BREAKING— I have returned from CES 2017 without a cold!

BREAKING— I have returned from CES 2017 without a cold! Each year CES typically leaves its attendees with a version of the funk that typically takes you down upon returning home. Here is to a healthy, funk free, 2017!

This year marks my 16th year attending CES, the default event for those who create, sell and market the technology in our personal lives. Each year I write up a post on the best things I have seen. This year, I am going to shake it up because times, they are changing…

Over the last decade, I have made it a point to drive to Vegas for the event. It proves to be a great plan as the meeting rooms, dinners and meet-ups tend to be spread out in multiple hotels or restaurants. It also serves as a great tool for reflection as the 4-5 hours is often plagued with poor cell service and true quiet time.

So, on my drive home I asked the question (to myself)…

Where is it all going?

To best answer this, I thought about the evolution of the CE (Consumer Electronics) industry over the last 17 years.

Since 2010, CES has been mostly about displays, plastic, hard drives and processors. From ultra flat monitors to tablets, innovation was best observed in the physical products on the floor. Booths were constructed with items spinning under spotlight and demonstrations meant people picked them up or watched their 4k brilliance.

If you follow the trades (and mainstream media) you heard that Amazon stole the show this year with Alexa. You also likely heard people say that they didn’t see anything that wowed them. Well, both are correct. However, I think this is not the full story…

The next 5 years or so will feel like nobody is innovating because innovation has always been measured in physical product. More and more “things” are being connected and as a result, the physical is becoming software enabled. As things become connected, it will be hard for them to be MORE connected. Thus, the innovation we are going to see and need to be better at managing will be in the ability for companies to understand customer needs and create a personalized experience IN or AROUND the products for which they produce.  This will appear more as incremental innovation to outsiders but it truly is the holy grail of innovation.

 

We are in for an era of innovation where consumers buy and recommend based on a product or services ability to “fit them” or “adapt to their needs”. How and where they find out that these features fit them is more important that going to see a product on a shelf at Best Buy. These experiences will carry the innovation banner forward for the years to come.- my 2017 prediction

 

I saw this first hand this year in several instances. Most impressive was the demonstration of Comcast’s Xfinity network customer experience. The super smart, customer focused team at Comcast welcomed me into their suite at Venetian and offered a tour of what will be rolling out to all their customers in just a few months. Sure there was a box on table but the presentation was nearly 100% about the experience and the ability for the customer to control what mattered to them most. For example, Xfinity customers will soon be able to create profiles for their family members on their network allowing them to monitor, report and establish boundaries. This is great for families with kids who have personal devices but also the avid streamer who may be looking for better performance in their streaming.

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They have streamlined the onboarding process too, demonstrating that innovation doesn’t have to be wrapped in hard plastic. The new experience will be automatically enabled in the first half of 2017 for the approximately 10 million existing Xfinity Internet customers who have a compatible Xfinity Wireless Gateway. That number is expected to grow to more than 15 million by the end of the year as Comcast’s new Advanced Wireless Gateway becomes available to customers. This Advanced Gateway is capable of delivering up to nine gigabits per second over Wi-Fi within the home, supports voice, home monitoring and automation applications and will be the device Comcast uses to make one gigabit per second Internet speeds available across its entire service area.

My hat is tipped to the Comcast team for the fortitude and courage to show up at CES with commitment to the customer experience. Your investment there will win over those markets where you compete against outdated providers. Now, if only you offered your services in Orange County, California!

The number of connected devices is expected to rise from 10 to 50 devices by 2020. However, we are in for a period of time where “The Bigs” and “Start-Ups” alike will compete for your spare change via features that enable a more relevant, useful and personalized experience rather than push more product. Sure we will see people replacing physical items (Dishwashers, Cars, Toasters, etc.) with a new connected version but the idea that we will have tons of new devices in our home in addition to currently non-connected devices is likely a fallacy with the exception of companies like SEVEN HUGS.

  • The Bigs: Will compete with a value proposition of an Ecosystem of products that work together. Their typically closed system (think Apple) will begin to turn people away as consumers are more and more wanting things to work together regardless of the platform.
  • The Start-Ups: Will deliver against niche experiences and gain market share because they deliver amazing experiences that serve a specific persona’s needs. They will of course be gobbled up by a Big in the future but until then, they will blaze trails at a pace only a smaller, nimble company can and a pace that consumers have grown to expect.

Stop looking for the new plastic on the shelf and start looking for the features that make it all “work for you”.

Personalization is going to change consumer expectations, security, user interface design and content delivery. As it pertains to the working world, Intel’s Brian McCarson calls this- Phase Two of the Internet of Things. The use of data to create a more optimized, personalized and relevant experience.

One size fits all will never work again- thankfully. We are in for an era will brands and manufacturers are going to be looking to consumers to help shape (real-time) the features, functions and experience with preference, data and feedback. 

I am excited for a great 2017 filled with innovation, personalization and better customer experiences.

Pete

 

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