Updated from 9 a.m. EST to include more information about automotive technology on the fourth page.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's the early part of January, and that means that after you've put on 5 lbs. from eating all sorts of food over the holidays, it's time to walk off all of that excess weight at the gargantuan International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) being held in Las Vegas starting next week.
This year, the hot CES themes are likely to be a continuation of major trends from 2013 as the world awaits a chance to see the gadgets and gizmos that are likely to soon be on everyone's shopping lists.
Intel (INTC), Yahoo! (YHOO), Broadcom (BRCM), Cisco (CSCO) and Samsung will all have executives at CES discussing the latest trends and showing off their latest wears to reviewers, analysts, journalists and show-goers alike, hoping to Wow with their products. After the show, the media will determine the winners and losers from the show, and then pass out from exhaustion after working non-stop around the clock for three days with no sleep in Las Vegas. Vegas baby, Vegas.
The key themes this year are likely to be 4K televisions, wearable technology and the Internet of Things, among others. 4K televisions, which were prevalent at last year's show, didn't really take off as prices on the sets were exorbitant and the content just wasn't there. Last year, I interviewed Broadcom (BRCM) CEO Scott McGregor to talk about 4K. "Ultra HD is a new TV technology that is four times the resolution, or four times the quality of the picture of the previous grade HDTV's that you had," McGregor said in that an interview, unveiling new chips Broadcom created for the set-top boxes that will deliver the 4K content.
However, there hasn't been a lot of 4K content produced, though movies such as The Hobbit were filmed in 4K. The television set sales may get a boost this year, as prices come down. Last year, I took a look at a 4K TV set that cost $22,000. This year, we've already seen Polaroid announce a 4K television for $1,000.
I suspect that once we crack the $1,000 price point for base model televisions, we can expect 4K set sales to start to trend higher, especially as companies such as Samsung, Toshiba, LG and Panasonic unveil their latest and greatest television models. Samsung and LG have already announced plans to show off new 4K TVs at CES which will include curved displays, designed to enhance the viewing experience. However, it's still up for debate whether that's really a benefit to the viewer, or more of a gimmick.
The second big trend that we can expect to see at CES is wearable technology. Last year, wearables led by companies such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike (NKE) really helped the whole wearable technology field take off among the mainstream consumer. The Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband is among the most popular items on Amazon (AMZN), and Jawbone also has a wristband device of its own, Jawbone UP. Both of these devices track how you sleep and your general activity such as steps-taken and calories-burned. Using apps to your smartphone, you can upload information about what you eat and drink while tracking your nutritional information.
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White projects 2014 to be the year in which wearable tech finally gets respect as its own category. "Based on our recent research in Asia, we believe Apple (AAPL) will launch the "iWatch" before the end of 2014, and we expect this will further validate the "wearable technology" movement," White wrote in a recent research report. "Smartwatches have already been launched by companies such as Pebble, i'm Watch, Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm and others; however, success has proved limited. We believe it will take a company such as Apple to launch a smartwatch that is actually "cool" to wear in order to drive mass consumer adoption."
Last year, I predicted either Fitbit or Jawbone would get acquired this year, as the wearable field explodes, and more people become more conscious about their health, and the role that technology can play in keeping them healthy and making them healthier.
I suspect that we'll see more of these types of devices, including new unveilings from both Fitbit and Jawbone, particularly as the world awaits Apple's (AAPL) entry into the wearable field with its long awaited iWatch. Apple doesn't have a formal presence at CES, but last year I spotted several people with "Apple" on their badges, so it's pretty clear that even if Apple isn't formally there, it's always the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, whether we like it or not.
Internet of Things
Last year, we saw companies like Samsung and others announce smart, connected appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washers and dryers as consumers become smarter about their use of electricity. Companies like Cisco have bet heavily on the Internet of Things as more devices and appliances become connected to each other.
We saw some of that last year with Nest, which makes the popular Learning Thermostat, and recently unveiled a new smoke detector. The company also reportedly raised $80 million in new funding, valuing the company around $800 million. Clearly, this means venture capitalists see the promise in connecting millions of appliances and new devices to the Internet.
One big theme at last year's CES was the introduction of technology into the car. Last year, Ford (F) unveiled a pledge to keep its focus on developers, as the automotive entertainment sector continues to grow.
This year, I'm expecting to see more of the same from the automakers, including Ford, Audi and General Motors (GM), as they show off the latest in-car infotainment options. With Google's (GOOG) driverless cars being such a hit among the tech community, Tesla's (TSLA) epic run in the equity markets and the popularity of electric vehicles, I would expect to see alternative fuel cars pop up at CES, and perhaps see a driverless car or two.
Cantor Fitzgerald's White notes 9 of the top 10 auto makers will be at CES this year, so the theme of the connected car is likely to be prevalent. "Once again, we believe Apple will be an important player in the development of this market. Recall, during last year's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple discussed "iOS in the Car" and highlighted the potential to reach automobiles in 2014," White wrote in the research report. "Similar to the connected car, we expect more innovations around the connected home this year, and we believe Apple's iOS is also well positioned for this market."
It's expected that Ford will unveil a solar-powered hybrid car at CES next week, given the popularity of alternative fuel vehicles, based largely on the popularity of the Tesla Model X.
TheStreet will be attending CES starting Sunday, running a live blog throughout the week, as we take a look at the latest and greatest from Silicon Valley, and the rest of the technology field.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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