You could see it coming at last year’s CES (consumer electronics) show, but there were more vague future delivery dates than actual products. The past week at this year’s show in Las Vegas was different. The expected wave of everything connected in today’s Internet of Things (IoT) world has officially arrived.
Sleep masks, sports bras, pianos and mattresses are now connected. How about gardens, shoes, child car seats and luggage? Check. Rings on your fingers and collars on your cats can now make phone calls. Doorbells, wooden toys, rubber ducks and yes, even vibrators are wired and available for instant online access.
Small animals appear to be one of the largest markets for the IoT revolution, perhaps because this is a particular group of consumers who won’t bash connected products in social media or file a pesky class action suit.
One company called PetNet announced the “world’s first smart pet bowl,” a product designed to provide advice on the perfect amount of food for Fido and it will generate notifications to a smart phone for feeding times and food supply.
And CleverPet, winner of last week’s Showstoppers LaunchIt competition, has designed a WiFi-connected game console for dogs which doles out treats every time the animal correctly paws a blinking light “puzzle.” As CleverPet’s CEO Leo Trottier coyly described to press and technology analysts last Tuesday, his company has been well-received by investors because he is marketing to a client base “with absolutely nothing else to do.”
Aside from offerings to four-footed consumers, there were a number of other products on display at the mega consumer technology gathering that provided an intriguing glimpse into what we can expect as we move through 2016. One example can be found in DocuSign, the pioneering leader in electronic signature technology, who is beta-testing a connected car product that would let buyers sign all necessary contracts using the in-dashboard car screen and drive off the lot in five minutes.
The company is partnering with Visa on the new concept and they are using the bitcoin-based blockchain as the basis for timestamping the car-buying contracts. DocuSign has also posted a video on YouTube where you can see a demo of the potential new solution.
Another interesting trend noticeable at CES this past week was the emergence of a number of non-U.S. startup companies who were presenting a host of intriguing products. One such firm, the Japanese-based Logbar, will be shipping an instant, wearable translator called the ili in the spring. It currently supports English, Chinese, and Japanese and works without needing any Internet connection.
Playing to the explosion of connected home technology, the French startup called Sevenhugs has created a small smart remote designed to control every device. This includes Philips Hue lights, the NEST thermostat and Sonos speakers, to name just a few of the possibilities that can be governed by this one device.
Another company from France is Giroptic (who recently opened an office in San Francisco) and they were displaying a 360-degree camera that is waterproof, WiFi-connected, and can deliver immersive, streaming videos without post-processing. This will be an important trend to watch as key content platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have begun to allow users to explore 360-degree videos.
There were also encouraging signs that the wearable technology market is finally embracing the need for more fashionable design, one of the criticisms which many believe have been holding back widespread consumer adoption. At their press conference last Tuesday, Fitbit showcased a new line of Tory Burch-designed bracelets and wristbands which can hold the popular Fitbit Flex tracker.
And the Chinese powerhouse Huawei rolled out a glamorous looking smartwatch specifically designed for women with Swarovski crystals on the watch face and rose gold finishes.
Longtime observers of the mammoth CES show point out that the gathering has never really been about huge, game-changing new products that will transform the tech world and revolutionize our lives. Rather it is about spotting trends in the direction of consumer technology for the coming year. As Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park described it last week, his goal is to offer products that are “more motivating, smarter and stylish.” And that sums up what five days of last week’s CES in Las Vegas was all about.