Report from CES 2011, Part 3: Digital Ecosystems and Device Convergence

This is the final article in a series of posts about innovations on display at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month in (fabulous) Las Vegas.  This article will discuss how your electronics can talk to each other using standards like DLNA, as well as show the latest “SuperPhone”, the Motorola Atrix.

Interconnected Ecosystems of Electronics

Although new mobile phones are traditionally announced at telecommunications-centered trade shows, CES 2011 featured many new devices which illustrate how mobile devices, consumer electronics, and computers are converging into a series of devices which work together. This new model means that in addition to connecting your Blu-Ray player to your home theater and your LED television, you will be able to connect many other devices in a “plug and play” ecosystem which can be operated easily. This new model means that:

· Users can connect a smart phone or a tablet to your wireless network, and it can either play back content on the phone/tablet or use the wireless network to work as a remote control for any supported device.

· Smart television sets can run applications to access web content like FaceBook, Yahoo!, YouTube, make phone calls using Skype, or to display media files from your existing network. Most new television sets feature digital connections such as HDMI, DVI, fiber optics, wireless networks, or traditional wired networks to transmit data between devices and work with your internet connection.

· Set top boxes like the D-Link Boxee Box, Apple TV, the Roku HD, or Google TV allow existing “dumb” TV sets to access this new digital world.

· Gaming devices like the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox360 serve as players on these networks, and also integrate with gaming ecosystems like Xbox Live and Windows Phone 7. Devices like the Xbox Kinect allow for remoteless control of electronic devices, and will allow users to socialize virtually using Avatars in a virtual world to connect people around the world.

· Smart speakers allow audio to be “pushed” to network-attached audio devices using a remote or other device.

· Devices which you may have never considered “personal electronics” may interface with your home theater and gaming systems in new and useful ways. For example, the Panasonic booth at CES featured a NordicTrack exercise machine that communicated with Panasonic’s Viera home electronics ecosystem.

Most of these devices uses a relatively new standard called DLNA – the Digital Living Network Alliance ( to communicate with each other over direct digital cables as well as using existing wired and wireless computer networks. Although most major electronics companies participate in DLNA, which was founded by Sony, some companies such as Apple prefer to market devices which do not communicate using the open DLNA standards.

Businesses should consider the security risks associated with attaching these “smart” devices to business networks, as they may become a new vector for malware, spyware, and privacy breaches. For example, a home network attached storage device which includes a media server might offer hackers and disgruntled employees an open portal into confidential files through security vulnerabilities on the media server.

The Motorola Atrix: A Case Study in Convergence

Probably the most innovative device at CES 2011 was Motorola’s Atrix 4G smartphone. Although this device is really a smartphone, it represents the first wave in a series of new crossover devices which have the form factor of a smart phone, but can morph into a portable computer by placing them into a series of docking stations, including:

· A “lapdock” docking station which allows the Atrix 4G to function as a traditional laptop running the Android operating system.

· A more traditional docking station, which allows connectivity to monitors and TV sets using a micro-HDMI cable, as well as the use of a mouse and keyboard connected with USB or Bluetooth.

This device has both front and rear-facing cameras (1.3MP and 5.0MP, respectively), will record video in 720P high definition format, and will play back content in full 1080P HD resolution over an included micro-HDMI port. (Motorola indicates that this tiny powerhouse will make phone calls on AT&T at its initial launch, but eventually should land on most major carriers).

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Figure 10 – The Motorola Atrix 4G represents a new breed of smart devices which can morph into a laptop or a media player when properly accessorized. Some journalists are classifying the Atrix in a new category – the “SuperPhone”.

The Atrix can also download applications from the Android Marketplace to accomplish additional tasks, such as controlling home electronic devices using a remote control application.


One thought on “Report from CES 2011, Part 3: Digital Ecosystems and Device Convergence”

  1. I think the docking station is a good idea, but I just don’t think the technology quite exists to let the power of a phone function as a laptop. It’s hard enough for my smartphone to last one day without charging and it has an 800mhz processor in it. We’d have to start putting in dual core atoms or something on that range for me to consider using a product like this.
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