Every year, CES sets the global stage for innovation, and 2018 introduced new concepts of connectivity that put a “Cityscape” ecosystem well within reach. Here are some takeaways from this year’s conference, which took place in Las Vegas in January.
1. Lots of tech, nowhere to put it?
It was painfully clear that major companies are floundering with how to best implement and use new technologies. If you have to ask yourself, “What should I use this tech for?” then your company’s strategy should be relegated to the distant past. AI, connectivity, and voice control are all being underutilized by top-tier companies. This manifests in, say, Samsung promoting gadgets and “stuff” rather than harnessing the full power of what’s possible. Companies push technology without owning a strong point of view about where they came from and where they’re headed; they need to figure out how to add value to their technologies. They need to understand, as Amazon and Google do, that tech without value describes something that doesn’t work yet; only adding value will turn tech into a tool that’s relevant for our changing ecosystems.
One key is to try to understand what the end user is experiencing around their technology before they buy it. If they’re uninformed or uneducated, the experience as an end user is going to be a bad one. A rampant example of this is the disconnect between technology and smart homes. Users who don’t understand the tech simply won’t find any value in it.
2. Products are changing. Time to pick a tribe.
Smart homes, smart cities, and smarter people all crave and demand connectivity. What does this mean for products? Companies are thinking about products as platforms. A family of products is more useful than a single product. Even the stand-alone products we saw were elevated by a Google assistant or Alexa, not because they needed to be, but because it’s now the market standard.
Companies need to be thinking about the future of physical products. Physical interactions with products aren’t dead yet — voice control and machine learning will likely reduce much of the hands-on interaction we have today, but we still need to consider how best to utilize platforms. As it is now, physical products are portrayed merely as high-end toys or gadgets, without owning any real value or function.
3. Smart cities: Connecting everything.
Moving through CES we could see that we’re on the precipice of an amazing new ecosystem, but how to engage with it and implement it for daily living poses huge challenges. The concept of a connected “cityscape” is evolving. Many infrastructures and systems that will revolutionize the cityscape are dependent on access to fast connections. Will 5G change everything? High speed connections starting at 1 gb/second will increase the amount of information we can transmit through all the different products and systems, but they’ll need to function together flawlessly. The automated fast trains and Hyperloops will be relying on this. How will companies make it all connect safely, seamlessly, and efficiently?
4. Travel goes digital.
The classic car industry is a thing of the past. Hyperloops, autonomous busses and trains, driverless cars, and personal transportation are all evolving at breakneck speed. For so long the industry has relied on engine basics as we’ve understood them for a century. Now, the new engines are built to last for 20 years without requiring any maintenance.
We need to fully adjust to the fact that operating systems will be making decisions and driving us around. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts have already moved into a new generation. NVIDIA, a heavy hitter in digital making hardware and software, has a massive amount of insight from the gaming world about how to harness real mechanical data. With over 320 companies using their AI autonomous vehicle chip, they’ll be leading the auto market. A gaming hardware producer and software manufacturer might just create the new industry standard.
5. Look out, Amazon Alexa. Google Assistant is on your tail.
The battle is on between Alexa and Google. There will need to be a winner, soon. The voice war between the two is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll already find Alexa in Toyota automobiles, but Google isn’t far behind. If society is ultimately going to be fully connected, surely one will win out over the other? Having Google in our cars will, of course, make traveling, listening to music, and connecting to all of our other devises much easier — figuring out how to implement the true power of AI and voice control are next up on the battlefield.