The names of the companies exhibiting at International CES, the world’s biggest consumer technology show are intriguing – in some cases more so than the products that are being displayed.
Meandering around the enormous event at the Las Vegas Convention Centre a few caught my eye.
Dr Bott anyone? Not, as the name might infer, a supplier of remedies for worrying medical ailments, but a maker of ‘lifestyle products’ for Apple gadgets. How about Global Splendid International? You’d think the word ‘global’ encapsulates the firm’s wide-ranging remit without the addition of ‘international’.
All the major electronics companies are here too, showing off bendy tellys and other brilliant gadgets. CES is a tech geek’s dream and in recent years it has quietly taken on increasing significance for the automotive industry.
The car makers want to rub shoulders with the kind of early adopters that can help them to mould their future products for tech-savvy consumers.
In most cases, the new ideas being shown off by the car manufacturers revolve around connectivity, and how modern vehicles are increasingly melding with our ubiquitous electronic devices and even our homes.
Another major theme is how such fully connected devices can be used to provide greater levels of sophisticated personalisation to the driver if your car, phone, laptop, watch and even your home can communicate with each other.
Mercedes-Benz, for example, is using CES to show off its present and future visions for the connected car. At the moment this involves the use of apps to enhance navigation and information about the cars
The next step will be enabling the driver to access key data about the car from any location via a smartphone or computer. Oh, and the prospect of a car that can communicate with the thermostat in your home, ensuring that you open your front door to a pre-warmed house, isn’t far from reality either.
Mercedes also envisages that intelligent wearable devices can have a major bearing on the cars of tomorrow. For example, a smart watch connected to the car will inform the driver of remaining fuel, the vehicle’s location and even reassure you that you’ve remembered to lock the doors.
Google Glass, meanwhile, could seamlessly pick up where the car’s sat-nav instructions ended to guide the driver to their final destination after they’ve driven the vehicle to a nearby car park.
Another future concept is what Mercedes calls the Predictive User Experience, which learns about your driving habits and gives you options based upon them.
For example, if you regularly call your boss at a certain time during your commute to work, it will bring up the relevant phone number on the multimedia screen without you having to ferret around in menus to locate it. And you prefer the air-con to be set on 18 degrees; it will remember this and ask you whether you’d like that setting when you get into the vehicle.
Many other major manufacturers, among them Audi, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, are also present at CES this year with some clever cutting-edge ideas, and it's clear that automotive brands sense a major opportunity in stepping away from the usual round of car shows at which they regularly unveil their latest products.
It makes me wonder whether car connectivity and processing power could ever become more relevant to the majority of consumers than its brake horsepower or torque.
After all, the potential for enjoying a car’s performance seems to be getting ever more difficult on the public road, with a proliferation of lower speed limits in place and more traffic clogging many routes.
For many generations, cars have been an expression of freedom and independence. When you first pass your test, owning a car is tremendously liberating. It is a sensation I still identify with; I still find a couple of hours behind the wheel appealing because it means no phone calls, emails or other intrusive media.
But it appears my view is at odds with current trends in consumer demand; namely that remaining constantly connected to a virtual umbilical cord is what car companies need to offer.
I wonder if future generations of tech-savvy consumers will look at a car’s technical specification and make their buying decisions based on, for example, its capabilities in updating them on Facebook on the move, streaming internet radio stations, enabling video conferencing, or its ability to switch to autonomous driving for dull journeys.
Perhaps power, torque and acceleration will be anachronisms as tomorrow’s drivers view the car as just another functional device in their busy connected lives. I can’t say it is a scenario that I’d find particularly edifying. How about you?