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CNET's Next Big Thing: The connected revolution

CNET's Next Big Thing SuperSession is one of the most popular events at CES, and in 2013, we'll bring big names in tech and business to talk about the post-mobile revolution: it's always on, all the time, in every device.

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It's been called the Internet of Things, the connected future, the post-PC and even, in our minds, the post-mobile world: however you want to refer to it, the trend toward ubiquitously connected devices and people is inescapable and poised to change everything about the consumer electronics world.

At CNET, we're calling it the post-mobile future: mapping the next frontier of consumer electronics. Because let's be blunt: consumer electronics has been kind of a boring world for the past couple of years. It seems like all we talk about is smartphones and tablets, tablets and smartphones. Last year's Next Big Thing was the post-PC revolution, and it was too easy to imagine that world devolving into an endless stream of increasingly powerful little touch-screen squares of various sizes.

The Nest Thermostat is an early poster child of an increasingly automated future.
The Nest Thermostat is an early poster child of an increasingly automated future. Lindsey Turrentine/CNET

But the reality is very different, and moving quickly. Yes, smartphones and tablets dominate the landscape -- for now. And these devices have already begun to pave the way toward a remarkable future. Already, you can use a phone or tablet to control the temperature in your house, call a taxi that already knows your location, video chat with anyone in the world, lock or unlock the door of your house, start your car, augment reality, or access nearly all the world's information in seconds.

What comes next? All that and more. According to Cisco, 1 trillion devices will be connected to the Internet in 2013. As SmartThings CTO Jeff Hagins put it during a recent presentation at Le Web in Paris, "the entire world is becoming programmable." It's a trend that has the potential to do nothing less than "change almost everything," according to Forbes.

Ultimately, this connected future comes down to increasingly inexpensive sensors, wireless broadband networks, and imagination.

At CES, Brian Cooley and I (Molly Wood) will sit down with a high-powered and exciting panel: billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban; James Fishler, a senior vice president at LG Electronics USA; Sheryl Connelly, Ford's in-house futurist; and Fared Adib, senior vice president of product development and operations at Sprint, to talk about the changing face of consumer electronics, the technology industry, and what the connected future might look like.

We'll talk about device design, which can range from wearables like the Nike FuelBand and Google's Project Glass glasses to connected medical devices to smart-home thermostats like Nest, smart appliances, connected cars that are like wireless command centers on wheels (and increasingly automated, to boot), and even mind-control headbands (yes, those exist now). We'll discuss the increasing challenge of building the networks to support this growing number of devices, whether Wi-Fi or 4G wireless or some future incarnation of connectivity. We'll discuss the business challenges that face existing companies and entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on a fast-moving technological groundswell, and we'll talk about the security and privacy issues that will no doubt slow things down just a tiny bit.

We hope you'll join us for this standing-room-only session on January 8 at 3 p.m. in Las Vegas (North Hall). And if you can't make it in person, don't worry: we'll be live-streaming the whole thing on CNET. See you there, and in the meantime, here's an Always On report from Paris, where the Le Web conference took on this topic, and I was there to interview attendees and participants about the trend.

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