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Semico’s Top 5 Technologies from CES

As usual, this year’s CES was dauntingly huge.  There were thousands of products and over 150,000 people registered.  Semico sent in four fearless analysts to brave the chaos for you and below we’ve laid out five technologies we think you should pay attention to as game changers. 

3D Printing

Over the past several months, Semico has been digging into the pros and cons of additive manufacturing, more commonly referred to as 3D printing.  The 3D printing companies represented at CES have convinced me that this is a revolutionary technology.  It’s my selection for best product at CES. 

A 3D printer is not just a tool for prototypes or a mere plaything for the hobbyist.  3D printers will change our lives.  Need a new set of plates or bakeware, make it with 3D Systems’ CeraJet that works with ceramic materials.  Need a hearing aid?  Make it with envisionTEC’s DDSP System that uses TI’s DLP technology.  And this isn’t just for small items.  The Stratasys Objet1000 features a large build tray of 1000 x 800 x 500 mm (39.3 x 31.4 x 19.6 in.) capable of working with 14 different materials.  3DMonstr is a large, industrial-grade, quad-extruder 3D printer, with the capability of building an object up to 8 cubic ft.  3DMonster is currently on Kickstarter and has already surpassed its goal.   

Before you jump into the market to buy one of these 3D printers, there is a lot to consider.  3D printers can work with a variety of materials such as polymers, paper, metals, ceramics and chocolate.  Yes, I said chocolate.  Revolutionary, right?  There are consumer models and professional models, a variety of printing resolutions down to 16 microns per layer, varying speeds and of course a range of prices.  But your printed product is only as good as your design software, which must be able to create accurate STL, OBJ, VRML, XYZ or other file formats  that are easily transferable to the printer.  3D scanners, such as 3D Systems’ iSense and Sense products, can capture real-life images that can be processed as a 3D-printable file.  

3D printing is still far from being in every home and factory, but as the technology continues to improve, I believe the Star Trek replicator is at our fingertips.  

Bosch Wireless Sensor Network

The Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas had numerous products designed for the Internet of Things (IoT).  The connected home was a theme for many companies.  A major feature for the connected home is smart lighting.  The connected smart home also includes security, door locks, energy management, appliances and other devices and services.

The IoT will require enabling products that tap into a broad spectrum of technologies.  It is not only individual gadgets but also a network to monitor, communicate and control different devices.

Prior to CES, Bosch announced the formation of a new company for the Internet of Things and Services, Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH.  It specializes in the development of networked sensors and actuators.  At CES2014 the new CEO, Dr. Thorsten Müller, showed off a wireless sensor node module with Bluetooth.  The WSN incorporates sensors from Bosch Sensortec.  Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH will sell complete modules to OEMs.  It will also supply any other RF that is desired.

I am selecting the Bosch WSN as my pick for best product at CES2014.  There are many products and devices performing various functions for the IoT.  Bosch is providing an important enabling technology that pulls together these various devices.  The WSN can be used for residential and commercial applications.

The Bosch WSN includes a 9-axis IMU (accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer), microphone and light sensor.  It has an ARM MCU and embeds Bosch’s sensor fusion algorithm.  The sensor fusion enables context awareness. The WSN is used for cloud based security.  Bosch considers its algorithm is a selling point.  In addition to context awareness, it enables lower power consumption.  It has a 2-year battery life with a CR123.

Bosch is approaching this market as the Internet of Things and Services (IoTS).  The IoT is more than individual connected devices.  The purpose is to develop a network in which businesses can deliver services to consumers.  The WSN and future products from Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH will help lay down a foundation for this development.

Bionics: Thought-Controlled Prosthetics

There are so many products at CES that it seems impossible to see them all during just one week.  Most of them are entertaining or show just a small increase in technological innovation, but a few can lay claim to being life-changing, which is exactly what thought-controlled prosthetics are. 

This year, we had the pleasure of seeing a presentation by Dr. Levi Hargrove who works at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where his team has created the world’s first thought-controlled bionic leg in partnership with the DoD.  

Sure, it’s a few million dollars, and not quite ready for the consumer market, but if CES is showing us what products are up and coming, then this is definitely a highlight.  Give it another five years, and maybe we’ll be seeing a bionic section right next to the 3D printing section.  

Aging in Place: Pain Relief

This year CES had a whole (small) section devoted to the Aging in Place market they called the Silvers Summit.  I realized I had entered the zone when I looked up and saw I was surrounded by an elderly mob wearing AARP shirts.  There was one booth in particular they were all surrounding called the Neubac.  

Now, the Neubac isn’t a particularly revolutionary product, but its solving a very pressing need: immediate and mobile back pain relief.  Most systems that use TENS Technology are bulky and have many pads and wires that make it hard to move around without looking like some sort of science experiment.  The Neubac though is subtle and it works: people who were getting demos were all trying to con the exhibitor to sell them a unit to use right then and there even though it was against CES rules.   That’s why I’m adding the Neubac to this list. 

LED Lighting

LEDs were everywhere at CES this year.  Many of the smart home displays featured LED lighting as an integral part of an energy conscious, smart home.  One LED light vendor was different.  I visited Definity Digital booth, and although I would not vote their LED product as the best CES product, I view it as one of the most unique and creative use of this technology.

Light and heat have been essentials since the dawn of mankind.  Fire the primary source of light in prehistoric time was highly guarded and is one of the things that differentiate man from the animal kingdom.  Today, light is just as important but the quest has been without heat and LED is the best solution.  Definity Digital is creating a new niche, healthy lighting.  The company has adapted LED technology to take advantage of a recent scientific discovery regarding specific blue light and its effect on humans and animals. Scientists discovered receptors in our eyes that regulate the production of melatonin by stimulating the pineal gland.  Insomnia disrupts the lives of millions. In the U.S. 40% of women and 30% of men regularly suffer from insomnia.

Definity Digital use LED technology and patented filtering technology to manufacture bulbs that eliminate the wave length which interferes with the production of melatonin. This creates an environment for good melatonin production and enhanced sleep patterns.  The Good Night bulbs are perfect for bedrooms.  There’s also an Awake & Alert bulb with specifically calibrated blue light wave lengths which result in increased alertness and focus, ideal for workplaces, libraries, classrooms and fitness centers.

Can this technology be real?  Good Night bulbs use a patented technology filter to greatly reduce melatonin suppressing blue light, while delivering commercially acceptable color rendering. This technology is used by NASA and the International Space Station to enable astronauts to naturally manage their sleep rather than depending on chemical sleep aids.

What is also fascinating is that all animals have these receptors.  As an example, in sea turtles these receptors guide the turtles back to the ocean guided by the light from the full moon.  Artificial light near the coast confuse baby turtles causing them the go inland versus out to the ocean. Night bulbs from Definity Digital do not confuse baby sea turtles allowing nature and man to coexist. 

So LED lights are not only green and smart, they can also be healthy.  But at almost $70 a bulb, I’ll be taking a melatonin supplement until the price comes down a bit. 

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