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CTA: Emerging Technology Driving Tech Industry Growth

VR, drones and voice-activated devices among the new gear catching consumers attentions

Virtual reality, 4K TVs, drones and voice-activated devices are beginning to fly off the shelves, while tablets, laptops and especially desktops have dropped.

These are some of the findings of the Consumer Technology Association’s latest “U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts” report.

The new version of CTA’s semi-annual forecast indicates that the consumer technology industry’s revenue is expected to reach $286.6 billion in retail revenues — $224 billion wholesale — in 2016, an increase of 1.3 percent from 2015. Emerging technologies like 4K UHD, virtual reality, voice-activated devices and drones are major contributors to this expected surge.

The sales of 4K UHD TVs are expected to reach a new high in 2016 in parts because of the introduction of next-generation technology like HDR and 4K UHD Blu-ray players; revenue is expected to exceed $12.9 billion.

Already 2016 has seen the debut of a number of the first consumer virtual reality systems, with approximately 800,000 units sold, a 296 percent increase; revenue has reached $432 million, a 332 percent increase. CTA expects VR to be the leader in year-to-year growth.

For the first time, CTA included projections for voice-activated devices in its forecast. With products like Amazon’s Echo, sales are estimating to hit 2.2 million units for revenue of $392 million in 2016.

Drones have also taken off, hitting a projected new highs of 2.4 million units sold for an estimated $799 million in shipment revenues. Units below the FAA’s 250-gram threshold for mandatory drone registration are expected to exceed that of those above the mark.

Other emerging technology that is helping to boost CTA’s forecasted numbers includes smart home devices, wearables, 3D printing and IoT.

Still, the five main categories of the tech industry remain smart phones, tablets, LCD TVs, laptops and desktop computers, making up 51 percent of the expected revenue. That may be changing, however, as CTA predicts that for the first time in years these five categories will account for just less than half of industry revenue. Smart phones are expected to decline in both sales and revenue; tablets continue to decline after strong initial growth; laptop shipments have decreased 6 percent and revenues 8 percent; and there is what CTA describes as an accelerated decline for desktops, with a drop of 13 percent in shipment and 15 percent decrease in revenue.

“Technology is constantly and continuously reinventing itself, often cannibalizing its own growth before anything else does,” said Shawn DuBravac, Ph.D., and chief economist for CTA in the announcement “The swath of emerging categories hitting the market in 2016 and the exponential growth of IoT are indelibly shaping the way we live our lives.”

To read the report, visit