LAS VEGAS — The Consumer Electronics Show, while perhaps an overwhelming marketing mass, is also a harbinger of the future.
Each January, tech companies from around the world come to Las Vegas to show off their latest and greatest innovations. And while some aren't so late or so great, in the midst of the hubbub shines the technology that will change our tomorrow.
Here are five tech trends you'll likely be seeing in the years to come:
Twenty-five years ago, the conversation over Christmas dinner was whether or not you had email. Now, that same conversation is about bitcoin.
This year, bitcoin punched through the $10,000 mark and the value of one bitcoin currently hovers at the $15,000 level. One CES presenter called the rise of cryptocurrency "bigger than the internet revolution."
And it looks like bitcoin may be attracting more than just the nerds, geeks and early adopters. Mainstream consumerism is jumping on the cryptocurrency bandwagon, and there isn't a single large company that doesn't have a blockchain strategy today.
Other cryptocurrencies, like ripple and litecoin, are also on the rise.
Artificial intelligence is essentially a system that can learn to do something that we can't program it to do. Instead, it learns using data or "experience." Though we may not cognitively be aware of how we learn something, our brain responds to experience and information and creates new patterns and habits based on that input — and so does artificial intelligence.
AI can learn new tasks based on collected data and do more with it than we ever could hope to. This process is called deep or machine learning. Instead of drowning in data, the rise of artificial intelligence should help us stay afloat and utilize that information.
The military has just recently begun using artificial intelligence to process tons of military drone data footage, and companies are currently using AI to detect and deter security intrusions, resolve customers' technology problems and reduce product management by automating it.
"We will get to a point, likely within the next five years, when an AI system can better explain why it's telling you to do what it's recommending," said Rachel Bellamy, IBM research manager for human collaboration.
Speaking of artificial intelligence, the smart speaker — and especially Amazon's Alexa — was the undisputed champion of consumer tech in 2017.
Smart speakers garnered $3.8 billion in revenue last year at a growth of 93 percent — more than any other consumer tech product, according to the Consumer Technology Association.
Now, everyone is working to integrate smart speakers into their products — especially automakers. In fact, smart speakers have ushered in another sales channel — allowing consumers to shop using voice commands, rather than online, in person or on their phone.
Virtual and augmented reality is venturing beyond the world of gaming and into more, shall we say, productive pursuits. Surgeons, doctors, engineers, teachers and others have begun to use VR and AR in training or in the workplace.
"This is the year AR gets real," said Steve Koenig, presenter for the Consumer Technology Association.
The new and improved Google Glass saves doctors 2 hours each day, reduces manufacturing time by 25 percent and offers a 15 percent gain in operational efficiency, according to a study by Google X.
Tech trend analysts also predict AR to become part of the consumer experience, enabling immersive advertising while shopping, or the navigation process. Imagine being able to see the building or floor you're looking for highlighted on your phone.
"Hopefully there will be a lot more looking up instead of looking down at the phone," Koenig said.
The breadth of technology that's been implemented under the smart city label makes it difficult to define.
"A smart city is a city that has developed some technological infrastructure that enables it to collect, aggregate and analyze real-time data and has made a concerted effort to use that data to improve the lives of its residents," the National League of Cities said.
In December 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its Smart City Challenge, asking mid-sized cities across America to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply and efficiently.
As urban centers become increasingly difficult to monitor and manage, smart cities can help reduce congestion and pollution, optimize public safety and services and provide more timely data. Oh, and there could be self-driving pizza cars.