by Sandip Narang
The business of consumer technology thrives on innovation — and nowhere is the impact of revolutionary innovation more apparent than the aisles of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES is the global stage for companies to showcase their innovations and breakthrough technologies. Nearly 175,000 people attended the show, including the 4,500+ exhibitors that claimed over 2.9 million net square feet of exhibitor space! Exhibitor booths represented 36 product categories such as 3D Printing, Robotics, Digital Health, Vehicle Technology, Video, Software and Apps, etc.
My colleagues from Seed Strategy, Cherri Prince, Donna Zaring, and Jeff Johns, and I navigated this stimulating, fast-paced, and over-the-top event for four days! Here are our learnings from the world’s most exciting and groundbreaking event.
NO SURPRISE – TECH IS EVERYWHERE AND IN EVERYTHING
Gone are the days when the tech sector was defined by software, hardware, gaming, and telecomm companies. Companies with presence at CES ranged from health insurance to CPG to advanced robotics to wearables – and I cannot help but to think that nowadays every company is a tech company. Health insurance companies, like Humana, discussed mining synthetic data; CPG manufacturers, like P&G, showcased how their latest toothbrush or razor can interact with an app and lead to better brushing or shaving. Home builder Sekisui House, which caters to older populations, showcased technology that allows a smart home to act as a constant companion, even watching over elderly homeowners like a medical guardian.
5G CONTINUES TO ROLL ON BUT SOMEWHAT HAPHAZARDLY
5G compatible phones are finally hitting the marketplace and providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, are announcing that their 5G networks will be available nationwide soon. Within the United States, three types of 5G networks being built: mmWave High Band 5G (fastest speed), Mid-Band 5G (moderate speed), and Low Band 5G (lowest speed). However, providers are making investments in different types of networks, suggesting that there will be more competition for consumer loyalty as 5G becomes more prevalent. In addition, manufacturers are also integrating 5G along with foldable features into their phones. In fact, the TCL 10 5G foldable phone (Android based, with 4 cameras) may be the next big thing in foldable phones considering its price will be a third of the current foldable phone price. The launch date is still not final, but the phone will take on existing players such as the Motorola RAZR. In the coming years expect to see foldable phones more integrated with 5G and prices to drop due to strong competition in the space.
INTEGRATION WITH VOICE IS HAPPENING EVERYWHERE
With a strong presence at the show, both Google and Amazon demonstrated voice integration with many devices, solidifying the idea that yes, tech integration with voice is happening – everywhere and with anything! Amazon, specifically, shared the use of Alexa in cars – integrating the voice assistant into even more of your life, home and now through your car speakers. And yes, I might have used Alexa to order a Coke Energy from a vending machine while at the show.
FLEXIBLE SCREENS WILL BECOME MORE PREVALENT DISPLAYS
While 8K TVs were prevalent at this show, it was the flexible screens that stood out to us. We expect flexible screens to be a bigger area of investment in the years ahead, with companies like Royole forging ahead in bringing these thin flexible screens to homes, signs, clothing, etc. While you may see display technologies like the 8K TVs in retail soon, our team thinks this might be overkill for home televisions as the human eye cannot discern the extra pixels compared to the 4K TV.
WILL WE EVER LEAVE OUR HOMES?
Advances in tech integrations into home products, like the Alexa integrated smart speaker plus showerhead from Kohler or smart light switches integrated with a phone app, are making home life more comfortable. While staying home may already be a favorite pastime among most people, we expect that the comforts offered by tech integration will make us more likely to be homebodies.
PRIVACY CONTINUES TO BE A CONCERN
Due to the increase in data collection from voice, autonomous vehicles, wearables, phones, apps, smart homes and so on, tech providers are discussing user privacy. Several panels discussed consumer privacy in a rapidly expanding tech world that uses AI to glean more and more insights from the data they collect. While most companies are talking about privacy — probably threatened by fines and laws — the jury is still out on how these companies will practice what they preach. Some small protective measures have been made, but probably not enough. For example, you can now tell Google’s voice Assistant ‘Hey Google, that wasn’t for you” or ‘Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week’ to clean out your stored voice activity.
THE FUTURE OF TECH IS PARTNERSHIP
Companies are realizing that they cannot do this alone and are increasingly partnering with other tech companies to attract business and users. These partnerships are drive by the ecosystem that some of the larger tech companies provide, such as Apple Play 2’s partnerships with Samsung, Sony, LG, and so on – these providers see big benefits to the partnership. Other companies are partnering due to common values, such as Salesforce and Unilever who share similar values and perspectives on sustainability, as expressed by their respective CEOs in a panel discussion.
Sandip Narang is the SVP, Client Services Management and a 20-year veteran at Burke, Inc. He is passionate about working with client teams to help bring insights to life.