Black and white image of a smart car at CES

CES 2018: Key Learnings

— George West, Account Manager 

The popularity of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) showed no signs of waning this year, as 180,000 ascended on the Las Vegas Convention Centre to witness what is arguably the most ferocious communications battle of the calendar year.

These days, making positive noise at CES is about marking yourself as the technology pioneer of the future, and year on year, we see the major technology brands competing with bigger and bolder marketing campaigns.

So, what can we learn as an industry from this year’s event?


More Than Just a Tech Show

Over the last few years, we’ve seen more and more brands dip their toes into the wild waters of CES, and more often or not, they revisit the event the following year.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing all the iconic automotive brands at the show – this year, Mercedes Benz demonstrated its new native MBUX system, Honda showcased new artificial intelligence-powered energy solutions, and Nissan showed off so called ‘Brain-to-Vehicle’ technology.

Some of the top beauty brands joined in too. We had a UV exposure-monitoring tool from L’Oréal, a skin-scanning device from Neutrogena, and a smart facemask from skincare company, FOREO.

Meanwhile, there were a number of companies bringing, shall we say, variety to CES. There was a laundry-folding machine, a mobile hotel, a wearable airbag and mobile signal-blocking underwear.

It’s clear that CES is no longer an event designed for those interested solely in software. It is now an event for the masses, and a platform for all businesses to make some serious noise around their brand, which means that communications professionals must assess what CES means for all of their clients – not just those in consumer technology.  


Dawn of the Voice Assistants

The dominant theme of this year’s event was undoubtedly speech, with a host of companies lifting the lid on innovative integrations with voice assistants – namely Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

Google set up a huge outdoor booth under the name of ‘Hey Google’, showing off a vast array of voice-activated products. Its rival, Amazon, was similarly busy, announcing collaborations with the likes of Jabra, Windows 10 and Asus.

At CES we were treated to countless examples of voice assistants moving towards the centre of our lives – we saw them feature in cars, projectors, and toilets, to name but a few.

This revolution is going to create a lot of opportunity for the communications industry over the coming years, as businesses of all shapes and sizes consider whether their products can be complemented with voice assistants – and how said products can be marketed.  

As these technologies continue to develop, communicators should be exploring different avenues for developing expertise around voice activation, including market research, analytics, and partnerships with thought leaders.

The voice assistant era will also open up new ways for companies to reach their audiences. Any owner of an Amazon Echo can request a new bulletin from the BBC at any time, and we can expect to see increasing numbers of media companies launching similar services in the coming years.


The Evolution of the Big Screen

Another company making waves at CES was Samsung, which unveiled a giant 146in 8k television called The Wall.

Television has been losing ground in terms of content consumption to mobile phones and tablets for a number of years, as so-called ‘digital distractions’ such as social media and online video continue to reduce television viewing time.

So it was interesting to see Samsung launch the world’s first consumer TV based on micro-LED technology, and in doing so make the statement that, in fact, consumers are demanding bigger and better screens for the future.

And Samsung was not alone, with LG demonstrating what it billed as the world’s first 65-inch 4k roll-up OLED TV, and rival Sony launching the 85-inch 8k HDR TV with an X1 Ultimate Processor.

LG’s rolling screen prototype was particularly compelling, as the company demonstrated its vision that future television screens could be much more multi-functional for users – it showed-off a screen that could be rolled-out of its box at different heights, depending on whether you wanted to see a weather summary, programme options or just enjoy a cinematic viewing experience.

At a time where significant proportions of marketing budgets go into online communication, CES proved that TV retains a fundamental role in current and future households.


The Future of CES

For years, analysts and industry experts have predicted the demise of the world’s longest running technology show, and it’s true that CES is no longer the primary place to discover mind-blowing technology news and innovations.

However, with technology continuing to be applied to variant aspects of our lives, the show is attracting bigger and more diverse audiences, and evolving to cater for the mass market.

CES will only grow as a spectacle in the coming years, and communicators need to understand what it means for the businesses they represent, the opportunities it provides, and how they can generate interest in their brands around an event of such magnitude.

Whether you love it or loathe it, it would be unwise to ignore it.