There are genuine insights to be found amid all the brand buzz at CES 2017, if you know where to look.
It is time, once again, for hassled tech reporters to descend on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual expo which decides what buzzwords we’ll all be spouting over the next year.
It’s rare for a start-up or a big brand to deliver any real surprises during the four day event — the non-stop gun-jumping press machine takes care of that (plus some companies have been known to exhibit the same stuff more than once). And for the keener tech aficionados, panellists are only telling them things they already know. But there’s always a genuinely cool nugget or two to be found at CES, whether in a corporate keynote or an unknown Kickstarter.
At CES 2016, we looked beyond the hardware and explored the broader trends which emerged over the course of the conference. But as we head into CES 2017, it’s worth asking: how many of last year’s insights panned out, which ones stumbled on the starting block… and will we be hearing about any of them again this year?
CES is the land of a million screens, as glossy new devices make their debut. And while it’s not necessary for your average CMO to be au fait with every single new smartphone or tablet, it is worth noting their potential impact on creative strategy.
Last year, we predicted that the proliferation of screens in our homes would necessitate a change in approach from marketers, as a more in-depth understanding of how users interact with specific devices would be required in order to craft content that was platform and device-appropriate.
“While many agencies view this shift as a threat, it should instead be viewed as an opportunity,” wrote Chris Celletti. “More than ever, clients are looking for experts to guide them through the ambiguity and the range of new technologies that could be utilized for their campaigns.”
Deep data, not big data
Tech companies have long been amassing vast volumes of consumer information despite only being able to find a small number of insights which they deem useful. Last year at CES, Subaru highlighted how seemingly unexpected or irrelevant insights can lead to a boost in sales. For example, finding out that a large proportion of Subaru customers are likely to be dog owners influenced the creative direction of an ad campaign, with measurable results.
As machine learning becomes increasingly sophisticated, AIs will be able to identify a greater number of esoteric but meaningful connections in data which appears random to humans.
“Think of a cognitive system as a tireless assistant, capable of consuming and reconciling huge volumes of unstructured, ambiguous and even contradictory data,” says Dayoan Daumont, Innovation Director at OgilvyOne in New York. “AI is constantly learning… enabling it to draw increasingly accurate conclusions over time.”
Connected living and smart cities
The Internet of Things is ubiquitous at CES, and connected devices which seem cool but are ultimately non-starters have become something of a staple.
But one of last year’s more notable exhibitors was the holistic and theoretically-centred Qualcomm, positing all of the different ways that connectivity can enable device-to-device communication and an enriched experience across entire urban infrastructures. Smart cities continue to be the focus of massive research and investment, and that only looks set to increase in 2017.
Want to learn at CES? Look beyond the buzz
This year, highly anticipated areas at CES include the latest advances in robotics and drones, autonomous vehicles, wireless design, and the usual new slate of smartphones, tablets and TVs.
By all accounts, there will also be sessions at CES 2017 which eschew tech for tech’s sake, and will instead address appropriate and contextual ways to reap value from hot properties such as 5G connectivity and artificial intelligence. This is a refreshing and encouraging course-correction after the IoT-heavy, wifi-in-everything approach of previous years.
That said, press releases are already already circulating for a smart hairbrush. The more CES changes, the more it stays the same.