3D printing, curved monitors and the Internet of Things will all feature heavily at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, says CCS Insight.
The analyst believes the most prominent category will be connected devices, especially wearables, the connected home, connected cars and 3D printing. The company also predicts augmented and virtual reality will be notable themes, and drones will emerge as this year's hottest gadget.
While some 1.48 billion smartphones and 291 million tablets will be sold in 2015 (although tablet sales are slowing), CCS expects few groundbreaking developments in this area.
Android is set to be the dominant operating system for new devices as the ascendency of Chinese manufacturers continues apace, with more thinner devices with larger screens on the horizon.
Although 2014 was widely considered to be 'the year of wearables', CCS believes it will be eclipsed at the 2015 CES event.
Ben Wood, CCS Insight's Chief of Research, commented: "This year's show will see wearables hype reaching stratospheric levels buoyed by the looming arrival of the Apple Watch."
"The biggest challenge manufacturers must solve is how to make wearable devices more appealing to the average consumer. We need to move beyond ugly black plastic devices designed by middle-aged male engineers. Wearables should be comfortable and fashionable, and I'm expecting some high-profile partnerships between technology companies and fashion brands to come out of CES."
The connected home
CCS Insight surveys show that the average UK household now has more than 10 connected devices, which is forecast to rise to 15 connected devices by 2019.
CCS expects the connected home to be a dominant theme at CES as manufacturers, service providers and software companies all jostle to secure a leading place in this hot area.
Martin Garner, CCS Insight's SVP, Internet, said: "The whole arena continues to expand, but a grand vision remains elusive. The market's being held back by immature products, fragmented standards and ill-defined ideas about how we should be using connected things.
"With all this uncertainty there's an opportunity for Apple and Google to seize the moment thanks more to the strength of their brands than because of the technical superiority of their systems."
The connected automobile is also another area to watch closely at this year's show. CCS Insight expects all leading car makers to use CES to show off the next generation of connected vehicles.
The total market for 3D printers in 2014 was 158,000 units. CCS Insight expects this to rise to 845,000 by 2018.
The 3D printer market is currently worth $1.6 billion per year, which is set to rise to nearly $5 billion in 2018, most of which will be industrial machines.
Last year's CES saw a small but noticeable presence by 3D printer manufacturers. This year CCS expects the size and scale of this segment to grow dramatically. Although industrial 3D printers are set for stable growth, research shows that the market for consumer 3D printer market is still in its infancy and faces a more uncertain future.
Arnaud Gagneux, VP, Technology Transformation at CCS Insight, added: "We are concerned the consumer 3D printing bubble is going to burst before the market even gets started. As we head to CES the hype is palpable but we fear it's built on overoptimistic forecasts of sales that won't materialise. There are still big unanswered questions about copyright and intellectual property rights in 3D printing."
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