by Katie Elfering
Now that the CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights team is back from Las Vegas, ready to stop watching the Michael Bay gaffe GIF, and almost done battling the “nerdflu” that comes from sharing space with 200,000 of our closest techy friends, it’s time to think about what we saw at this year’s CES.
As was expected, this year was all about connectivity and the Internet of Things. Crock-Pots, toothbrushes, fridges, washing machines — if there was a way to make it “smart,” it was at the show. Big brands, like Samsung and LG, launched new options for connecting the home, including native-language texting with appliances (LG’s HomeChat), which lets consumers set up modes and behaviors for their appliances. While the technology in these networks is definitely innovative, it misses one key aspect of consumer behavior: It’s rare for consumers to own an entire suite of one brand’s products. Today’s consumers mix and match their home appliances and electronics, so while these brand-centric ecosystems are innovative and interesting, they don’t solve a real need in consumers’ real lives.
What does? Our team was impressed with Revolv, a home automation system that picks up where Belkin’s WeMo products (another of our faves) left off. Revolv serves as a central, brand-agnostic hub for consumers to connect the “things” in their homes, from Philips Hue lightbulbs to Sonos stereo systems to, conveniently, Belkin’s WeMo products. The DIY aspect and flexibility made it a winner in our minds, even if the price point and high-end brands still haven’t brought it down to a mainstream level. Another good DIY option? Sense Mother, which lets users connect “cookies” to everything from toothbrushes to coffeepots in order to help them track behaviors.
Beyond connecting every smart device imaginable, the other big buzzword was “wearables.” This year’s show included a “Wrist Revolution” section on the floor where smart watch makers and fitness device hawkers could showcase their wearable wares. While many of these wearables won on aesthetics or functionality (but rarely both), a few caught our eye as standing out from the crowd. Garmin’s Vivofit upped the fitness-tracking game by augmenting workout activities based on what the wearer could reasonably accomplish, making workouts more effective. LG put the tracking in tech that consumers already use to work out: earbuds. Its Heart Rate Earphones do exactly what the name suggests — measure a user’s heart rate during a workout and report back to the brand’s Lifeband fitness tracker.
As is expected with the wearable hype, health and fitness took center stage at CES. But while fitness trackers were everywhere, it was the brands that went beyond workouts and into more holistic health that caught our attention. Netatmo’s June brought a blingy aesthetic to sun protection, alerting wearers when they’ve been outside too long without protection. Withings moved beyond scales and blood pressure cuffs with Aura, a sleep-tracking system. InteraXon offered demos of Muse, a brainwave-tracking headband that helps consumers relax and de-stress. Lumo Lift helps consumers correct their posture, thanks to a discreet wearable that attaches to clothing.
As we’ve said for the past few years, CES has become less about revolutionary product launches and game-changing innovation. The show is now more about evolution and finding ways to truly integrate these technologies into consumers’ lives — and this year was no different. While the Internet of Things and wearable tech inch closer to the mainstream, we’re keeping our eyes on the ways that these trends are becoming more actionable and accessible to consumers in the present moment.
photo credit: cesweb.org