Japan’s largest IT and electronics trade show has always been anticipated as an event that showcases some of the best that the country has to offer in consumer electronics. Compared to 2012, there were about 40% fewer exhibitors in attendance, as well as a couple of absences (noticeably KDDI, who was rumored to attend this year’s event), which may have contributed to the slightly subdued atmosphere this year.
The theme for this year’s show encouraged submissions of technologies, products and services aimed at making people’s lives both richer and more comfortable. Titled ‘Smart Innovation: Technology for Future Society and Lifestyles’, CEATEC 2013 was all about what was “Smart”. There were presentations on “smart community”, “smart networking”, and “smart devices”, and a lot of exhibitors displayed innovations that built on this idea of more seamless, enriched living facilitated by technology.
“Smart Devices” was a theme heavily repeated in the “digital display” category. Ultra HD, big screen displays boasting 4K or 8K resolution were presented alongside new display concepts, like Sharp’s IGZO “frameless” screen.
On the content side of things, exhibitors took advantage of these new developments and presented content management systems and services aimed at creating a user experience specifically designed for digital/”smart” TV. NHK showcased Hybridcast, a system that enables users to access interactive, information-rich content across multiple devices via a broadband network and HTML5 interface. Similarly, Toshiba’s REGZA TimeOn is a suite of services that uses the cloud to make the television experience more interactive. For example, viewers can enable a Twitter feed tied to a particular channel’s hashtag, which will then display what other viewers are saying about a particular program in real-time.
Mobility was also a big theme in this year’s conference, with mobility device demonstrations taking up a large area in Halls 7 and 8. Following an announcement that it would bring autonomous cars to the market by 2020, Nissan demonstrated its Autonomous Drive Vehicle (‘Leaf’). A three-lap course for the car to self-navigate through was set up, and required the vehicle to pass by parked cars as well perceive stop signs and handle crossing intersections. Although demonstrated in a restricted space, the car can drive up to speeds of about 70 km/h, and utilises a radar system to anticipate obstacles within a 80m perimeter.
A number of the bigger exhibitors, including Mitsubishi, Toyota and Toshiba used the Lifestyle and Society Stage to showcase displays promoting smart grid systems for the home, or HEMS (Home Energy Management System). HEMS collects real-time data on power usage and presents it visually, enabling consumers to easily track, monitor and ultimately adjust their energy consumption levels accordingly.
In a similar vein, “Smart Homes” were concepts presented as part of next-generation living. “Smart Appliances” such as washing machines which could send consumers status-updates, and air-conditioners which could be controlled outside the home through smartphones, were often presented as part of a networked web of devices that functioned with HEMS to not only ensure a more pleasant living environment, but a more energy efficient lifestyle as well.
Healthcare was also a category that garnered a lot of attention. Building on the increasing popularity of using quantified data to self-monitor aspects of daily life, Omron showcased a series of inter-connectable devices that helps an individual keep track of their body weight, temperature, sleep patterns, heart rate and blood pressure. A majority of the products were designed with the ability to wirelessly send collected data to a central location, which also makes it easier for third parties, such as doctors, to monitor an individual and intervene if necessary.
While several other companies, including Nordic Semiconductor, Goo Karadalog, as well as Korean exhibitor Dae Kyoung Ind.Co. (above) also offered their own personal health monitoring devices, the most noticeable of these was Sharp’s Healthcare Support Chair. A rather futuristic-looking take on the traditional doctor’s examination chair, Sharp’s spherical contraption can measure a person’s weight, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature all in one sitting. In addition, it can also determine how healthy a patient’s blood vessels are and assess their body balance. All of this information is displayed on a shield of multi-paneled screens, and the information can also be sent straight to your doctor.
Other products and services which made use of wireless data transmission and cloud storage were SFK Medical Company’s “suisui Nurse”, an application that allows nurses conducting home visits to directly send vital information as well as pictures to a doctor, and Fujitsu’s “Petcloud” which collects health-related data about your pet throughout its lifetime. There were also a number of “babysitter” robots that provide companionship and in extreme cases monitor an individual in need of care such as the elderly or young children such as NEC’s PaPeRo or Fujisoft’s “Palro”.
And like any type of fairs CEATEC makes no exception to the award giving practice with twenty-four awards being given out during the five days event. The CEATEC organizers selected eleven grand-Prix winners and semi grand-Prix winners in Products, Network & services, key technology and core technology categories as well as a Review panel special award that went to Keio University’s Katsura laboratory part of the department of system design engineering. Two special awards were given out by the Ministry of Internal Affars and communication and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to in the same order, NTT docomo for its Next-generation mobile communication system (5G) and Kyocera corporation for Piezo film speaker “smart sonic (R) sound”. Finally an independent panel of journalist versed in either I.T. or consumer electronics gave out awards to companies for innovative product or concepts that would have the most influence on the U.S. market the grand-Prix of that award was given to Nissan motors co.,ldt for its Autonomous drive vehicle.