Living abroad for a decade, I always yearned for the opportunity to visit the Consumer Electronics Show.  This year, I finally got a chance to go.  And what a show it was. Over 150,000 attendees descended in Las Vegas last week to view nearly 2.5M square feet of exhibitions across nearly a dozen venues.  You can imagine how deliberate you must be in navigating across the Tech East, West and South areas.

In this first post, I cover the most important tech trends I saw. My next post will cover what many have asked me for: the most and least memorable electronics.

1. Everything you own today is very dumb. (Tomorrow, everything will be smart.)

Ever since I read about the Internet of Things in late 2000, I’ve been fascinated by the new applications and insights IoT would bring.

At CES this year, it’s clear that IoT is everywhere.  Thanks to Intel, Qualcomm, and NVIDIA’s advances with microprocessors, CES was flooded with connected things. Beyond smart home and fitness tracking, the internet of baby, beauty, family, apparel, and pets are all upon us.  Did you ever think your pillow, showerhead or pants would be smart-enabled?  If not, get ready soon and see my next post for a humorous look at what’s to come.

Though some connected items appear unnecessary to me, it’s apparent we are in a golden age of invention.  The age of miniaturization was prominently on display at CES. Consider that 60 years ago it took 13 people to deliver a computer to one place, and now one person holds 13 “computers” in their hands.

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A computer delivered in 1957 via 13 people. In 2016, 13 “computers” delivered to the same location by one person.  Courtesy of @ValaAfshar

Budding inventors must be giddy with the tools and opportunities miniaturization has uncovered.  Microprocessors, micro storage, internet-enabled access technologies, and a plethora of sensors (location, temperature, gyroscopic, etc.) are powerful building blocks to create amazing technology.

IoT has certainly captured our attention recently at Graphene.  Look for an announcement soon about an exciting investment we’ll be making this month.

2. Alexa is conquering your home

With 7,000 skills, Amazon’s Alexa is far ahead of its closest competitor in dominating your connected life. Google, Apple, and Microsoft’s audio assistants were nowhere to be found at CES.

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Amazon’s Alexa may unravel Google’s dominance of search

Alexa’s capabilities were present in hundreds of electronics – including LG’s Smart InstaView Refrigerator which can tell you when to replenish that milk carton.   Amazon has once again boldly redefined commerce.  Every great marketer’s dream is to have an unfair advantage in distribution or point of sale. Amazon has not only displayed that this year but they have also quickly become a larger threat to Google’s core business.  If Google’s strengths are intent-based search and contextual awareness, Alexa will quickly catch-up or surpass Google’s advantages. Alexa will be learning your buying behaviors, family member demographics, home preferences, location, and much more.

3. Mobility is overshadowing Consumer Electronics

Last year’s CES buzz was that automobiles were stealing the spotlight from Consumer Electronics. This year, that was definitely the case.

With transportation changing form and function, it’s no wonder that soon, mobility will be a mainstay, if not a dominant, part of CES.

Mobility’s changing form was present with multi-modal & aerial demonstrations including E-Hang’s single person quadcopter drone e-hang-cesand Mercedes’ concept vehicle, Vision Van for last mile delivery by roof-mounted drones. Ford and DJI were also promoting their partnership for vehicle-to-drone deployments for emergency services.

Outside of flying transportation, manufacturers were displaying different automobile form functions for new uses of their vehicles in for an era that will be dominated by autonomous, millennial riders and ride-sharing. Fiat Chrysler’s concept car, Portal, displayed barn-door entry, and autonomous functionality for the new age of the mini-van. Honda’s New Electric Urban Vehicle (NEU-V) is a comfy 2-seater aimed at transporting people in dense urban environments and even includes an electric skateboard for last-mile transport.

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As for function, car-assisted driving and fully autonomous vehicle displays were popular.  Fresh off its announced partnership with Audi, NVIDIA demonstrated its AI Co-Pilot to support drivers with face recognition, lip reading, and gaze tracking. NVIDIA also displayed intelligent object detection and dynamic lane changing for autonomous driving.

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Looks like speaking to and summoning your autonomous vehicle from your smart watch are soon approaching. Michael Knight, we are ready for KITT.

(For more thoughts on how transportation is changing, see an earlier post of mine, here.)

4. AR is still magical, but early.

Every time I see an augmented reality or mixed reality experience, I get excited about the possibilities ahead when we combine the digital and physical world.  For AR/MR, this year’s CES was still very hardware dependent. But, more manufacturers were displaying different form factors like lighter-weight or untethered AR experiences. ODG’s R-9 glasses were the most impressive. Other notable displays included Vuzix’s 3000 Smart GlassesDAQRI’s Smart HelmetLumus’ side-mounted displays, and Google’s Tango.

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I’m hopeful this year will be the year that “killer” applications for AR/MR move beyond consumer applications that Pokemon and Snapchat have popularized.  There are plenty of applications for the medical, educational, aviation, and industrial markets.  With experiences on HoloLens and DAQRI’s Smart Helmet, Torch Surgery’s CES demonstration of medical training is just one such example of the promise of AR for the enterprise markets.

If you are in the application or content creation space for AR, I’m interested in hearing from you.  Please contact me via twitter: @giannikoulis

5. CES is here to stay.

Maybe after 50 years that’s easy to say.  But the past few years, members of the press – perhaps because they’re jaded and I’m naive – have complained that CES doesn’t have the major product announcements and lasting innovations in years passed.  This is largely a function of major tech companies not wanting to be drowned out by the thousands of other products thereby creating their own conferences – i.e. Apple’s WWDC, Google’s I/O or Microsoft’s Ignite.  It’s also a function of the high degree of shared information, faster product release dates, etc.

That said, the show continues to be the prime place to see major trends, listen to thought leaders, and most importantly meet with important figures in the tech community. In fact even getting time to meet with Lyft’s Chief Revenue Officer (a Graphene portfolio company) was challenging.  Though Lyft was not an exhibitor, their CRO was speaking on several panels and meeting with members of the media.  The show outside the exhibitor floor has become even more important than the exhibition itself.

So CES, not that you need another loyal attendee but I’m certainly eager to get my 5+ year badge soon.

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