In theory, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is about consumer electronics. Hosted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), it is still the go-to spot for shoppers and retailers to check out the newest in smart hairbrushes, connected cars and fridgecams.
The reality is that CES has also become a bellwether for major IT trends around the world and across industries. At the recent event in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 175,000 visitors were not only on the lookout for cool gadgets, they were also representing organizations interested in staying on the cutting edge of enterprise technology.
A number of key trends emerged during the conference sessions and on the show floor; allowing these trends to guide IT planning and investments could provide the head start your organization needs and, potentially, a significant advantage over competitors.
Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant were everywhere this year. Their dominance is just one more indication that voice is making great leaps as a user interface, taking over much of the territory that graphic interactions have long held. A reported 700 apps were released during CES for Alexa, and the sleekest connected cars (another highlight) all came with robust voice-assisted functions. The CTA estimates that about 5 million voice-activated digital assistants have been sold to date, a figure that is expected to double in 2017. The power of voice technologies should not be underestimated, and those technologies are already being applied to improve efficiency, verify security, make purchases, conduct searches, control apps and create and edit content.
Internet of Things
Once again, the Internet of Things (IoT) was front and center at the show. Connected devices, whether they’re toasters or warehouse tracking devices, are feeding data into the cloud and turning the information into reactive and predictive assets. This information is being leveraged at increasingly accurate rates to optimize everything from how your bread is toasted to how your next pair of running shoes moves along the supply chain. This year, users should expect improved standardization and more cost-effective solutions both at home and in the workplace.
It’s difficult to talk about the IoT these days without mentioning security. High-profile attacks continue to threaten smart devices, and manufacturers and developers are under increasing pressure to improve security measures. Safety should be top of mind for any designer, but measures should be both preventative and forward facing. Not only do systems need to be secure, they need to be agile enough to adapt to future updates and integrations.
Connectedness was a major theme at CES 2017. The new gadgets are great fun, but the biggest revelation was in how many of them are now linked together. Technology users have come to expect their devices and apps to work together seamlessly, across platforms and manufacturers. Ensuring that operational touchpoints are in sync will be key to building customer loyalty, user-friendly interfaces and enduring solutions in the coming year.
Although CES has historically been a major indicator of things to come, it has also hyped more than a few flops. Smart businesses are savvy enough to keep on top of new trends but also identify which will truly add value for their organization -- they just might provide the next big competitive advantage.