It can be difficult to process all the companies and electronics on display in Vegas during the second week of January. My approach to exploring the show booths was looking at the hardware with three questions in mind: how are the individual parts of electronics evolving? How is technology changing society? And who will benefit from this device? Below you will find six trends that emerged from multiple conversations with vendors displaying the latest and greatest on the show floor.

Voice is the new operating system battle for home devices

Vendors proudly displaying their Google Home and Amazon Alexa integration for hands-free access to information and the ‘smart functions’ available inside the home. Electronic devices are building their services and experience on top of voice systems from the big platform and cloud infrastructure providers. For a consumer’s experience, the distinction between Google and Alexa is as important as the division between MacOS and Windows or Android and iOS. Overall, voice adds another touchpoint to the ecosystem battles for best consumer experience between the major technology platforms. With data privacy and security coming to the forefront of news coverage, voice systems may experience a trust backlash given its intimate place within the home.

New definitions of ‘a screen’ and augmented reality emerge

Screens have been getting larger, sharper and brighter for decades. TVs including MicroLED and OLED technology continued this trend at CES 2019. Increasingly however, the definition of ‘a screen’ is expanding beyond flat rectangular displays and into roll-able, flexible, touchable and smart surfaces. On the show floor, digital displays seamlessly appeared on furniture, mirrors, car windows, walls, and many other surfaces. Manufactures are increasing the variety of screen and building new use cases; for instance, the display systems in Bosch’s autonomous transportation vehicles were designed for working on digital presentations, video conferencing, or consuming entertainment content.

Technology is being used to build trust for humanity

Uber and Airbnb fundamentally changed our willingness to allow strangers into our private property. Our personal space is increasingly becoming accessible to service providers because it is being monitored and tracked by technology intermediaries. Key by Amazon will soon allow strangers to deliver packages or groceries straight inside your home.  Heightened security monitoring has increased transparency and accountability of individuals in order to build trust between humans.

Single use electronics will not enjoy commercial success

There was a lot of technology that did not make sense as a standalone consumer electronics product. For instance, a clothes-folding machine or giant cocktail mixer. With younger generations moving towards ‘no single use plastics,’ disposable electronics will face similar difficulty selling to the environmentally-conscious masses. Additionally, it would be extremely hard to change consumer behavior, beyond the ‘shiny object syndrome,’ to transform these singe use electronics into daily routines. These products will either become industrial solutions for manufacturers and business owners or they will become added to all-in-one devices – such as the home entertainment units or smart phones.

Sensors have invaded every industry.

From baby products to sleep technology, the majority of devices at CES were packed with sensors. Many electronics were considered ‘smart objects’ because of their ability to collect data and respond accordingly in real-time. AI is a combination of advancements in sensors (collecting data) and computing (storing and processing data). Personalization of the consumer experience was a key use case for collecting sensor data – from medical devices to VR gaming. There was also talks of changing connectivity for sensors, including the appearance of 5G demos and edge computing for IoT devices.

Electronics can increase accessibility to basic human needs. 

While not the dominant trend, there were companies building products intended to help those in less-fortunate and less-developed parts of the world. Certain innovations made medical products cheaper and therefore, created wider access to healthcare. Others solved for environmental limitations, such as converting water in the air to safe drinking water for remote villages. It was nice to see hardware being developed for the greater good of society as there was also no shortage of millennial-run startups that built devices for growing organic herbs or keeping your champagne at the perfect temperature.

From intelligent self-driving tractors to 5G infrastructure, CES can feel distant to the world of marketing. However, given it is the CONSUMER Electronics Show, it is important to note how the interaction between technology and humans is evolving. As marketers, we must look at advancements in devices and technology through a lens of consumer behaviors, emotions, and beliefs – both at a one-to-one level and at a society level. Marketing will continue to be the bridge between what people really want and what electronic devices are built. I was reminded at CES: just because it can technically be built, does not mean it should be or that there is a viable market. Additionally, as our clients integrate artificial intelligence and digital experience in their products, brand trust and consumer expectations become even more important in winning share of wallet.

Author: Violeta Todorova, Strategic Studio Manager, Publicis Media