The Consumer Electronics Show
in Vegas is a disorienting whirl of screens, lights, product demonstrations, premieres, and sales pitches. It's attended by 150,000 people, and held in America's rowdiest city, Las Vegas. It makes the Cannes Lions feel like a trip to a spa, and making sense of it all can be tricky.
There have been any number of round-ups of all the bells, whistles, gadgets and gizmos paraded by technology's biggest players over the last week. (There are a few links at the end of this article to some of the more interesting ones). However, rather than bombard you with a list of pieces of hardware, we thought we'd highlight what we thought were the most important trends emerging for marketers and brands
. We trawled the floor and the blogs, did the tours, asked the questions, and have managed to distil this billion-dollar extravaganza into three words, just for you.
But before we begin - if you ARE into having your mind blown by gadgets, we highly recommend having a look at a demo
of the Intel reference phone, the company's first public foray into mobile hardware.
On with the show! 1) Personal
This year's CES saw a boom in the number of systems allowing for PERSONALISATION after purchase. TV manufacturers like Samsung and LG are aiming to replicate the smorgasbord viewing experience of the web by integrating app layers
, gesture control technology and cameras for in-TV video conferencing. Samsung also announced a range of TVs that would recognise individual faces and voices, pulling up content personalised to that person. This effectively kills the worst human-tech interface in history, namely, channel-hopping. The days of listlessly scrolling through a preordained schedule in the hope of something taking your fancy are over, throttled to death by an open API in which any third party developer will be able to splice and dice content according to your preference. The YouTube redesign, around channels of content rather than a video free-for-all, will further personalise content delivery.
Meanwhile, Ford showcased their SDK for in-car system SYNC, which third party developers will be contributing to, enabling drivers to customise their dashboard with a series of apps designed to improve or facilitate the driving experience. GM's Onstar in-car security system's continued collaboration with the Chevy Volt saw the company exploiting a broadband connection to deliver streamed content and channels to all passengers via individual screens.
Personal health-tracking continues to boom. We were struck by Basis
, a watch with sensors underneath the strap which measure heart rate (with no chest band), and also moisture, temperature and activity levels. The moisture and temperature levels will indicate stress levels, and enable users with heart conditions to identify triggers that result in life-threatening rises in blood pressure.Basis boasts the obligatory online data visualisation elements, and also a points tracking system to keep users motivated over time.
Implications for brands: As technology increasingly trends toward the personalisation of everything from TV browsing systems to washing machines to the dashboard of your car, marketers will have to figure out ways of crunching the stream to target relevant communications and services at a consumer base increasingly uninterested in anything that isn't specifically for them. Expect to see marketing and product development departments collaborating more closely to make this happen. 2) Open
Following the success of Microsoft's Kinect system (fastest-selling gadget in history), manufacturers are appreciating that open systems thrive, and rather than trying to own the space yourself, your product stands a better chance of survival if you open it up and allow other people to contribute to it. Anything with a matching API is as close as you'll get to an open system, and at CES 2012, a number of companies including AT&T, LG, and OnStar were showing their hands. Samsung even went as far as to encourage non-Samsung devices into its 'AllShare' content system, which enables the delivery of content to multiple devices.
Implications for brands: Complex. With all these opportunities for consumer interaction, brands will have to increasingly behave like technology companies, integrating themselves into these open systems in non-disruptive ways. The more open a system is, the more customisable it is, and the less room there is for brash interruption.
Closer to home, it's interesting to question what an open brand would look like. What would developers be able to do with an API for, say, Diageo's product line, or Nike's?
And finally. 2011 saw a spate of brands assigning seed-funds through which to invest in development related to their sector, openly acknowledging that basically, you can't do it all. For example, telco Orange assigned €150m to promising mobile startups on the understanding that the investment, and knowledge of the sector, would eventually pay for itself. This kind of openness - placing a lot of small bets - makes for a stronger, more flexible company, and a more meaningful brand. 3) Seamless
It's an oddity of technological evolution that we're programmed to see every system as functioning perfectly until something comes along to replace it. The truth is, there are a lot of glitches in the ways we currently engage with technology, and this year's CES saw the gadget manufacturers prioritising seamless
interactions in order to iron out some of the wrinkles.
Voice recognition turned up in TVs, cars (Ford and Mercedes), and in a plethora of mobile phone applications as everyone scrambles to keep up with Apple's digital personal assistant, Siri. Intel showcased a fascinating suite of 'connecting apps' designed to make the sharing of content, files and documents, between devices, completely seamless, rendering the USB an unnecessary relic. 'Hybrid' netbooks also made an appearance, for those who enjoy the browsing experience of a tablet but need the power and functionality of a laptop. And Samsung's seamless home display outlined a vision for the future whereby every gadget is connected to a central interface, and can be regulated through gesture recognition, voice recognition, or simply programmed to self-regulate. For those of you with an eye on the future, it's looking likely that when the Singularity happens, we'll be too busy talking to our washing machines to notice.
Implications for brands: Make things easier for people. Whether it's product development or marketing campaigns, our consumer base is increasingly seeking out ways to simplify and to streamline, and the technology companies are going all out to help them do it. Find the Just Buy This One of your brand, and do that.
This means - no more crazy complicated marketing campaigns in which people have to check in on FourSquare, review it on Yelp, give up permissions to their entire life on Facebook and spam their Twitter followers to be in with a chance of winning a 20% off voucher. It means questioning the reason for everything to exist, before you send it out of the door.
The Contagious mantra is, and has always been, that if you're doing anything, make sure it's USEFUL, RELEVANT or ENTERTAINING before it goes out of the door. This is truer than ever. Don't get confused by the gadgetry - just make sure you can tick at least one of these boxes.
Best of the CES round-ups: