/// 2013 CES Brief
By Talk NYC guest contributor Todd Zander
Usually CES is a conference identified by breakthrough hardware-based products. I remember the excitement in 2011 when dozens of vendors unveiled tablets of every size, thickness and color — and we got a taste of the future of computing. Other shows featured big, small and sleek Android smartphones, IPTVs and, of course, the 3DTV mania. 2013 CES will be remembered less by the breakthrough phone, TV and tablet innovations and more by the software and experiences that should be connecting all the screens together. Devices are more or less commoditized and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a single vendor to separate themselves from the pack with a new hardware design or screen size. Tablets and phones are standardized predominately on Android while niches are carved out for Windows Phone and iOS. Hardware innovations that used to take center stage at CES — like cameras, gaming innovations and GPS devices — are now being folded into the smartphone. PC’s could be found mostly in the dark corners of booths. There was definitely a sense of ‘screen fatigue’ in a consumer world where it’s becoming harder and harder to impress and ‘wow’ attendees.
Contradictions began to emerge as ‘breakthrough’ technologies being showcased for several consecutive years fail to gain meaningful traction in the consumer market. 3DTV’s now seem to be on display for pure amusement and show entertainment. Many believe 3DTV’s have jumped the shark and will be relegated to a small niche market until the glasses go away and prices are in line with standard HDTVs. IPTVs are also getting tired and, aside from Pandora and Netflix, it seems the masses aren’t into using TV app stores the same way as their phones. Apple never participates in CES. One thing that really struck me after attending this year’s show is how the iPad was truly an incredible and game changing invention. With all the fragmentation and global competition in the consumer electronics space, it’s difficult to gain measurable traction and develop a substantial audience for a new product category in the first year (like the iPad). Now with the abundance of consumer screen options at affordable prices, the industry is struggling to move towards the experiences that can be attained by connecting TVs, phones, tablets, gaming systems and computers. Device and OS fragmentation invariably creates a damaged ecosystem that inhibits connectedness. Apple always solves for the hardware, software and OS at the same time. LG and Samsung are showing signs of moving in that direction.
All that said, it seems clear that Android will prevail as the connective tissue to bond multi-vendor devices together. However, it’s taking more time than it should to become reality and Apple has a big head start. I think the consumer market is ready for internet services on the TV, but I’m unsure the IPTV-led approach will prevail. App stores will always dominate first on the smartphone. Smartphones are quickly becoming the remote control for our lives. Whether it’s remotely controlling a home thermostat with the Nest or controlling house lights and a security system from big players like Comcast — smartphone and tablet apps have been chosen unanimously by consumers as the primary human control center. So why do app stores and intelligent services also have to be built into TV’s? TV’s are historically lean-back, dumb devices. Phones and tablets are more lean-forward, action-oriented devices. Why can’t users control their TV from their phone or tablet in the same way they will control their thermostat? Whether or not Apple launches a TV this year I hope we’ll begin to see the smartphone become the remote control for the TV by pushing, or ‘slinging’ apps and internet services from the phone — via WiFI — to the TV.
The device segment which displayed the most excitement and innovation was the health and wellness ‘wearable’ market: devices to track biometric data and view it on apps. The digital health section of CES featured over 200 companies demonstrating devices. I think 2013 is the year the wearable market gains mainstream awareness and the average tech-oriented person becomes familiar with devices like the FitBit. The fundamental question is: will the wearable market flame out with consumers just like 3DTV and IPTV or are we in for a health revolution and transformation in human behavior? Just because a technology capability exists doesn’t mean people will buy it and embrace it. Will the wearable market ultimately gain traction on the health care side to reduce health care costs and improve chronic care? Or will the uptake lean towards the fitness enthusiast or person trying to lose some weight? For as much genuine excitement as there was in wearable devices, there continues to be a lack of meaningful software to make sense out of the data. By providing users continued motivation and actionable data, the industry needs to develop software to turn a cool idea into a meaningful and powerful one. It could be some elements of gamification, connecting audiences, or providing relevant content based on the data. It’s either the first inning of a very long game in mobile health innovation or the wearable market will be relegated to highly targeted niche audiences.
LG’s booth impressed me the most by demonstrating a vision for connecting devices. This TV allows you to edit multimedia with a stylus, like a Galaxy Note on steroids.
The LG Miracast TV allows you to project your LG smartphone media or app onto your TV via WiFi or USB as long as the devices are compatible.
IPTV experiences like this one from LG are getting more elegant and taking cues from Apple and Google’s mobile app stores.
A sign of the wearable market going mainstream: LG’s prototype wearable device. The device was connected to an exercise game on an LG TV. Commercial launch and price not available.
Funny to see HTML5 associated with a TV. Basically you build an app according the Smart TV alliance spec and it will function on TV’s from multiple vendors in the alliance. Samsung is not in the alliance.
Technology that allows you to view and evaluate your golf swing on the TV. I’m sure this will catch on in living rooms across the country….
The 85 inch Easel TV from Samsung. Incredibly big, thin and elegant TV’s. Currently priced a little under $30K. Speakers are built into the frame.
Samsung’s improved IPTV user interface
Gorgeous display of thin Samsung TV’s on sliding tracks.
Android is making its way into home appliances like washer/dryers, dishwashers and this refrigerator. View an Epicurious recipe and listen to Pandora? Maybe. Read news from AP? No way.
Masimo’s pulse oximeter that connects to an iPad.
PSIO Planet, an electronic audiovisual apparatus — goggles equipped with earphones and MP3 players emitting variable-frequency color audiovisual stimulations to address health conditions like ADD.
My favorite wearable device at the show, PerformTek will be licensing biometric sensors to traditional headphone manufacturers so when consumers exercise they can seamlessly track heart rate, metabolic rate and cardiovascular fitness — and view from an app.
United Healthcare had a surprisingly big presence and showcased their digital products — predominately PC-based app experiences to manage care.
Fitbit may have made the loudest noise by entering, and essentially validating, the wrist-based device market currently dominated by Nike and Jawbone
The most bizarre and intriguing wearable device at the show was the HAPIfork, an eating utensil that calculates how fast you are eating and then vibrates to remind you to slow down. Their research showed that users consumed 11% fewer calories when using the fork. The spoon and knife coming soon.
United Healthcare’s fitness gaming area hints at gaming mechanic tactics employed by big health providers to encourage fitness.
This guy personifies the typically chaotic, sensory overloaded CES attendee.
Talk NYC guest contributor Todd Zander
Todd Zander has developed business and product strategies for mobile web, tablet and mobile apps for Tier 1 media brands. Zander has directed and produced over 25 mobile and tablet apps totaling over 20 million consumer downloads. He’s also built multi-million dollar mobile businesses from the ground up that include first and third party advertising, new ad unit and sponsorship models, and digital media licensing distribution. Todd currently serves as the VP of Mobile and Emerging Media for WebMD, the #1 destination for health information. The views expressed in this post are his own and do not represent his current company.