CES 2017 – what does it mean for business?

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Date:
24 January 2017

By Gail Mullard, Digital Marketing Associate

Self-driving cars, Wallpaper and Nano technology TVs, VR, robots, drones & personal air transportation were just some of the headline grabbing innovations from this year’s tech show.   Although the biggest trend belonged to Virtual Reality or mixed reality, which was the buzz term.  Along with Alexa compatibility which seemed integral to everything Smart.

CES 2017 – what does it mean for business?

Image courtesy of http//www.ces.tech 2017

This is a retail show for consumer products on the whole, but in our opinion, if the public is going to buy it, then businesses should be aware of how it may impact their digital infrastructure and/or engage with it. 

There were so many products on show and this is a bit of a long blog (1600 words – 7 min read), but it was hard to leave out products once they’d caught our eye, even if most are priced out of everyday reach at present.  

 

CARS

The cars on show this year were hailed as the most important ever at CES with the emphasis being on connectivity with their owner’s smart home and electric engines. Ford demonstrated this connectivity through its use of Amazon’s Alexa and Echo.  Instructions from the Ford dashboard are communicated via Alexa/Echo and likewise, from your home you can use voice recognition to tell your car to start its engine, charge, preheat, switch its lights on etc. Mercedes and Google home had a similar exhibition.

Further innovation was showcased via Blade, the first 3D printed car.  Blade was created through fusing layers of metal together rather than the traditional way of cutting large pieces of steel (apart from the wheels and tyres). It is super lightweight but more importantly presented a methodology of car manufacture which may change the way cars are made throughout the world.

There were cars introduced as part of the sharing economy (from Honda) and Mercedes showcased its Vision Van, which will have drones on its roof ready to dispatch whatever to wherever.  Can’t help but feel Amazon delivery is going to be interested in this van for its customers! 

 

DRONES
This leads me nicely into Xero Xero’s Selfie Drone, which got lots of attention.  It may, on the surface, look like a millenia or teenager’s dream, but there are so many applications that this could be used for in business.  This drone uses facial recognition to video you.  Flying on its own it negates the need for a separate cameraman as you video your products and talk users through their benefits. If you don’t have a Youtube channel, sign up now your business will appreciate it.

 

ROBOTS

With the general population concerned that robots and automation will take over our jobs, it was pleasing to see the robots at CES filling more mundane rolls!  Nobody likes folding clothes, so Laundroid from Seven Dreamers really made its mark on me.  You can leave up to 40 items in a laundry basket or drawer and it will just fold it all neatly, yes everything from shirts to towels to pyjamas.  As soon as it learns who owns what and where their wardrobes are, this will be on my birthday wishlist.

Humanoid style robots (with the exception of R2D2) can have an air of menace and conspiracy about them, a reputation Mayfield Robotics have decided to fight back against.  At CES they showcased KURI, a friendly little robot which emphasises relationship and relatability.  The idea behind KURI is that you need to understand and trust your robot, so it doesn’t speak but has lots of different facial expressions and consenting sounds as it goes about its business of helping you.  Time will tell..

 

MIXED REALITY

As mentioned in the introduction, this was the buzz term of CES this year.  Examples we liked included Lenova’s newest smart phone which combines a camera with a lense that can measure distance and shapes.  This has lots of applications for business.  Bringing objects into its viewer, you can take images or look at any view and add whatever you desire to improve it.  The Lenova demonstrator mentioned a furniture company it is working with which has built its own App to allow users to add its products into their homes to see how they look and if they fit.  Brilliant use of MR and one that will be emulated in many contexts by business owners as a marketing tool as well as a sales tool.

Microsoft’s Hollow Lens works in a similar way, allowing you to view your current surroundings with objects you choose added to these surroundings (people / avatars).  This is all a huge step on from Virtual Reality where you close off the world around you and view everything through a headset.

 

PERSONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION

As our roads become clogged (in the UK anyway) air transportation may seem quite attractive, and to solve this problem the Ehang 184 has been launched.  In the US, an order has been placed to transport patients for emergency surgery – I just hope they don’t collide with the drones!

 

GADGETS

In our mobile connected world, any help with battery power is to be welcomed.  At CES, superfast chargers were on display, along with multiport USB chargers which are both a great addition to the  business traveller.   

Most other gadgets were consumer focussed with some great wireless earphones on display from Apple and other big brands.  My favourite was the Fuse by AshleyChloe.  These are small, black and have touch controls for ease of use.  Their casing is inspired, from necklaces to bracelets to desktop charging points and everything in the range is beautifully made.  They have a normal 4 hr charging time but there is a quick 15 min quick charge option which can give you an hour of music for that last minute run after work.

Other gadgets worth a mention were the Motiv, an interesting wearable fitness tracker with a 5 day battery.  It is a ring for your finger and smart enough to distinguish a work out from normal daily activities.  Also, being a ring it is unobtrusive and unlikely to be taken off or forgotten.

1 other small gadget caught my eye.  A smart remote from Seven Hugs which adjusts to whatever device it is pointed at (25000 devices in total).  Point at the TV and it’s a TV remote, point at the lights and it dims or turns them on etc – very cool. 

There were also smart hairbrushes, detects if you are pulling your hair too hard and breaking it.  Smart toothbrushes, smart canes and smart fridges. In fact smart everything wass the order of the day at CES 2017.

 

TVs

Not exactly business focussed, but we couldn’t leave these out as there were a couple of new innovations that will play into our home and business life as we update screens. 

Nano cell technology was a big feature at CES.  LG, with its motto of innovation for a better life, focussed on consumer’s TV watching habits.  They explained that users watch TV at an angle more often that straight on, which can distort colour and form.  Their Nano technology, helps solve the picture quality regardless of where you are in the room a TV is positioned. From now on, you will choose a TV based on how good the picture quality is when viewed side on!

LG also wowed everyone with its Wallpaper TV – 3.88mm with its frame attached (which is magnetic to clip onto any wall very easily)!  It is only 18 pounds in weight as opposed to the average flat screen of around 40 pounds, yet still has 4K OLED image quality. The 65 inch retails about $8K but they do make other sizes and this will drop..

The other exciting TV innovation came from American TV manufacturer Westinghouse which showcased its 4K product DVT TSG-55, built on the Amazon Fire TV platform with Alexa voice recognition. This TV can also screen live TV as well as having over 7000 Apps.  Built in Alexa means excellent voice control through the remote so that you can change channel, adjust the volume etc.  The only downside it that it doesn’t support HDR and only available in the US at present. I do wonder who will win battle of change the channel when the entire family shout out what they want to watch, but that’s for another day.

 

LAPTOPS

Because of the retail focus, the stand out laptops were all for gamers, but one is worth a mention! The Razor laptop because of its 3 screen option.  Now, not only is this a great idea as we are always connecting screens to our laptops, but imagine they went one step further and Razer was able to bend one of the screens backwards – you would buy this for demos, for in shop purchases, for on the spot presentations.  It makes me wonder why they haven’t already covered this upgrade – maybe at CES 2018!

 

IN CONCLUSION

As our retail products turn into smart goods, they are being engineered to interact with each other.  Mixed reality and Voice Recognition have become mainstream now through Amazon’s Alexa/Echo and competitors are fighting for space in the VR marketplace.  Drilling into this connectivity is the challenge we face in business. 

Do you future proof your business by investing in voice recognition or build applications to photo bomb your products into your user’s dream room / immediate setting.  The possibilities are endless and of course as with all digital imagery, the spin off from a sales tool neatly rolls into a marketing tool as users enjoy sharing their new virtual experience or product with family and friends before and after buying.  The future is smart, it’s connected and it is attainable.