CES 2016: The Best Yet

by Stuart Sikes | Jan. 11, 2016

The curtain has closed on another CES and in many ways it was the best ever. In addition to CTA’s organization successfully moving some 170,000 people around Las Vegas, the outlook for technology has never been better. For those of us who can recount attending somewhere around 15 or more of these conferences, so many years were about TVs, computers, connecting computers, more mobile computers and now computers residing in everyday devices. Many of us in the industry can recall chuckling at Bill Gates’ bold claim to put a computer on every desk in every home. An attendee at this years’ show would not find it hard to envision a computer in every device that has an electrical cord, and even more that don’t.

2016 CES confirmed that we are standing on the threshold of a technology explosion unlike anything we have seen or imagined. We are now a few short years from hosting several dozens of computers all around our home. From Lumo’s smart pants (Lumo Run), to August’s Smart Lock and Fossil’s Q54 Pilot high fashion smartwatch, not to mention connected cars from Audi, Ford, Volkswagen and others, we are mere months from being surrounded by intelligent devices assisting us from the time we wake up until we drop into bed.

Many of these devices are new, and many are in their second or even third iteration. What made this year’s CES most exciting was seeing the plethora of products that are ready for prime time. That is, products are designed to make usage simple and pleasant. 2016 is ushering in the “post app” era. Voice control through Amazon’s Echo and similar personal assistant solutions has become a major differentiator for home automation and security. August’s Smart Lock automatically orders fresh batteries using Amazon’s Dash technology when it senses low battery power. P&G’s Fabreze Home smart air freshener disburses scent when your Nest tells it that the air conditioner’s fan is on. The point is, these products operate in the background without the user having to operate them through an app. Successful operation without users having to operate these devices, after all, is my definition of a truly smart home. 

Some remain skeptical that smart products are for the mass market. Those who attended CES will confirm that the variety of product makers using smart capabilities and connectivity to differentiate their products is astounding. Every product maker is racing to avoid commoditization, and connectivity offers differentiation in two important ways: one is by engaging the consumer through the technology wow factor, and the other is by improving cost structure, as Amazon’s Dash button does for Kraft by flattening the distribution channel for its Mac & Cheese dinners.

Those of us researching the evolution of IoT have been searching for the value propositions that will cause the mass consumer to demand smart products. CES ’16 revealed that manufacturers are not waiting for consumer demand – they are flooding the market with connected products. Connected, in a very short time, will be the norm for all but the bottom end of the product line.

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