Wrapping Up CES: What Can Engineers Expect in 2020?
CES 2020 offered new insights and product announcements regarding 5G, automotive, IoT, and AI. But which of these trends should engineers pay attention to?
When CES 2020 kicked off, we gave our forecast of which trends, relevant to hardware engineers, would unfold. Now, with the conference in our rearview, it may be useful to again assess innovations announced and how they introduce new ways to approach 5G, automotive, IoT, and AI.
While it's impossible to capture the thousands of presentations and product releases debuted at CES 2020 in one article, an overview of show topics and stand-out products may help you keep an eye on a few prominent industry trends.
Will We Finally See 5G in 2020?
While the 5G buzz has been ongoing, at this year’s CES, carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint spoke more specifically about their 2020 goals for customers.
For instance, AT&T claims that they are increasingly deploying a software-defined network (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) to replace network hardware equipment with apps running on servers.
"It’s faster and allows us to boost network capacity to meet surging data demands in real-time. We are on track to control 75% of our core network functions with software by the end of 2020," says Scott Mair, writer on AT&T's technology blog.
Despite 5G being another trending technology this year, we may not see a fully stand-alone deployment. Screen capture used courtesy of AT&T
5G currently runs on top of 4G and actualizing a standalone 5G network requires the refarming of 4G frequencies to 5G.
While progress has been made, there is still work to be done to see the promises of 5G come to fruition. Engineers looking to use 5G in certain projects and products from IoT and smart cities to autonomous driving applications may have to wait as well. However, hardware development supporting the network can certainly be implemented for when it is eventually deployed.
One of the key highlights of CES 2020 was the focus on burgeoning automotive technology—a trend that will almost certainly continue this year.
For instance, Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon Ride Platform, a solution for autonomous driving and ADAS supported by three core pillars: Snapdragon Ride Safety SoCs, a Snapdragon Ride Safety Accelerator, and a Snapdragon Ride Autonomous Stack.
Built upon modular heterogeneous multi-core CPUs, AI and computer vision (CV) engines, and GPUs, the Snapdragon Ride Platform is said to support L1/L2 (Active Safety ADAS), L2+ (Convenience ADAS), and L4/L5 (Fully Autonomous Driving).
The Snapdragon Ride Platform is said to offer sensor fusion and road world visualization. Screen capture used courtesy of Qualcomm
Another noteworthy demonstration came from ON Semiconductor with their LiDAR technology—the "industry’s first" family of wide field-of-view (FoV) Single Photon avalanche diode (SPAD) arrays designed for short-, mid- and long-range LiDAR applications.
One important application of LiDAR is in-vehicle automotive imaging and detection.
ON Semiconductor has several other ADAS viewing solutions in their portfolio including CMOS image sensors, image signal processing, power management, and signal conditioning and protection.
The intense focus on smart-everything at CES may indicate that engineers will also see a boom in IoT-specific components.
Some components debuted for IoT applications included Maxim Integrated's 2-pin PLC chip for true wireless earbuds and CEVA's SenslinQ, an integrated hardware IP and software platform designed to support contextually-aware IoT products.
Block diagram of SenslinQ's hardware platform. Image used courtesy of CEVA, Inc.
In addition to showcasing their ADAS technology, ON Semiconductor brought their IoT innovation to CES 2020, shortly after being named “IoT Sensor Company of the Year” by the IoT Breakthrough Awards.
Their diverse IoT portfolio includes image sensors as small as 4mm on each side for low power; compact industrial cameras; battery-free RFID sensors (Smart Passive Sensors, SPS) that monitor parameters such as temperature, moisture, and pressure; and sensor development kits.
Emerging AI Tools
CES also indicated strides in AI development. One company making its mark on AI is SensiML Corporation, a leading developer of AI tools for building intelligent IoT endpoints.
The company claims that its SensiML Analytics Toolkit allows easy development of smart sensors with real-time anomaly detection through IoT endpoints. Anomaly detection is used for industrial equipment and regularly monitors variables like temperature, vibration, sound, motion, flow, and other time-series sensor data.
SensiML Analytics Studio. Screen capture used courtesy of SensiML
AI-based analysis then differentiates between normal and outlier behavior and flags it for immediate intervention. Chris Rogers, CEO of SensiML, believes that through implementing smart sensors with the Analytics Toolkit, companies can “efficiently monitor plant equipment, optimize processes, and lower operating costs to improve the bottom line.”
Another AI announcement at CES 2020 came from EPIC Semiconductors with their flagship Smart Dust microscopic AI sensor chip, dubbed the "AI chip with feelings." Smart Dust chips are battery-free and powered by a pre-quantum superposition processor that can sense physical forces, chemical reactions, human actions, and bioeffects.
Smart Dust from EPIC Semiconductors is a microscopic AI sensor chip can detect many different forces and can be implemented in various industries Image used courtesy of EPIC Semiconductors
The practical uses of Smart Dust include 3D gesture sensing for smart devices and appliances, securing blockchain supply chains, retail shopping, and smart sensing in industrial processes, amongst others.
Smart Dust is said to be a low-cost, maintenance solution that may impact the way engineers approach their future designs by providing data and measurements of systems to better monitor them. Still, it may be a while before we see practical implementations of Smart Dust.
While many new technologies and innovations were presented at CES 2020, it may be years before we fully experience them as consumers. However, engineers will be given the responsibility and challenge to actualize these new technologies much sooner.