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What will drive sales of consumer tech in 2017?

Sales of desktop computers are in decline, while smartphone sales are slowing

Despite uncertain economic times ahead and a documented slowdown is sales of smartphones and tablets in the year ahead revenues from the consumer electronics sales, a bellwether for the US economy, are forecast to rise yet again in 2017.

Although the event officially debuts today (January 5) hosting body The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has already published research forecasting that US spend on consumer electronics will hit $292bn this year, driven mainly by end-users’ demand for the internet-of-things (IoT).

Although the figures represent a modest 1.5% year-over-year growth rate –interestingly, a similar study last year revealed that sales of smartphones and tablets were slowing – Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO, claimed that it was “connectivity is going to be the driving trends of our time” with the trade body adding that sales of IoT devices projected to hit 600 million, a 5% annual increase in sales volume.

The semi-annual report also identified the top-emerging tech categories within the wider consumer electronics sector, among the top-four being: 4K UHD (next-generation TV sets that differ from HD TVs); digital assistants; smart home technology; and wearables. Other device-types expected to drive growth in the IoT category this year drones and virtual reality – aka augmented reality – with CTA also adding that sales of LCD TV sets, tablets, desktop computers slowing in 2017.

In addition to devices, automotive is another hotbed of innovation. Factory-installed technologies, from entertainment systems to driver-assist features, make up an estimated 50% of the collective value in new vehicles, up from about 25% just 10 years ago. CTA estimates factory-installed automotive technologies will contribute nearly $17bn to industry sales in 2017. See here for further details.

Shapiro added: “More and more consumers are discovering the remarkable benefits connected products deliver, providing anytime/anywhere access to information, entertainment and each other.”

CTA officials are quick to point out that revenue growth in the US consumer technology sector is critical to overall US economic growth and that the industry accounts for roughly 10% of the US GDP.

Shawn DuBravac, PhD, chief economist, CTA, provided his own analysis and identified 2016 as a transitional year for the sector, and identified VR headsets and digital assistant as “potentially game-changing … within mass consumer markets”, adding that he expected 2017 to be a year where these emerging tech categories take off.

He added: “We’ve had more progress in voice-activated digital assistants in the last 30 months than in the first 30 years. Word recognition accuracy has improved from nearly 0% in the 1990s to 75% in 2013 to about 95% today – enabling these devices to enjoy immense consumer adoption. While still in a period of massive experimentation, we’re increasingly moving away from what is technologically possible and focusing on what is technologically meaningful.”

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