What Is Consumer Technology? A Guide
What Is Consumer Technology?
Consumer technology, or consumer tech, refers to any form of technology intended for use by consumers in the general public, as opposed to technology created for businesses or government organizations. Consumer tech comes in a variety of different forms and offers a wide range of technological capabilities, encompassing many of the most commonly seen items that people utilize daily.
Consumer Tech Overview
Types of Consumer Tech
Consumer Technology Companies
Consumer Tech Overview
A Brief History of Consumer Tech
Consumer technology is the umbrella term for any type of technology created with the general public’s use in mind. Think TVs, toaster ovens, smartphones and fitness apps.
Consumer tech can be traced back to the 19th century, when early tech pioneers like David Edward Hughes, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, Nikola Tesla and Jagadish Edward Bose manipulated electricity for widespread use throughout the world. Indeed, much of the consumer tech we still interact with daily was invented during this period of innovation set between the end of the 19th century and the mid-20th century, including computers (first developed between 1940-45), transistor radios (introduced in 1954) and the microwave oven (1946).
Technology has continued to develop over time, improving and creating products that are thousands of times more capable than predecessors while enabling form factors to shrink and prices to decrease — creating a technological revolution with the power to reshape our world. Computers, for instance, were once an exclusive product and would require an entire room to store just a few megabytes. Today, powerful computers exist in the pockets of 85 percent of Americans in the form of smartphones, capable of housing hundreds of gigabytes of data with unlimited amounts of cloud space available at all times.
In another few decades, the advances in consumer tech might be unfathomable to us today.
Consumer Tech Companies
- Alphabet (Google)
Consumer Tech Vs. High Tech
While consumer tech typically refers to general-audience-oriented technology like lightbulbs, calculators, cell phones or televisions, high-tech products are slightly different. High tech, or advanced technology, can be thought of as the most cutting-edge forms of technology available, and sometimes refers to the newest type of technology on the market.
One example of high technology is autonomous mobile robots that help package goods. High-tech products such as autonomous vehicles can be used by the general public but are less common than consumer technology products like a microwave or bluetooth sound system.
Types of Consumer Tech
Technology has evolved to better meet and fulfill the needs of people, and as a result, people are now constantly interacting with consumer technology products. Several categories and subcategories of customer technology exist, with plenty of overlap.
Types of Consumer Technology
- Smart devices
- Fitness wearables
- Self-driving cars
- Video game consoles and devices
- Computer software
As more products are introduced at conferences like the Consumer Electronics Show, these categories will inevitably expand. There are hundreds of categories that could be listed here and products will continue to hit the market as technology evolves. Some of today’s most notable consumer tech categories include:
Devices connected to 5G networks — or 4G, LTE or any other form of cellular network — are able to receive network signals from cellular towers and provide users with online connectivity. Many of the most common forms of consumer electronics fall into this category, including smartphones, tablets and portable hotspots.
Internet of Things, or IoT, devices connect to specific applications via the internet or other forms of wireless networks for unparalleled user visibility and control. Some common consumer tech products in the IoT devices category included smart home appliances, such as app-controlled thermostats, locks and lights, sensor-based products like doorbells with cameras set to alert users to movement, and various Bluetooth devices.
In recent years, computers’ capabilities have increased while their costs have decreased. And everyday people use them for all sorts of reasons — work, gaming, video streaming, internet browsing and more. Laptops, desktops, tablets, gaming computers, video game consoles, smartphones, hard drives and several other types of devices fall into this consumer tech category.
Self-Driving and Electric Vehicle Consumer Tech
Since their emergence in the early 20th century, cars and motor vehicles of all kinds have grown to become one of the most critical forms of consumer tech to most societies around the world. As technology has improved, so have cars, with vehicles now commonly possessing high-tech features such as built-in GPS, self-driving capabilities, automatic braking, lane sensors, rearview cameras, power steering, and a bevy of additional online and offline capabilities that enhance both safety and comfort. Electric vehicles have eliminated the need for wasteful natural gas resources and self-driving cars are on the rise.
Televisions and Smart Screens
Television became a cultural phenomenon in the mid-20th century and its status has since become cemented as a focal point of modern society. The average American adult watches three hours of television per day, as of 2022. TV and smart screens have been bolstered by the many advancements that the near-century old medium has undergone. Today’s top-end “smart TVs” come loaded with WiFi/5G capabilities, built-in applications, internet search capabilities, built-in gaming features, computer monitoring and more.
Leading consumer tech companies like Amazon and Google have introduced a variety of home speakers with built-in virtual assistant technology. These speakers possess internet connectivity and can play music, look up information, place orders and complete a variety of additional tasks by linking to existing accounts. Three of the most popular smart speakers are the Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod and Google Home.
Home appliances are a form of consumer tech products that allow people to live easier, more fulfilling lives. From microwave ovens and various kitchen appliances to laundry machines, space heaters and more, appliances of some kind can be found in a majority of homes worldwide.
Fitness and Wearables
Fitness and consumer tech have merged in seamless fashion, with people embracing devices that track their daily fitness goals and keep them engaged in their activities and workouts. Wearables expand beyond fitness, however, with devices and technology hitting the market that filter air, keep users temperate, alert the proper parties when in danger or in need of help, and much more. Wearable consumer tech includes smartwatches, fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, 911-alerting devices and tech-enabled clothing.
The video gaming industry has exploded since its rise through the late 1970s and the 1980s. Today’s systems possess the processing capabilities that would have been unfathomable to game designers back in those days, such as 5K graphics, online gameplay and lightning-fast processor speeds. Video gaming consoles, games, software, VR devices, gaming computers, handheld consoles, add-ons, and accessories are all included in this category.
Drones and Robotics
Drones have been in military use since the 20th century, with commercial and consumer drones hitting the market in the early 21st century. Consumer drones have the ability to take photos, record videos and deliver packages at previously unreachable heights and distances, produced in a variety of form factors and with many accessories for customizing personal drone experiences.
Audio and Music Consumer Tech
Some consumers, whether audiophiles or musicians, take sound very seriously. This category is meant to address that, creating technologically advanced solutions that help them dial in the perfect sound response to their ears, in real time. Multi-room sound systems, Bluetooth speakers, amplifiers, interfaces, microphones, instruments and software all fall into this category of consumer tech.
The first cameras emerged in the late 19th century, since then, photography equipment has embraced digital and technological advancements to unlock capabilities like faster shutter speeds, faster lens speeds, 5K video capturing, low-light shooting and much more. Photography consumer tech includes camera bodies, lenses, sensors, hard drives, memory cards, flash units and additional accessories.
Delivery Consumer Tech
Delivery apps and food delivery platforms have become an integral part of people’s lives. Delivery services use several facets of technology to bring products right to our doors. This industry could not exist without the right software, mobile technology and vehicles.
Much of the consumer tech that people interact with is not a physical product but software that writes the rules to allow hardware to function. Software is responsible for enabling nearly all forms of consumer tech products to work and interact, from menu screens to full-on computer programs.
Consumer Technology Companies
The consumer tech industry is powered by a variety of companies specializing in everything from semiconductor manufacturing to appliances and autonomous vehicles. Consumer tech companies can be direct-to-consumer brands as well as companies that only use third party sellers to bring their products to market.
Consumer Technology Jobs
Consumer technology is a broad field encompassing many industries, which means jobs within it vary greatly. Consumer tech jobs can include hardware engineers or designers, software engineers and product marketers. The companies specializing in consumer tech vary widely too — you could work for entertainment giants like Sony and Samsung or semiconductors manufacturers like Intel and Texas Instruments or a fitness app startup. All are part of the consumer tech ecosystem.
Top Consumer Tech Companies
- Alphabet (Google): 5G, computers, semiconductors, smart speakers, wearables, IoT devices, televisions, audio, photography, software, gaming
- Apple: 5G, computers, semiconductors, smart speakers, wearables, IoT devices, televisions, audio, photography, software
- Samsung: 5G, computers, appliances, audio, televisions, IoT devices, semiconductors, wearables
- Sony: computers, photography, audio, appliances, semiconductors, gaming, televisions, wearables
- LG: 5G, computers, appliances, audio, televisions, IoT devices
- Sandisk: photography, software, computers, semiconductors
- Intel: computers, semiconductors
- Tesla: motor vehicles, semiconductors
- Yamaha: audio, motor vehicles
- Whirlpool: appliances
- Texas Instruments: semiconductors
- NVIDIA: semiconductors
- DJI Innovations: drones
- Trend Micro: software
- Adobe: software
- Cannon: photography
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