I’m back in San Jose after CES and thought I’d put down a few thoughts on this year’s exhibition floor, keynotes and presentations.
Ever changing agenda
As if to underline the changes occurring in the industry and within the CES agenda, the association that owns the show, changed its name from the Consumer Electronics Associations (CEA) to the Consumer Technology Association just prior to the show. This is testament to their understanding that the industry is much broader than just those companies making consumer electronics products. It now covers diverse areas like the automotive industry, content providers like Netflix and YouTube - both of whom keynoted - and those involved in the systems that require technology.
Last year John Chambers of Cisco said that every company in the world is now a technology company, and he was right. Whether it’s Uber and Lyft shaking up the taxi industry, Air BnB democratizing vacation accommodation, or Netflix and YouTube reinventing the idea of a TV network, more companies are leveraging technology to change the way their industries operate.
This is clear from the keynotes alone. Over recent years we’ve seen new players join the normal roster of speakers. Alongside stalwarts like Intel and Samsung, we saw the addition of the car-makers, and now we are seeing the content providers like Netflix and YouTube join the party.
Content & Community
Indeed Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings chose his CES keynote to announce availability of their service in more than one hundred additional countries, switching them on live during his keynote on the opening morning of the show. They are indeed a technology company, leveraging high speed internet as their channel and some pretty sophisticated software to ensure they deliver the right offering for every single user.
YouTube’s keynote was probably my favourite, not because Chief Business Officer, Robert Kyncl is a great speaker, or for his four reasons why digital video will win the decade, but because of the guests he brought along. Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro and Chris Milk, CEO of Vrse, joined Robert on stage to discuss how the work we’re doing together is changing the future of immersive storytelling. Nick was humble enough to suggest that without YouTube there wouldn’t be a GoPro at all. But the most inspiring of YouTube’s guests was Scooter Braun, who wearing jeans, sneakers and hoodie, strolled to middle of the stage and captivated the audience with unscripted stories about discovering Justin Bieber on YouTube and the role YouTube have played in his phenomenal success. Now the owner of two massively successful record labels, Braun talked about how the numbers of views grew, stating, "We started to see ten thousand impressions, a hundred thousand impressions, finally, we got our first million and I can tell you, it's really great to see the company we have now but when we got our first million impressions on YouTube I was in my apartment, in Atlanta, in my underwear, dancing." As well as entertaining the audience with stories of signing Korean ‘Gangnam Style’ star Psy, his speech underlined the important of both content and community in every market - be that music, consumer products or capital equipment. Apparently the third thing we do most, after sleeping and working, is watching video, and the forth is music! Oh, and Robert Kyncl’s four reason that digital video will win the next decade are: Mobile, Diverse, Music, and immersive. I suspect he’s on to something there.
IoTivity – no it’s not a real word, but Samsung would like it to be!
So before we forget about hardware completely and focus entirely on content and how to promote and distribute it, a note about IoT and why it seems to be central to every hardware product at CES this year. Along with the desire for all technology to be smart, is a desire for it all to be connected and all the large electronics companies are fighting the battle for supremacy on the battlegrounds of devices, connectivity and platforms. Every product is smart, whether it’s a fridge that takes a picture every time the door closes so you can check the contents whilst you’re at the store or a smart washer/dryer that choses when best to do the washing based on power costs, your own habits and the contents, or even an autonomous car that brakes, parks, changes lane and communicates with a smart city.
All of this is powered by IoT (Internet of Things), or the IoM (Internet of Manufacturing) in the more industrial space. WP Hong of Samsung takes a really joined up approach, using IoT and IoM in their own chip and product manufacturing and promoting open platforms throughout the market, suggesting, "our aim is to create a truly open connectivity framework with IoT, which we call IoTivity." Samsung’s collaborative approach was underlined with guests onstage from Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Corning, BMW, and serviced residence company Ascott Limited.
Eureka Park and the show floor
If you need to restore your faith in creativity and the ability of the inventor to bring products to market, simply spend half a day in Eureka Park! This year more than 500 companies took part, many start-ups, some scale-ups and mostly crowd-funded. Indiegogo where again central and took part in a number of really interesting presentations on the democratization of capital and the value of gaining a market and community alongside cash for a start-up.
Other highlights on the show floor were some great applications for 3D printing and an increasingly active wearables, health and wellbeing area. Fitbit introduced their Apple Watch competitor the Blaze, whilst fashion watch company Fossil showcased their acquisition of Misfit, bringing technology and fashion yet closer.
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