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It seems like the theme of the Consumer Electronics Show this year is going to be wearable technology

CES is this week (January 7-10) in Las Vegas. It appears that Olivia Munn, Dean Norris (Hank Schrader!), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars!) and others will be on hand, and the full conference session is here. (The titles are predictably conference-esque, such as “The Smartphone/Tablet Economy: Consumer Obsession”).

Different people call CES different things, but a popular term is “the Super Bowl for geeks.” Here’s a quote from a regular attendee:

“The promotional value that comes from the show, the chance to see new technologies and trends that will emerge through the year, is unmatched,” says Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

So, what are the trends to look for out of CES 2014? Here’s a couple.

Wearables: Conventionally you’d think of this as something like Google Glass.

Wearables go beyond just that, though: there’s Nike FuelBand and Galaxy Gear (a smart-watch). It’s important to note, though, that typically the biggest splash of the year at CES tends to become a market failure — previous examples include 3-D televisions and Ultrabooks. So if wearables are truly the rage, that could be a jinx on them in the broader market.

The Smart Home: This is a thing coming down the pike. LG is going to show off a “smart dishwasher” at CES, and Whirpool has a microwave oven that can operate via bar codes and smart phone scanning. There’s even this:

The smart home movement is still pretty fledging in terms of revenue — producers don’t know exactly what consumers want — but Google is getting into the game with a “smart thermostat.”

Auto: It seems like Ford and Audi have some big announcements planned; Audi’s introducing some laser-type headlights (they can’t cut things, but rather offer stronger illumination) and Ford is introducing a new ‘solar hybrid’ car that can go about 620 miles without needing to be gas’ed up.

TVs: TVs have been a focal point for a long time at CES. This year is a little bit different — the 3-D television is being phased out as a concept — but expect to see a lot of discussion of web/TV integration (which seems like it’s the inevitable future) and 4K video streaming and OLED TVs.

Proximity Awareness: This is an interesting one, and something that movies have been envisioning for generations: you walk by a store, and your phone vibrates. That store you just passed knows that you’re there, and it just offered 25 percent off something — so now you’re in the store and bam, maybe you’re buying more stuff. Some people believe this is how “local” can beat “online” in the retail world over the next decade. Here’s the take from Henry Samueli, a billionaire who runs Broadcom:

Increasingly, mobile devices have integrated GPS technology to identify exactly where they are at any given moment. For the most part, existing location technology has been an outdoor phenomenon, dependent on GPS satellites and used primarily for navigation. But new location technologies are being developed which leverage Bluetooth and Wi-Fi beacons that will pinpoint your location inside buildings, down to a meter or less. That opens up interesting possibilities for advertisers and marketers, with the potential to transform traditional bricks-and-mortar stores into Web-enabled nodes on the network. Imagine walking by your favorite store in the mall and getting an offer for a 20 percent discount that’s good for the next hour. For retailers and consumers, indoor location services will forever change the shopping and entertainment venue experience.

Gaming: If it’s the Super Bowl for geeks, gaming has to play a role. A lot of it is thought to be around BlueTooth connectivity and what that could mean for motion sensing within games, and Nvidia has a press conference scheduled to discuss innovations. Steam (which a ton of people I know now seem to play) should have a presence, as will Oculus Rift.

So remember … it’s not necessarily the best indicator of what’s going to actually make money for the tech companies —

— but it is a big meetup and marketplace for those that matter in the world —

— so it should be interesting to keep an eye on.

Ted Bauer

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