The Consumer Electronic Association’s 2012 International CES in Las Vegas this week was a huge event. The predicted 153K+ attendees did show up along with 3100 or so exhibitors showing 20K+ new products in a 1.851 million square foot (42 acres) convention center. Overwhelming just doesn’t cover it. It’s an experience. Too much to see and so little time. Ask ten different people what they saw at CES and you will get ten very different answers. That’s CES.
At least half your time (I’m not making this up) is in some form of transportation like bus, taxi, monorail and mostly walking. You have to wait in line for everything. It is not a time efficient show so limits what you can do and see. Your best bet is to be excruciatingly focused but that is hard to do with so many interesting distractions.
Walking through the exhibits is saw many over- 70 inch TV sets, several 3D variations, and the introduction of Wi-Fi and operating systems inside TV sets and set top boxes. New auto electronics that promises to introduce more driving distractions. I also had no idea there were so many different forms of speakers, ear buds or headsets. There were hundreds of new variations of cases, holders and protective coverings for cell phones and tablets. Asian companies dominated in this show for sure. I focused on wireless and communications. Here are a few key highlights:
• Microsoft talked about the forthcoming Windows 8 OS. It can be used with touch screens. The big news is that Windows 8 will also run on ARM processor-based products like tablets and cell phones as well as the legacy Intel/AMD x86 platform. Windows Mobile OS on Nokia’s new 900 Lumina smartphone was demoed.
• FCC’s Chairman Julius Genachowski asked for support for his initiative to bring universal broadband service to everyone. He also asked for incentivized spectrum auctions that would encourage spectrum holders to give up unused spectrum to help generate revenue for the government as well as ease the spectrum crunch to achieve more wireless broadband.
• Wi-Fi continues to grow and become more pervasive. There were 3500 new Wi-Fi product certifications in 2011 and additional growth is predicted as more TV sets, appliances, and mobile products add wireless capability. Wi-Fi is increasingly used by cellular providers for high speed data offload to ease network connection. The latest IEEE 802.11ac version of Wi-Fi is expected to appear later this year as the Wi-Fi Alliance puts its certification process in motion. This 5 GHz version can hit 1 Gb/s+ speeds and will find wide use in consumer video applications. The even faster 60 GHz version 802.11ad is expected to come along in 2013. A new certification for Wi-Fi in display applications (big screen TV, projectors, etc.) is also expected in 2012.
• ZigBee is also making great progress in its wireless efforts. New profiles customize the standard to the application. The latest smart energy profile for home area networks is the most active. The new RF4CE wireless remote control effort is finally paying off and many hybrid RF/IR remotes are expected in the near future. GreenPeak showed off their new RF4CE chips. See my video about GreenPeak at www.engineeringtv.com.
• Murata demonstrated its new capacitive charging technology. All current wireless charging products use transformer induction for charging. The Murata product uses capacitive coupling of a 200 kHz signal that is rectified and conditioned to provide DC charging for cell phones and other products. This arrangement is not as critical as inductive methods of alignment of charger and product. More details are available in the video at www.engineeringtv.com.
• Fresco Microchip showed their new FM5150A TV tuner (Fig. 1). It works with any analog or digital TV standard and covers the 42 to 865 MHz range. Its IF output connects to any baseband demodulator and eliminates some of the circuitry normally required in a TV product.
• SkyCross announced their new variable aperture antenna for cell phones and tablets. This tunable antenna operates over a wide range of frequencies and can compensate for the detuning that is common in cell phone use. A related video is available at www.engineeringtv.com.
• Texas Instruments showed off a wide variety of new wireless products. These include the CC2541 Bluetooth Low Energy chip for medical, fitness and security sensors, home automation and HID applications. The ZigBee RF4CE products are also now available. Also demonstrated was an updated PurePath wireless audio system with new 25 watt class D amplifiers. TI also introduced their OMAP5 with upgraded embedded ARM Cortex A15 processors for use in smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
• Home Grid, the alliance that supports and promotes the new G.hn home networking standard demonstrated several systems from vendors Marvell and Lantiq in transporting data over the power line or coax in consumer applications.
• HomePlug also demonstrated their latest HomePlug AV power line technology in video transport and their lower power Green PHY version for home energy management.
• Siano, the Israeli TV tuner chip vendor, showed their chip that will soon find its way into ASTC-M/H U.S. over the air (OTA) TV products like cell phones and tablets. Samsung also announced their forthcoming OTA chip that will show up on handsets later this year.
• WiSpry introduced their RF MEMS device the WS2017, a digitally tunable MEMS capacitor array that can provide wide tuning range and compensation for detuning in cell phones and other impedance matching needs.
• Quantenna demonstrated that fast and reliable 4x4 MIMO version of its Wi-fi 802.11n chipset. It delivers multiple HD streams over a long distance through walls making Wi-Fi more reliable in larger homes.
• Toshiba announced and demonstrated their new wireless TransferJet technology (Fig. 2). This new wireless technique is designed for short range but very fast data transfers for photo and media sharing, HD video streaming, data transfers between cell phones and PCs. It uses the 4.48GHz ISM frequency to deliver net data rates to 375 Mb/s up to several centimeters.
• CTX Virtual Technologies showed off their unusual personal computer form factor complete with virtual keyboard and screen. An internal laser projects the keyboard on a flat surface and sensors detect your keystrokes. A built in DLP pico projector lets you use any flat white surface for a screen that can be up to 80 inches wide. The technology can be embedded in smartphones and tablets. See related video at www.engineeringtv.com.
Consumers are addicted to their electronics. CES is where you get to see the next wave of addictions. It is pretty exciting stuff. You can also wait a few months and see most of the same at BestBuy or other big electronics retailer. But it is more exciting in Las Vegas if you can spare the time and money. Bring really good shoes.