If I had a dime for every time someone asked me “What was the coolest thing you saw at CES?”…It is an almost impossible question to answer. And it’s not just due to the whopping 1.8MM sq ft of exhibit space, the 2,700 exhibitors or the 20,000 new product introductions on the floor. In an overwhelming sea of gadgets, software and services of this year’s CES, there was no clear “darling” of the world’s largest technology trade show as has been in year’s past with Tablets (2011), 3D (2010) or even the jaw-dropping introduction of the VCR in 1970. Remember that?
This year’s CES was largely made up of significant improvements or evolutions of existing technology. Not quite as sexy as “the next big thing”, but certainly no less important in its incremental, yet huge, impact on consumers’ daily lives and their ability to get things done. After a couple of days of absorbing the events of the past week, I kept coming back to a handful of newsworthy technologies…some very relevant to the marketing and advertising industry and others just plain fun, cool or useful to the tech-evolving consumer.
While 3DTVs had taken the spotlight in the last couple of years, huge advances in Connected TVs have been made, particularly in their inter-operability with mobile devices (tablets and smartphones). For example, Samsung Smart TV technologies platform includes voice integration, integrated webcam for motion control, video services and apps including, of course, Angry Birds. Connected or “Smart” TVs mean a whole new set of options for accessing diverse content from multiple sources and perhaps making “cutting the cord” that much easier. For brands and agencies, it means increased fragmentation in viewing patterns, but more opportunities to find more and varied inventory across streaming, VOD and app platforms to enhance brand storytelling beyond the :30 spot.
Speaking of cutting the cord, Simple.TV was recognized by CNET “Best of CES” Awards for Best Home Theater Product. Simple.TV is a small, unobtrusive box that lets viewers seeking live sports from broadcast channels, for example, access these programs (recorded or live) in HD from your iPad, Roku or Google TV. Live sports programming has been a major hindrance in cord-cutting, so this might get sports fans one step closer to actually making the break.
The Smarter Home
Eco-friendly products have been a mainstay at CES, but 2012 went well beyond “green tech” and saw a new level of energy conservation and management via connected devices and advanced monitoring systems or Home Energy Management System (HEMS). NRG Energy constructed a grid-aware home at CES that allows homeowners to use their TV, PC or smartphone to monitor their energy usage and control or schedule energy usage based on time-of-day utility rates, for example. It also allows consumers to operate their appliances remotely. One feature in the NRG Energy house was a sensor that automatically turns off or dims lights when there are no occupants in the room. What is important here is the control that people will have in managing their household utility budgets and energy output. The question is how can we, as marketers, tap into or align with this important movement. The marketing eco-system is expanding and inter-related in ways that we’ve never seen before. Major consumer electronics manufacturers, Samsung, for example, are not only involved in hardware for TVs and appliances, but the content and services that run through them and connect them.
Razer is looking to take portable gaming to a new level with Project Fiona. This is a tablet for PC gamers. This is truly a prototype to test whether this form factor will appeal to gamers (potential 4Q release). Twin joystick controllers on each side of the tablet allow gamers to engage beyond the tablet touchscreen. The tablet will run on Windows 8 and will also include accelerometer for motion sensing and home theater sound. A very interesting new gaming platform opportunities on the horizon for marketers who want to engage with gamers in a more immersive format, on-the-go. Take a look.
Body monitoring gadgets made up the to help people get and stay fit as well as help the aging population (and their loved ones) monitor their health remotely. These technologies give people vital information to help them succeed in weight loss or living independently for longer. The BodyMedia Fit system, for example, targets the weight loss category. The armband is a sensor that picks up 5,000 data points per minute…calories, steps taken, sleep patterns, you name it! If you are feeling unmotivated, coaching software can suggest activities and nutritional recommendations to keep you on track. This area of health-tech is an interesting one for marketers, especially those that target the fitness enthusiast, outdoor adventurers and the aging population. Harnessing these kinds of granular, real-time, life-saving solutions for consumers can be a powerful way for marketers looking to make meaningful connections with consumers.
Just when you thought TV resolution couldn’t get any better, it can…CES’s Best of Show award went to LG’s 55” OLED TV. Pictures and video do not do this new display technology justice, but here’s a try. Drool.
This stopped me in my tracks. Is it a TV? A window? What do you do with it?! Samsung’s 46” Transparent LCD “Smart Window” is a revolutionary display technology that, in the US, might be used as a refrigerator door with touchscreen control center. It’s a cool technology, but I honestly don’t know if I want my leftovers on display. But seriously, check out this video and imagine the possibilities! This is truly Minority Report kind of stuff.
The Best of CES Emerging Tech award went to the MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer. Just to be clear, 3D printing means making actual real-world 3D objects! I seriously didn’t understand how 3D printing could be possible, so check out this video.
For more coverage from the CES floor last week, please see #cesgsdm.