CES: The "Connected" Electronics Show

By Michael Campbell

CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) needs to change its name.

Every January in Las Vegas, the latest and greatest TVs and other consumer goodies are on prominent display. The mainstream media combs the aisles looking for the coolest new tech gadgets that will dazzle their mainstream audiences. And in fairness, LG, Samsung, Sony and others put on a helluva display, pun intended.

But I propose that CES change its name from the Consumer Electronics Show to the Connected Electronics Show. Of course, I’m probably not the first to make the suggestion (because frankly I’m just not that smart).

Seriously though, almost anything (tangible) of value in our lives has a power cord or batteries. But if you pay any attention to what’s happened in our world over the past 10 years, these powered things are now connected to a network and ultimately the Internet. (Yes, the Internet of Things - a world I’ve been living in professionally for years.)

The Connected Product

The most prominent theme this year was the absolute ubiquity of the “Connected Product” (from sun umbrellas to razor blades, smart toilets, smart mattresses, doorbells and yes even smart lawns that tell you when they are too wet or too dry). While a number of bloggers and traditional media that I follow commented at the lack of real innovation this year at the event (and maybe they are right in one respect), I think we may have been numbed by the hype of the past 10 years and are just now at the point when this is all becoming very real...and very interesting.

Some of the more interesting connected products didn’t actually make the show floor - because their prowess is better observed in the parking lots and the roads of Las Vegas. Autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles have to speak. While autonomous vehicles get a little attention in the mainstream public already, the progress being made is mind boggling. Beyond the autonomous driving platforms themselves are the big and exciting infotainment systems and even more important is the wonderful user experience coming to a car near you. OEMs now realize that the vehicle itself is merely a platform for all the things that can be connected it. Bring your own music, your own navigation, and all your own apps through an interface that will blow you away. The car is the platform for a world of valuable services for you and for them.

Alexa & Google

Around the themes of Connected Electronics and Connected Products, I can’t skip the incredible display of technology by AWS Alexa and Google at the event. Many exhibitors were proud to display respective signs in their booths. Alexa had a large, dedicated room that they used to showcase some of the incredible advancements they are making with this technology. Unlike a lot of their services, AWS has done a remarkable job bringing value to the market by integrating with third party services. As for Google, they had a massive outdoor exhibit, apparently tripling their physical space from last year. For a good read on Alexa vs. Google at CES, see this CNET piece.

I am already looking forward to the “Connected Electronics Show” next year and hope that all these providers are investing wisely in how to manage the connected experience beyond the wire and Internet connection. Connected products form a unique and powerful relationship between providers and customers. It’s both a challenge and opportunity that should not be taken lightly by all those involved.

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