The question you must ask at CES is: What’s the purpose and what can it do for me?

With over 4,000 exhibitors spread across 2.6 million square feet, each promising a new feature or function that will delight and excite, it can be hard to know where to begin. Even if you have prepared thoroughly and read the many articles published in the run up to CES predicting the trends for 2018 (More Voice, more IoT, Smarter Cars, Even Bigger TVs, and more sensitive Robots), you might still be left wondering, ‘what does it all mean for me?’ And that is the perfect question.

Luckily for me, I was on a curated tour of Tech West, led by the OMD Ignition Factory. And the lesson that I took from the tour was that when faced with a sea of devices, it’s critical to consider what is the impact of each device on the human experience? What is the real problem that we are solving, and how exactly does that device improve upon an interaction, or need state or moment, because understanding that is the only way we can stop ourselves becoming confused and dismissive of inventions that may in fact be worthy of a second look.

We began our tour on a rather relaxing note in the halls dedicated to sleep. The company NuCalm explained that they have developed neuroscience technology designed to relax the mind and body within minutes. Through the use of a topical cream, an eye mask, and software, they use a combination of biochemistry, physics, and neurophysiology to help you manage stress and ultimately help you power nap at will, which sounds rather wonderful! Next up were the wearables, with smart and hybrid watches like Appscomm becoming increasingly fashionable and glamorous, as well companies like ReGear Life Science expanding their watch functions to include deep tissue therapeutic heating systems to reduce pain and injury. We then wandered over to check out the smart shoes from no new folk, which are filled with 100 individually controlled LED lights, and can be connected to AR and VR ‘walking through’ experiences. Their purpose? To give artists and performers a new canvas with which to express themselves.

Hearables were back and this year the development moved into the fitness tracking and coaching arena, with ‘assistive audio’ gaining attention. Most companies on the floor were showcasing their latest product benefits; noise-cancelling, water-resistant, dust-proof, longer battery life and so on. One of the more laudable solutions came from Oticon, a hearing aid solution company that innovates to help the hearing impaired. Their smart devices can now isolate noises so that the wearer’s brainwaves can pick out speech signals. Now that seems like a purpose-driven innovation indeed. Language translators are also driving the demand of hearables and, over the next few years, we expect the market move from the current 1.7 million shipments to a massive 10.6 million by 2021.

We then headed over to see the latest in e-skin, those tight, super-flexible electronics vests which sense temperature, pressure and movement and send that data for application in robotics, healthcare and even gaming. Imagine putting on a tight shirt so that your upper body movements dictate how your character performs in a game. Sounds pretty fun, right? Well in the future, Xenoma’s e-skin vests could move from fun to functional, and track your run and deliver you reams of data (eg. heart rate and posture) to help you become a more effective athlete. Beyond health and well-being, you can also imagine how e-skins could be used a way of better understanding people through their physical responses. Whether that’s through creative testing, or monitoring how audiences react to an early cut of a film, the insights that can be gained through a more thoughtful use of these devices presents a myriad of opportunities for us to exploit.

Over in Eureka Park, we checked out thinkmindset’s headphones. These are smart headphones that use Electroencephalography (EGG) technology to help you improve your levels of concentration by stripping away unnecessary distraction and ultimately promises you a more fulfilling life. And intuitively, it makes sense. The less distracted you are, the more focused, creative, and possibly happier you can be.

The desire to achieve the most for ourselves through technology seemed to be a driving force for many of the devices that we saw. Whether it was to eek out the optimum number of hours of sleep each night, or achieve the most effective and efficient workout, or enjoy most intense entertainment experience, our need to squeeze more from every moment means that we want to know more about how our bodies work and how technology can help us perform at our peak. We want to see our biometric data and, increasingly, we’re prepared to share it with companies if it means they can tell us something new about ourselves and how we can be a better version tomorrow.

So what’s the potential implication for your industry?

We were reminded throughout our tour to consider the necessity of each innovation to ourselves; did it add value to our lives? Was there a credible sense of purpose to the technology? Interestingly, this line of questioning is equally relevant for industry leaders seeking to determine the relevance of CES and the technologies showcased within it upon businesses. If you consider the potential for product diversification and how you might expand beyond your company’s core capabilities in order to deliver upon what consumers really care about, then that’s when you’re moving into a more exciting space.
Imagine a utility or finance company taking note of the keen attention that people now place on understanding their health and fitness data (from steps walked, miles run, energy burnt on a workout), and seeing what are the parallels stories and messages that they could deliver in order to appeal to those same audiences.

Ultimately, the people and brands that think more artfully about all of the technological intelligence that they’re seeing on the show floors this week will be the ones that are better prepared for the year ahead, and for consumers who are increasingly asking ‘what can you do for me?’.

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Chrissie Hanson

Chrissie leads the global communications planning for Sony Pictures Entertainment and is responsible for elevating the creativity, innovation, and strategic rigour across 26 markets around the world. Chrissie has worked across 15 categories and 40 brands over the past 17 years, and on every campaign harnesses a deep knowledge of consumer behaviour and motivation to develop ideas that connect people to brands with greatest effect.

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