The journey to Las Vegas every year for CES is something of a pilgrimage for technophiles. It is among the show tunes and slot machines that you will see the latest and greatest in tech, and identify the trends for the year ahead.
Google, however, typically isn’t much of a center stage player at CES. The search company tends to release new products and information through its own, proprietary events, such as the I/O developer conference, where it doesn’t have to share the spotlight with other companies.
While Google didn’t divulge any earth-shattering news, or unveil its next big product at CES 2015, the company had a presence there and several of its partners shared new developments. Here are the top three trends to watch in the Google and Android ecosystems from CES 2015.
1. It starts in the home
Google hasn’t been shy about its interest in the Internet of Things space. Early last year, the company acquired smart thermostat maker Nest Labs for $3.2 billion, catalyzing its headlong dive into the connected home. Much of what we saw at CES this year pointed to an even bigger play at this market.
Nest, which is still operated as a separate company, kicked off the CES festivities by announcing a host of new partnerships for home automation. The initiative is called “Works with Nest,” and companies such as smart lock maker August, LG, Philips Hue, and UniKey joined Dropcam, Whirlpool, and Mercedes Benz as part of the collaboration effort.
Google’s efforts in the home won’t stop at automation, though.
When it comes to consumer electronics at CES, there were plenty of conversations around televisions, especially regarding 4K. Sony was one of the top exhibitors of 4K TVs, displaying its KDL-W850C series which has Android TV integration.
Google also recently released its Nexus Player and an updated version of the Chromecast, showing its eagerness to capitalize on the streaming video market. Another announcement it made at CES was the impending launch of Google Cast for audio. Soon, users will be able to stream audio from approved apps directly to compatible speakers. Additionally, there were third party products like the Razer Forge TV that use the Android OS to stream other media.
2. All about the automobile
Some of the biggest hype around Android at CES had to do with its Android Auto initiative, which is the Android OS powering specific vehicle infotainment displays. The initiative was announced earlier this year at the company’s I/O conference for developers.
Audio company Pioneer was one of the first companies to roll out Apple’s Carplay technology, and they showcased their aftermarket Android Auto integration at CES this year. Android Auto will be available on the second-generation NEX receivers by Pioneer in March 2015.
One of the fullest integrations came from Korean car manufacturer Hyundai. Called Blue Link, the Android Auto service built out by Hyundai is integrated with other tools such as car alarms and car starters. Hyundai took it one step further by building out an accompanying Android Wear app that allows users to remotely start or stop the engine, lock or unlock the doors, flash the lights, honk the horn, or geo locate the car.
3. Mobile reigns
Android, at its core, is still a mobile OS, and that was apparent at CES. Android news at the show centered around smartphones, specifically the LG Flex 2.
The Flex 2’s keystone feature is its curved display. The phone’s screen is 5.5 inches, setting it on the edge of the phablet category. The phones is powered by a Snapdragon 810 quad-core processor and will ship with Android 5.0.
Android Wear, Google’s wearable initiative, has been a big undertaking for the company in 2014 and will continue to be a big part of its strategy in 2015. One of the most unique Android Wear smartwatches on display was the GoldKey Secure Communicator. The phone has its own secure storage and payments tools, setting it apart as a potential enterprise contender.