Jake Norman is the president and CSO of Mindshare Canada
During the first workweek of 2014, more than 150,000 people gathered in the Nevada desert to usher in a new year of innovation at the International CES.
They were there to witness 3,000 exhibitors compete to see who would be smarter, faster, better, and bigger (or smaller) in the years to come. The general consensus was that this was more a year of iterations rather than giant leaps forward but nonetheless there was a lot to see and think about.
While the event is about the future of technology, marketers attend CES to understand what might aid and disrupt the way that they communicate and interact with people—and to stand nonchalantly while Parrot mini drones fly over head or Vanilla Ice walks by, or line up at the airport to buy a Kindle from a vending machine or the Engadget stand to pay for a T-shirt with their phone.
When the square footage is measured in the millions, it is easy to become overwhelmed by volume or to fixate on specific shock and awe technology that rest along a spectrum of the sublime through to the ridiculous. However, it is important to take a step back and distill the key messages from the noise, because at its heart CES is a show about the intersection of technology and culture and the innovation should be viewed as a series of reactions and accelerants to that culture.
The Age Of Complexity
Every day we have to navigate more choices and keep up with more human interactions than ever before. CES showed us some things which will increase the volume but also some things that will help navigate through it.
The connected car was a corner stone of the show – GM is making its cars 4G Hotspots while others have integrated Android into the dashboard and with Ford you will have a native version of Pandora to listen to while you can order pizza on the way home. For marketers this offers huge potential but unfortunately there is not a single platform or series of apps to work with.
• Your car is about to get smarter
Outside of the car there was evidence to suggest it might soon be okay to forget all those passwords. The Eye Lock Myris allows you to enter passwords to sites using your gaze rather than your keyboard.
Sensors are also being added to clothes to make us more comfortable and help us make decisions. Some will automatically adjust themselves in tune with your temperature while Heapsylon’s smart socks will let you know if you have exerted yourself too much in the gym.
A Cross Over Culture
The more connected that people are the more complex that the world becomes. And in that more complex world we can expect marketers to look for strategic partnerships t be first to market with new products and services rather than create them on their own.
Panasonic demonstrated their tech by showcasing it in action with companies such as American Air. They also announced a partnership that will put FireFox into their TVs. Meanwhile, Samsung highlighted its work with BMW and Kid Robot among others. And beyond cars, Pandora has seamlessly integrated its radio product into fridges and, interestingly, directly into speakers such as Bang & Olufsen as its objective is to offer listeners a seamless experience as they move across devices through their day.
Everything Is Science
A big contributor to the volume of buzz about wearable technology in Las Vegas was Health & Fitness Monitors. This is clothing with built-in sensors that turn you into a real-time science project. This is big data on a personal level and in real time. It allows you to measure and in some cases adapt to provide a competitive edge. Largely, these work through your phone but increasingly through your smart watches as well.
What is particularly interesting is that the big companies have arrived late and are invading a market owned by small companies such as Fitbit.
LG unveiled its Lifeband Touch; Samsung showed off the Galaxy Gear and Intel announced smart earbuds which measure your heart rate as you run. Not to be beaten, Sony had a smartwatch which not only measures your health feed but also your social media health and reports on the volume of social mentions as well as steps taken.
Embedded sensors are also being used to improve skills. There was the 94Fifty, the first “smart sensor basketball,” that tracks how you shoot, while the GoPro straps to your glove and charts your golf swing.
The wearable market is projected to grow considerably in the next few years. There was no obvious winner, and to be become more widely adopted by consumers, the industry will need to have as much of an eye on fashion as it does on functionality.
Pebble started to move in this direction with the launch of their Pebble Steel smartwatch while Netamo released a health band in a bracelet.
In a world where technology is more pervasive through the day, it will also increasingly enter the home. The focus will be on using technology to provide more comfort and utility.
This starts at the door where Doorbot, which will send a video of the person at your door to your phone regardless of where you are.
If it is an unexpected guest your home will be already neat thanks to the Moneul robot vacuum which has spent the day monitoring dust, shadows and every corner of the room. If there is nothing in your fridge then you should have had a conversation with your LG fridge through SMS on the way home.
Household sizes may be getting smaller but technology is allowing us to watch TV with our communities. Sony and Dish both show social feeds in your TV screen while LG show sports stats in real time on the TV screen.
Life Is Good
After years of consumer pessimism following the great recession, there is a feeling that people are starting to feel a little better than and willing to indulge a little and to balance life and work more.
TV screens will have the potential to be more immersive than ever before. LG released its 105-inch 21:9 ratio OLED which is heralded as the first Ultra HD curved TV. It will cost $69,000 but if you want a lower price point Polaroid and Vizio now have 4K (3840 × 2160 pixels) TVs for under $1,000.
The criticism in the past of 4K was that there would be no content. While not a manufacturer, Netflix used CES to announce that it would be streaming 4K from this year and went further to say that this would be the first standard that would be web-based only. Unless you have a Sony handycam which shoots in 4k and at $2,000 is half last years’ price.
And if, at the end of a day, you want to escape the ultra fast-paced, super-connected world for a bit, than the Occulus Rift might be the tech for you. A completely immersive 3D gaming experience, the Rift was a favourite at the show and a clear indicator of not-too-distant future where total immersion (escape) in a high-def alternate reality is possible—for when you want to escape the internet of things.