One of the problems with ‘innovation’ is where to draw the line between something that is genuinely useful to a mass audience, and a gimmick. You only have to watch Dragons Den, or today one of the many crowdfunding websites, to see some of these. It can be very easy, as a creator, to become too emotionally invested in your innovation.
This is what makes CES such a fascinating show. Of all the thousands of products shown during the week, very few of them will go on to have any commercial success or find an audience. Here are some of the ones that we think show promise:
MyCaptR is an app developed by a start-up that uses a special camera attachment on an iPad to scan a room and model it in three minutes. This is similar to what Google is trying to achieve with its Project Tango hardware.
One of the main use cases for MyCaptR is the ability for someone (be they an end consumer, interior designer, surveyor, builder or other similar profession) to be able to map out rooms and objects within rooms and then easily play around with the space and objects within it. This type of application could be hugely useful for homeowners when trying to make the best use of a space, for example.
Clearly, the use of an iPad and an app means that, outside of the camera, you don’t need specialist hardware to do this. It could be a huge innovation within the property industry. Of course, with Google also looking at this space with Project Tango, it’s likely that it will be Google that dominates here, and not MyCaptR.
For a number of years, CES has been a show focused around TVs. However, over the past few years, it has increasingly been about innovations taking place within the car industry. We’re currently going through one of the most interesting points in history with the car industry. The continued rise of electric cars and everything that is happening with automated driving, means that the fight for the future of the car is just starting.
Faraday Futures, a company that aims to take on Tesla, unveiled a new platform for electric, automated cars at CES. It also unveiled a hyper-electric car, that appeared to be more of a concept, than anything that is destined for the road.
One of the biggest trends that we’re seeing is that cars are becoming the epitome of Internet of Things and Mobility. They are the big battle ground. A huge amount of work is being put into this space, to deliver new and innovative services to create a new future. A future where cars will become vastly more intelligent, to the extent of being able to pick us up, when we need to be picked up.
Alexa isn’t well known in the UK. She doesn’t have the install base of Siri, Now or even Cortana, but she dominated CES. First embedded within Amazon’s Echo speaker, Alexa is Amazon’s digital voice assistant that will fulfil spoken word commands. At CES, there were a number of third party companies to bring out speakers and devices that contained Alexa.
In June 2015, Amazon launched a $100 million fund, called the Alexa Fund, to put into startups and designers looking to incorporate Alexa into their products.
At CES, this saw Alexa go into home security cameras, lighting systems and Ford vehicles. By getting Alexa into as many devices as possible, Amazon is able to ensure its services are front and centre, making it easier than ever to order from Amazon.
Already, Alexa is positioning itself as the front-end interface for the Internet of Things. By being able to communicate with your car, it can tell you whether you need petrol or how long it will be until it’s full, if it’s an EV. Similarly, the ability for Alexa to know when you are going to be at home could have big ramifications for grocery or other shopping deliveries.
In many ways, Amazon’s ultimate goal is likely to get into the kitchen, where it knows when it needs to order things for you.
As we mentioned in our 2016 trends and considerations white paper, we believe that personal assistants are going to be a major focus this year. Alexa is kicking off the trend, largely dominating CES — even without Amazon being there.
The vast majority of products on show at CES this year, and for the past few years, have had some form of Internet connectivity or contain sensors of some kind. This year saw Microsoft showcase a collaboration with Samsung of scenarios enabled by IoT with Windows 10.
This included using natural language queries with Cortana to Samsung’s connected refrigerators, televisions and washing machines. Whether any of this has any actual benefit to end users remains to be seen, after all, washing still has to be loaded manually and socks can’t match themselves. As a demo though, it shows where the potential for this type of application and use case could be heading.
Impact to enterprise
As the name suggests, CES is the CONSUMER electronics show. As such, it’s not exactly focused on the impact new technologies or gadgets could have for business uses. However, with the main focus being on the vision of automation of our homes and cars, it does raise an interesting question as to the impact this could have on our working life.
For one, the past few years has seen the rise of the number of people working from home. Things that help to automate our home, mean that people who are at home have to spend less time worrying about the house and can spend more time working. Automated cars are also likely to impact the way we work too. Microsoft announced partnerships with Volvo, Nissan, IAV, and Harman at CES, tied to its various apps or services. In the case of component maker IAV, the two companies are working to stream Windows 10 to the car, using the recent Continuum feature. The ultimate idea behind integrating Windows 10 or Office 365 to the car, is to enable drivers to schedule meetings, respond to emails, and even join conference calls — without the need to type in the passcode — via Skype.
Again, whether any of this is valuable, or gimmicky, remains to be seen. In a way, that’s the beauty of CES. It’s where gimmicky ideas can thrive.