heavily on burgeoning 5G technology, the new mobile standard that promises low latencies, high speeds and spectrum efficiencies. In 2018, many companies pointed to the advancement of 5G as necessary to the automated future, and there was no shortage of consternation over the slow pace of regulation and implementation of the new standard. However, with 5G tests underway across the globe and major carriers expanding 5G in the U.S. in 2019, CES 2019 should offer more optimism for innovation.

While the first 5G-enabled mobile devices may still be months away for the average consumer, a QUALCOMM Inc. executive recently confirmed that all major Android phone manufacturers have models in the works for 2019, and some companies could put their first 5G phones on display. Companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. will likely discuss the results of their 5G tests in separate keynotes. The future of 5G was a potential topic in U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's scheduled annual keynote on Jan. 8 but Pai's office said he will not be attending. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao's keynote on mobility is scheduled for Jan. 9.

The parade of personal and home devices, meanwhile, will continue, carrying on the long-standing tradition of CES being a consumer-focused conference. TV and appliance manufacturers will still command their expo-floor acreage, but increasingly with connectivity features that integrate interactive assistants like Amazon.com Inc.'s Alexa and Alphabet Inc.'s Google Home.

Plus, there are the ever-expanding and improving screens. After exhibiting 8K concept displays across the show floor in 2017 and 2018, the 2019 models will likely see a range of high-tech, pixel-dense models that are actually available to mainstream consumers. Mobile device companies could release devices with foldable screens, and other companies could be prototyping bigger displays that fold and expand between mobile, laptop and TV sizes.

Look for a rollable TV announcement from LG, as well. And expect the majority of new flexible and pixel-packed devices to support a smart assistant or three to connect the user and combine with other IoT and smart home devices.