Earlier this month, more than 170,000 tech enthusiasts once again converged in Las Vegas for the always-massive, yet inspiring, Consumer Electronics Show (CES). #EdTechLN Co-Leaders Paul Hill and Jamie Seger were among the crowd.

This is what we learned from CES about the future of Extension

“Innovation” is Relative

Depending on the industry, how “innovation” is defined ebbs and flows… The level of innovation at CES was mind-blowing, even for a techie. And on a completely separate level from how Extension defines “innovation”. Or do we even have a standard definition for how we’re innovating?

  • In Extension, this can also vary from state to state
  • A definition of “innovation” and what is expected of Extension professionals for them to work “innovatively” is needed.

Innovation means different things to different people, but in order to make sure that we’re utilizing at least current technologies, we need to define it for Extension in order to hold people accountable.

Big Data is an increasingly large and complex puzzle that Extension is poised to help solve

Connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) were front and center all over the CES showroom floor. From wearables for health monitoring (think FitBit) to Smart faucets that monitor water usage and leaks, all of that data has to go somewhere and hopefully be used for something.

  • Research and data analyzing / application opportunities are endless
  • The majority of individuals won’t sift through the data themselves to make sense of it or use it to their advantage, Extension can address this need

The main category in wearables is fitness tracking

Fitness tracking is a growing space that is moving beyond no-frills looks and into the fashion statements many of our clients are adopting:

  • Fitbit exhibited The Blaze, it doesn’t check your email; it’s not a phone replacement; and it’s not an organizer. Instead, it’s a hardcore physical fitness tracker that can handle a lot more than fitness.
  • Under Armour showed off a $400 fit-tech package that includes a smart scale, a heart-rate tracking fitness band and a heart-rate chest strap.
  • The OMbra, the worlds’s first “smart” bra, introduced by OMsignal, aims to measure women’s biometrics through a piece of clothing already worn daily. The bra is expected to start shipping in spring, for around $150.

Like big data in general, more information about health is terrific, but what does it mean? Extension has the opportunity to assist clients in interpreting data,

The presence of drones was even more prominent this year

…despite federal regulators having begun to lay out the parameters for how people and businesses can use the technology. Countless companies showed off drones, however, all eyes were on what the two major players in the space had planned.

Both Alphabet (remember, it owns Google) and Amazon think the government should regulate commercial drone traffic because UAV technology has the potential to revolutionize delivery and will inevitably affect people more broadly in the coming years. So what do these companies want?

  • Amazon doesn’t support pre-approved flight plans and instead wants to rely more on in-flight sense-and-avoid technology.
  • Alphabet wants drones to file a flight plan and then follow it. A centralized system would tell them when they can fly and when they must modify their plans.

Even though both companies are at odds, they’re working with the FAA on the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management project. The general idea here is to carve out a space of airspace between 200 and 500 feet that would allow for commercial drone usage and to build a system that would allow for managing that traffic.

Looking forward to the day when Extension agents can pilot drones to their clients farms, take soil samples or insect images, upload them through the cloud to campus and respond back with precise information and treatment instructions within minutes.

Other highlights

Paul got scanned for an action figure.

 

Jamie drooled over LED paper.  

 In 2016, CES was more evolutionary than revolutionary

While the “next big thing” was not unveiled, we still learned a lot about where the next big things from previous years are headed.

Far from new: IoT devices, wearables, virtual reality, home automation and drones have been in development for a while–nevertheless–all of these technologies appear closer to realizing their full potential.

We are currently living through an exciting in-between phase of emerging technologies. It’s a special time for humanity, all these things have their place but someday we’ll be able to look back on this time and talk about how we saw virtual reality, AI, smart cars, and drones advance from concepts and prototypes to the market adoption and integration into our daily lives. But for now, it’s all in an awkward stage of adolescence.

For key highlights from the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, checkout this article from phys.org.