You gotta love CES – all that innovation crammed into one city and one week! For us at Radius Innovation & Development, the show is a chance to see if we have our fingers on the pulse of the industry, to explore new innovations, and to meet some of the more than 900 startups showing brand new ideas and solutions.
No doubt we’ll be surprised by a few things; we’ll certainly be inspired. Here are a few of the big trends we’re expecting at this year’s show:
We’re seeing a digital transformation occur in every industry, even those that didn’t consider themselves technology sectors. The level of disruption and innovation from the digital transformation of industries such as retail, automotive, healthcare and financial is both phenomenal and disruptive. Indeed, we’ve seen our own digital transformation within the Jabil family and we leverage all the advantages of a digital thread through ideation, rapid prototyping, low volume manufacturing, right into volume production and supply chain orchestration.
We are expecting the digital transformation of more industries, more companies, more ecosystems and more elements of our day-to-day lives. We’ve found ourselves working with several customers this year, assisting them in their digital transformation, acting as a guide through the disruption they are seeing in their sector, helping them to be the disruptors rather than the disrupted.
Internet of Things
I know we’ve been discussing this for a while now, but the number of “things” connected to the Internet is continuing to grow. There will be very few new products at CES that aren’t “Smart,” “Connected,” or most likely, both.
The ability to connect the things in our lives empowers new solutions, and along with those solutions, new business models, new companies and even new industries. When we look at the whole ideation process we like to focus on the human experience first and foremost, then develop an ecosystem before we start to zero in on specific products. In many ways that makes us unique, but we believe this is the way our customers can find a consumer-led solution, rather than a technology-led one.
Connected or Smart Homes
We’ve seen smart home products at CES for a few years, but this year it feels like the sector is coming of age, led by the adoption of personal assistants like Alexa and Siri. The Amazon Echo sold seven times more units this Prime Day over last year, and with Google and Apple in the market, this space will get more competitive and the products will develop even more skills.
These systems provide the focus or glue for smart home adoption and with voice recognition the smart home seems to have found an ecosystem solution that users like. I’m expecting to see a lot of cool smart and connected home products at this year’s show, some from startups, some from the big home product brands with domain expertise, but almost all connected to, and operated by, personal assistants.
The wearables area at CES grows every year and smart fabrics and cheaper sensors are driving this sector forward faster than ever. These products are finding applications beyond smart fitness. According to statistics, there are around 500 Million connected wearable devices in use now and that number is set to more than double in the next four years. By far the largest two categories are smart watches and health/fitness trackers, occupying close to 90% of the market.
We think wearables success comes not just from getting the product right, but also the human experience, or user interface. We work closely with our clients to ensure we reach out to potential users to discover how they want to use a product and how it helps in their daily lives.
Just how smart can packaging be, and how important is packaging anyway? Very smart and very important as it turns out. With retail moving from bricks and mortar to online, the packaging of a product might be the first physical interaction a customer has with a brand.
What’s more, the ability to use smart packaging to drive loyalty opens a whole world of opportunity for brands. Smart packaging can be used to protect the consumer from damaged, mishandled or tampered shipments. They can also inform consumers of the need to replenish, connecting to smart apps that allow for convenient one button re-ordering. For the brand, smart packaging can also drive that all important digital transformation, generating data on product usage and consumer habits.
Our partnership with Jabil Packaging Solutions has led us to develop some great solutions in this area, particularly our Packaging Innovation Sprint, which helps brands quickly assess the potential of Smart Packaging in their market.
The healthcare industry has many challenges, not least an aging and growing population. Technology may not be the silver bullet, but it is certainly developing solutions that have much to offer the industry. Key to success in Healthcare technology is Human Factors, part of what we do every day to make sure products meet the needs of patients, practitioners and of course the FDA. Once again this goes back to the significance of the user experience.
We think in 2018 the healthcare industry will connect more closely with patients, delivering diagnosis, information and care in the patient’s home as well as at the clinic or hospital. Technology has the capability to accelerate the healthcare process, driving down costs and bringing solutions to a growing population.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There’s little doubt that AI will be the star of the show this year. Data is the rocket fuel for just about every one of these emerging technologies, and AI offers the chance to take that data, process it, learn from it, and apply it. Gartner believes that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human and as earlier as next year “customer digital assistants” will recognize customers by face and voice in a digital environment.
There are already some remarkable AI success stories. In October, Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind unveiled the latest version of its Go-playing software, AlphaGo Zero. The program is entirely self-taught, playing itself over and over again to learn what is considered the most complex game in the world. After three days of self-play, Zero was strong enough to defeat the version of itself that beat 18-time world champion Lee Se-dol, winning 100 games to nil.
What’s interesting here is that this version was only programmed with the rules of Go, where the previous had more than 100,000 human games in its dataset. This underlines the amazing potential of AI to learn and develop at an amazing rate.
So, expect to see plenty of super smart technology at CES, plenty of amazing innovations, and of course a few things that will come out of left field and leave us all wondering why and how the idea even came up. We’re excited to be there and our team will be blogging throughout the show. Watch this space to see if our predictions are right and to see what wowed us at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.