Consumer Electronics: Trends that will dominate 2017

By Deepa NarwaniAs the connected generation continues to expand, electronics companies and retailers are looking to engage consumers with path breaking innovations

The first episode of Star Trek aired on TV in 1966 and over the years the show accurately predicted the technologies of the future. The series displayed portable consumer technologies that are widespread today, such as the Bluetooth headset, flip mobile phones, and tablets, way back in the sixties.

Many of the newer technologies that have been introduced are clearly inspired by science fiction and are now a reality. Some of the path-breaking ones include in-home robots that listen, speak and move freely around a home, but there is still some time for this to go mainstream.

Today, the market for smartphones and tablets is booming. The Dubai electronics market size is expected to grow by 4.7 per cent over the next four years and may exceed $3 billion (Dh11 billion) by 2020, according to a recent statement by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).

The DCCI highlighted that the portable consumer electronics sub-category is expected to keep its lead with a 2020 sales forecast of $1.27 billion. Also, the computers and peripherals sub-category is forecasted to retain its size at $937 million, whereas in-home consumer electronics are expected to reach $900 million.

According to the DCCI, the main trend seen last year in consumer electronics sales was the gradual move towards more compact and multifunctional devices, especially those that offer internet connectivity, and tablets and smartphones are enjoying growth in sales.

In 2017, the consumer electronics industry in the UAE is expected to grow by around three per cent to $11.8 billion, which indicates at the huge demand in the market.

According to a Euromonitor report, the volume sales of consumer electronics grew strongly in 2016 and were driven by strong promotions that resulted in a decline in the average unit price in current terms for most of the key categories within consumer electronics. The report highlighted that Samsung Gulf Electronics was the clear leader of consumer electronics in 2016, benefitting from its strength in smartphones, tablets and LCD TVs. Apple came in second and posted a strong performance last year, which was thanks to the opening of its first store in Dubai at the end of 2015, along with the launch of the iPhone 7 at the end of 2016.

The leading channel for consumer electronics continued to be electronics and appliance specialist retailers in 2016, benefitting from a wide product and price range and the offer of expert advice, the report added. However, hypermarkets are narrowing the gap and slowly moving towards the leading position. Internet retailing remained a small channel, constrained by a strong shopping centre culture in the UAE.

The report stressed that consumer electronics is expected to continue to benefit from economic growth and surging shopping tourism, and tablets, smartphones and wearable electronics will also be key drivers of growth.

Furthermore, as technologies advance expect smart home products to become even more ubiquitous. That means Wi-Fi connectivity and app control will be more common in small kitchen-counter appliances. Also, expect refrigerators, washers, dryers, doorbells, light bulbs, ceiling fans, and smoke alarms, to get smarter too. The last couple of months has also seen the rise of wireless earbuds, i.e., earphones with no cords at all.

When it comes to healthcare, a number of tech companies are offering wearable buttons that can be pressed to call emergency services and work in conjunction with smartphones. There are also a variety of apps that keep track of fitness, daily medications and offer audible reminders and can easily be accessed by family members or medical personnel.Spotlight on car techRecently, sustainable travel made waves in the UAE as U.S. electric carmaker Tesla opened for business in Dubai. There are also plans to launch a shop and service centre in Abu Dhabi next year.

Chief Executive Elon Musk said that the company planned to invest millions in the UAE on infrastructure including recharging stations.

He was quoted saying, "We expect to invest tens of millions of dollars in the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructures. By next year, you'll be able to travel anywhere in the GCC with an electric vehicle."

Reportedly, orders have started for Tesla's Model S sedan and Model X SUV, which are expected to be delivered this summer. The prices start from Dh275,000 for the Model S, which can reportedly reach 100kph in 2.5 seconds.

Musk stressed that the reliability of an electric car is better than a gasoline car because there are fewer moving parts that require service, there are no oil changes and you don't need to change the brake pads because there's regenerative braking.Future of televisionAt the CES 2017 held at the Las Vegas Convention Center this January, huge television screens dominated the arena. Brands such as Samsung, Sony TCL, and Hisense showcased LCD-based technologies such as the quantum dot.

In 2016, 4K TVs hit the mainstream, but there has been a surge in demand for HDR as it offers a better overall picture, a wider range of colours, and higher contrasts.

Some interesting technologies displayed at CES 2017 included LG's new W7 model, nicknamed the "Wallpaper TV" and Samsung's super thin "Lifestyle TV" disguised as a painting. When you're not watching it, the TV will display artwork rather than turning off.Focus on Virtual RealityVirtual Reality has so far focused on games but has potential to be used in business and can be beneficial in fields like real estate and travel. But because it requires expensive glasses to deliver a serious experience, it will still be a few years before it reaches mainstream. Augmented and mixed reality is also having a big breakthrough thanks to the success of Pokémon Go in 2016. 

Captain Kirk and Spock in Star Trek

These wide range of products and innovations are all set to improve the quality of life, provide cutting-edge entertainment and dramatically change the way we handle everyday tasks. As Star Trek's Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, would say, the technologies today are boldly going where no one has gone before.