The little CES gadgets transforming 2016


CES is over and after just a week all the hype seems gone already. With the Tech giants releasing new products on their own schedule, CES is less and less about future-gazing ideas and quite literally a Consumer Electronic Show. On the flipside though, while Google, Amazon, and Apple work on big ideas which will change everything in the next 5-10 years, the gadgets at CES give us a peek into the smaller, more gradual changes which technology will drive in the immediate future. For businesses and marketers who plan their business on an annual cadence, these trends are the most useful to understand. Here is a roundup of the key ones.


1. Internet is transforming TV

On demand viewing has officially won. According to Nielsen data, a number of shows gather more watchtime on DVRs than live, and this trend has become more evident in the last six months. Netflix’s announcement about the launch of their service in 130 countries simultaneously left the industry paralyzed (before everyone started buying their shares – up again after yesterday’s earnings release, thanks to surge in subscribers also thanks to international expansion); we are witnessing the “birth of a global TV network”, as Reed Hastings put it. In the NBCU keynote, CEO Steve Burke explained why their investment in internet (Buzzfeed, Vox) is critical: “It’s like the regional TV companies that did or did not invest in cable”.


2. But TV fights back with some new tricks

While linear TV might not be the future, it is certainly still the present. JP Morgan reports that TV still accounts for 49% in the media mix (albeit down from 60%! – US figures) as it remains key to broad reach. However, advertisers demand more precision, flexibility, and integration with digital media. Programmatic TV seems more a reality; Dish explained how their new marketplace combines TV and digital buying, with more precise targeting and measurement enabled by set-top-boxes, even allowing on-flight measurement and optimization for TV.


3. AR as interesting as VR (if not more)

Virtual Reality was strongly showcased: Facebook’s Oculus Rift announces  launch at  599$ on March 28th, Fox added 3D VR for US Open 3D last year, Universal Music and iHeart radio will have VR on some artists, etc. But while most say it’s still early for VR,  AR (Augmented Reality) readiness seems higher, with some interesting products hitting the market this year: Lenovo announced launch of the first smartphone using Google Tango technology enabling AR; Target experiments with AR showing gluten free options in store.


4. Tech transforming automotive

Flurry of announcements and new products from some major automakers. Electric Vehicles were front and center, with GM announcing the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt for the masses, and VW showcasing Budd-e electric concept van. The topic of partnerships was the most interesting and talked about at CES. GM announced that it’s investing in Lyft to build a fleet of self-driving taxis. Ford also announced a big partnership, just not the one everyone expected… CEO Mark Fields showcased a partnership with Amazon that will allow vehicles to stay connected to smart homes via the Amazon Echo voice-recognition system. Also, Ford and Toyota (and others) are joining forces to make their own car operating system, called SyncConnect. However, Google’s John Krafcik (Head of the Automotive unit) also announced that partnerships would be the main goal of 2016. We just don’t know with whom yet.


5. IOT evolution vs. revolution

Lots of new weareables showcased at CES, including smart pet collars and even smart jewelry. However, the home remains the main target for smart devices. The Consumer Technology Association estimates that sales of smart home devices in 2016 will reach 9 million units (in US alone), including a very wide range of devices, from refrigerators to smart water leak detectors. Alphabet’s Nest and Amazon keep leading in terms of platforms and ecosystems, and most companies are either focusing on specific devices to serve narrow needs, or partnering with these players. For example, LG announced a partnership with Nest to work on smart objects that also ensure privacy and security (with no further details on specific products).

Finally, in case you wonder about my favorite speech at CES… It was Robert Kyncl’s keynote. Quoting him: “Digital video will become the single largest way people spend their free time by the end of the decade, other than sleeping and working”. Not sure I want that to happen to be honest, but if I think of the progress we have made in digital video in the last few years, it’s certainly something impressive.


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