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#CES2014: From wearables to connected homes and cars, are you ready for the revolution?

After a week in Las Vegas, Sarah Power, Initiative's chief strategy officer, Norther America, shares the biggest take-aways from the Consumer Electronics Show.

Audi and the connected car

Audi and the connected car

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Marketers need to watch the evolution of these technologies to know how to be ready when the revolution comes

The key word for this year: evolution, not transformation. This year, CES was more about making what we’ve seen in previous years real and accessible, and less about groundbreaking new announcements. 

With the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, gaming is set to take another leap in the next few years as wearable tech integrates with these systems to create experiences that are more immersive and powerful than any movie or TV show.

3D printing is inching closer to the mainstream, but it’s not quite there yet, and for now remains in the experimental/early adopter stage. However, by 2015 or 2016 this trend will almost certainly move its way into the main takeaway section. 

Speaking of which, the big takeaways from this year’s show:

1. Wearables aren’t a novelty anymore: 

Up until this year, technologies like Google Glass or Nike’s Fuelband were novelties—cool little gadgets that could theoretically improve our lives, but were mostly just fun to play with.

We still believe most of these devices are too clunky or expensive to receive mainstream adoption in 2014

In 2014, that changes. Wearables aren’t simply for amusement anymore; now, brands are focusing on wearables as a method to make existing technology even more personal.

Fitness trackers, like Sony’s Core, are transitioning into health monitors that can align steps, geo-location data, and life events in a single visual timeline.

Earbuds from Intel take speakers from music conduit to heart-rate monitors and workout motivator. Video games are being turned into full-body, immersive experiences (PrioVR), while smartwatches hold the potential to eliminate contact with our cellphone (Samsung, Sony). We still believe most of these devices are too clunky or expensive to receive mainstream adoption in 2014, but it’s clear that this is now a growing industry, and brands have to hop on now if they want to gain a first-mover advantage.

Why does this matter to marketers?

Whether tracking the fact that you burned over 600 calories walking to your office or officially feeling like you have jumped into your favorite videogame character, concepts of either maintaining your health or taking gaming to the next level are now more of a reality than ever before. 

Again, the issue here will be to see how user friendly these devices are.  As we have seen time and time again, if technology strays from a plug and play mindset, no matter how "sick" or "epic" the new tool is, it has a high risk of being dropped in the blink of an eye if it’s not easy to use.

2. The connected home is now in sight: 

Images of the Jetson’s home - a home that knows our needs almost before we know them - came to life at this year’s show

Images of the Jetson’s home - a home that knows our needs almost before we know them - came to life at this year’s show. And in 2014 the evolution of smart appliances makes that once-futuristic dream something that’s now real and possible (albeit without the scale and price to make it a mainstream reality right now).

We saw home automation systems that can keep track of energy or water.  Devices like LG’s Home Chat enable people to communicate with a variety of appliances. There were smart refrigerators, air conditioners, and even toothbrushes - all of which aim to monitor, recommend, and optimise our daily routines.

Why does this matter to marketers?

For this to really succeed, companies are going to have to work together to make sure that all these smart appliances can talk to one another. Consumers aren’t likely to want to download separate apps for their heating, electric and water systems, no matter how smart they are.

3. Cars are the new connected device:

In 2014, cars become the ultimate in mobility. There is even the possibility that you’ll need to add your car to your AT&T data plan.

There were the expected advances in dashboard technology, such as Chevy’s AppShop, which essentially transfers a variety of smartphone apps to the car. But the future of cars isn’t just about being able to play Pandora from your Tahoe - it’s about how your car itself operates.

Technologies like Audi’s zFAS let the car autonomously control aspects of steering and sensors, while BMW's ActiveAssist blurs the line altogether between drivers and self-driving cars. This is perhaps the one category that’s further away from fruition than other CES offerings, but it also holds the most potential for disruption.

As tech in cars leads to more safety issues (e.g., AT&T’s "It can wait" text and drive campaign), the appeal of security and protection will increase.

Why does this matter to marketers?

This is perhaps the one category that’s further away from fruition than other CES offerings, but it also holds the most potential for disruption

Driving to work, to school, to your home… a large chunk of the population depend on their cars to get them from point A to B in the simplest, fastest way possible.  With advancements that allow the process to minimise this effort even more than ever before, marketers will also have new opportunities to reach their consumers through apps and wearables that will guide them to the hot spots of the city, or get them safely to their destination after a road trip. 

Not to mention, marketers will be able to also show that these advancements will make the road a safer place, easing the worries of texting and driving or fighting with your GPS on the highway (This safe trip was brought to you by your Android…). 

4. Throwbacks to connect yesterday with tomorrow: 

There were also a few items unveiled that remind us that no matter how smart and virtual the world is getting, there is still a desire for the real and tangible.

From LG Pocket Photo to Polaroid Socialmatic, companies are seeing that consumers like to instantly post photos socially, but also like to go old-school and have photos they can take with them. Even the social vending machine in the middle of the show floor demonstrated that, where people could earn themselves a free t-shirt on the floor for tweeting a CES hashtag.  Who doesn’t love a free t-shirt?

Why does this matter to marketers?

Though marketers are always on the hunt for the newest and hottest ways to connect to their consumers, sometimes they need to be reminded that blending an old school approach with new age technology may be best.

This is true now more than ever with the need to attract Millennials, whose values mirror more of a traditional mindset, while still wanting the speed and simplicity that today’s technology allows.  

The blue sky of Las Vegas

Everyone shows up super hopeful, but this year things are still a bit too much in blue sky stage

Once you break the trends down, it's clear that the immediate application for marketers is still a way off. Everyone shows up super hopeful, but this year things are still a bit too much in blue sky stage. 

More than anything, the show reminds marketers that they need to watch the evolution of these technologies to know how to be ready when the revolution ultimately comes. 

This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk

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