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WHAT'S THE NEXT MUST-HAVE GADGET?

03 February, 2014 - Source: McCann Manchester

The internet of things, wearable technology and whole host of other tech buzzwords have been permeating our sub conscious over the last month as media reports from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas prepare the ground for us to want the next must-have gadget that we don't yet know that we need. Mark Jackson, McCann Worldgroup Chief Technology Catalyst for EMEA shares his views on where things seem to be moving in 2014 having spent time at CES.

  • Mark Jackson
    Mark Jackson

Walking the seemingly endless stands at CES may be hard on shoe leather but it does give you a good feel for where the tech community is putting its bets on the next big thing. That said, CES is now less about big razzmatazz announcements as it is about getting a snapshot of our digital lives through the technology, and increasingly the cloud services that power them. Without doubt, the key message from the show is that the recorded data about our lives is increasing beyond simply what we view online and what can be recorded through cookies.

Whether it's the car we drive, the tennis racquet we play with, the dog we walk, the jewellery we display, or the sleep suit on our kids, all can track their respective host and share with the data-hungry cloud. The prospect for brands is potentially the ability to know an amazing amount about their customers and thus provide a contextually tailored product or service.

I admit to some this may sound somewhere between exciting and scary depending on your views of corporations gathering data on our personal behaviours. Regardless of where you sit on the issue of privacy, it was clear that there were five big agenda points at CES.

The Internet of Everything

First up Cisco's John Chambers talked about the Internet of Everything (IoE), the connecting of simply everything on the planet, as a US$19 trillion opportunity in new revenue and savings in both public and private arenas. Intel introduced a computer the size of an SD card called Edison and launched a developer competition to kick start its foray into this market. Home-automation leader Belkin offered a service to help manufacturers connect their gadgets through Wemo Partnerships. Immediately after the show we heard about the $3.2billion dollar acquisition of home automation company Nest by google. There are some who say the Internet of everything may actually render the World Wide Web obsolete, so watch this space on this one.

Wearables and Connected Devices

The second big focal area at the show was one that garnered a lot of media coverage worldwide.

Connecting the devices we wear on our body is clearly attracting a lot of investment. For example the connected-health zone at CES has doubled in size for the last three years, with the key area of growth being wellness wearables. Standout devices included:

Ibitz kids trackers: The company has recently partnered with Disney's 200 million strong gaming world, Club Penguin, to encourage physical activity in children.

June by Netatmo: The jeweled bracelet links with your phone to give you real time alerts on sun exposure and UV intensity.

Withings Aura: A sleep monitor that wakes you with scientifically validated light therapy to encourage great sleep. Separately from the connected-health section, Sony was demonstrating a proof-of-concept tracker for tennis racquets, as well as a wearable for your wrist called Core. Of the other big brands, LG also announced a tracking smartwatch.

The Connected Car And The Data Contract

Like the Internet of Things, another topic, which seems to have been setting agendas for a number of years is the connected car and how it will change our lives. Motor manufacturers and tech companies have been banging the drum on this one for some time, but according to Audi, the fourth era of the motor vehicle is now upon us, as cars are now shipped withdata contracts.

Chairman Rupert Stadler said in his CES keynote: "No matter who we ask, no matter where they live, people want to be connected. So if mobility used to be about connecting places and people, it is now about connecting the driver with the car, the car's surroundings, the traffic infrastructure, and all of the other connected elements of their life."

In-vehicle entertainment streaming aside, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication is finally becoming reality with a single standard being established across manufacturers, so cars will warn each other about road hazards and conditions. Even if you have never travelled a road before, your car will have access to all the millions of journeys taken recently by everyone else. If your car is connected in this way, the branded app on the car will even be able to route you automatically to the cheapest vendor of replacement parts before they wear out. One wonders the place of "advertising" in a world where gadgets can predict their own date of failure based on collective usage stats and order a replacement in advance.

Personalisation At Scale And The Maker Movement

As the available data around our lives increases, the ability to mass personalise products is amplified. With each data point collected about each daily choice we make, it gives some brand or other the ability to power their suggestion engines. Large brands have to keep on top of this trend as the growing artisan and maker communities are already addressing niche and bespoke, and are looking for ways to scale to meet demand. As a collective they are competing with established brands as they have access to global markets through resale sites such as Etsy.com. This site facilitated more than US$1 billion in sales before the holiday sales season in 2013.

Considering how to scale the production of handmade products leads us to an area of the exhibition that showed an incredible increase in exhibitor investment: the 3D printing zone. PR Rockstars Makerbot were their new owner and industry leaders Stratasys, as well as 3D Systems. The biggest headline from this part of the show was the announcement of the release of food-safe printing with demo candies at the show. Sculpteo also showed off their capabilities to scale 3D printing costs effectively.

Privacy

Privacy has always been a pretty spicy topic in the world of technology, but the revelations over the past twelve months about how governments and corporations are allegedly using our personal data have given the subject even more fizz, if that was possible.

Analysis of all the data being gathered could reveal some amazing things about our lives. Some data you may be happy sharing with brands in exchange for better products or services. However, many of us would prefer much of that data to stay private. At the McCann Truth about Privacy presentation, we heard from Julie Brill, Commissioner of the US Federal Trade Commission, about how they in partnership with international bodies are looking very seriously at protecting consumers from unscrupulous data brokers and any organisation looking to use personal data inappropriately or without appropriate care.

In summary, CES is a vast show and making sense of the show represents a real undertaking.

However, one this is very clear and while it may sound gloomy, it represents a brutal truth.

If you are a brand manager and you are not investigating how data analytics can help you in your business and marketing objectives, then you are planning your own demise.

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