The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) celebrated its 50th anniversary this year by continuing its gargantuan showcase of the latest in consumer tech gadgetry and innovation. While there, I saw an abundance of clever new items and curious oddities, which help maintain the theatricality of the CES experience. I was also on the lookout for the big themes that impact the technological and strategic considerations our clients and colleagues should be mindful of in the coming year. Below are four themes that particularly resonated:
1. Amazon’s Alexa Was the Star of the CES Smart Home Show
In nearly every smart home-related booth, whether it was a home appliance maker, a smart home gadget, a full-on connected home automation service, or EVEN a connected car, the exact same phrase prevailed: 'works with Alexa.' For the uninitiated, Alexa is the voice activated system (and now ecosystem) of the Amazon Echo home automation product. Through voice command, the various Amazon Echo devices act as a central point for many connected services in the smart home.
Anyone who walks the floors at CES is likely to be overwhelmed by the number of products and offerings labeled 'smart' or 'connected.' Often these take the form of very specific, single use case items: an automated power outlet, a smart thermostat, or more theatrically, an automated garbage/recycling sorting can or an automated cat litterbox cleaner. These are manifestations of the growing popularity of the smart home market and the endless stream of people trying to cash in with a cool use case. While sometimes interesting, these displays rarely keep my attention for long.
Virtual reality (VR) was a common sight at CES this year, and not just because there were VR-specific gadgets on display for their own sake. I encountered several booths for completely unrelated technology using VR goggles as part of their sales approach. An example of this was the home security solution provider Aura, which used a VR system to demonstrate how its solution used Wi-Fi network signals to detect movement. I was impressed with the clarity and simplicity of the demo (which is hard praise to pull out of an occasional new-tech cynic like myself). It’s clear that VR use cases are expanding, and are doing so in line with the broader context of augmented reality and other such practical use cases outside of pure entertainment.
4. Driverless Cars Are the Next Big Bet in Automotive Technology
It might be an over exaggeration to say that anyone who
could be involved with driverless cars is active in the space, but that’s
certainly the impression I got at CES this year. I can’t think of a major auto
manufacturer present at the convention who didn’t either display a model of
driverless car or provide their vision for driverless automotive solutions for
the near future. The auto manufacturers weren’t the only ones in on the
developments in this space either. Chipmakers NVIDIA and Intel both made major
announcements that they would be significant players in developing the enabling
technologies to put driverless cars on the road in 2017. Even Alexa had her
role to play in the automotive announcements when
Given the plethora of announcement and investments in this space, it’s clear that business as a whole should begin preparing for the upcoming reality of driverless vehicle technology. I am certainly anticipating a parallel development in smart city technology and solution designs as a natural complement to the automotive technology.
The 50th anniversary year of CES certainly didn’t disappoint, and I expect to see the natural outcomes of the major themes discussed here feed their way into the strategic thinking and opportunities for our readers and clients.
If you would like to discuss these themes in greater depth, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.