So what was unveiled at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week? Well, connected everything,...
for starters: Sensorized objects and smart gadgets ranged from autonomous cars to 3-D body scanners to smart belts -- you name it, there was a smart version for it. And while the larger Internet of Things (IoT) has been the talk of CES for a while now, Intel, Samsung and many other companies peddling their smart wares at the conference promise that this year will be different: Organizations will work across industry lines to provide a more personalized experience for their consumers; developers will design wearables and smart devices with security and privacy at top of mind; and robots could take the place of humans in some industries.
Wearable tech: Does the value outweigh the risks?
Yes, International CES 2015 was jam-packed with nifty gadgets that do cool things, but some attendees pointed out that the data these connected devices produce -- and the insights collected from them -- are what make them a lasting proposition:
Since the invention of wearables the industry still tries to figure out what to do with the data! What are consumer experts doing? #CES2015— Radim Svoboda (@RadimSvoboda) January 7, 2015
Wearable data is both boon and bane for adopters: More data produced by smartphone GPS and fitness trackers could do wonders for a more nuanced customer experience, but how to wade through it all for useful insight? It's a problem many enterprises are still trying to figure out. Those that are successful can reap benefits such as extended customer relationships through subscriptions, the ability to influence customer behavior through predictive analytics, and improved employee health and productivity.
Despite the abundance of promising wearables and smart devices at the show, some International CES 2015 onlookers were a little skeptical about whether customers and businesses will bite:
While the Accenture study cited above and another study by Gartner predict slow wearable tech adoption in 2015, both reports are more optimistic about its uptake in the long term, with the latter forecasting strong growth going forward as these devices emerge from the testing phase. In the meantime, how does a business decide which wearables are worth it? On top of being able to glean useful data, they should also be simple to use.
Another factor that could dictate the lasting power of certain smart gadgets is how well they serve a consumer in context -- for example, the degree to which they can personalize a customer's experience based on such metrics as their current location and their food preferences:
With IOT we are developing telepathy to the things in our lives wherever we are. #CES2015— Guy Bieber (@gbieber2) January 7, 2015
Intel's keynote presentation might have nabbed the limelight at International CES 2015, but Samsung CEO BK Yoon's speech was also pretty ambitious: "By 2017, 90% of all Samsung products will be IoT devices -- and that includes all our televisions and mobile devices," he said. Yoon urged other companies to work together, across devices and industries, to be able to achieve this IoT reality. Attendees agreed:
It should be encouraging, then, to see a profusion of devices at the conference that could foster this cross-collaboration, such as self-driving cars by major automakers, a smart pill box and Curie, Intel's button-sized wearable processor:
Panel agrees: unprecedented levels of collaboration in auto & tech industries to effectively secure connected vehicles. #CES2015— Angela Corsi Leon (@acorsi) January 7, 2015
Curie, in particular, had wearable makers on the edge of their seats. Essentially a computing system on a chip, its tiny size promises to usher in a whole new batch of wearables, such as rings, buttons and bracelets.
Alas, despite all the talk about their potential, no discussion around connected devices would be complete without discussing the other side of the coin -- the privacy and security risks they pose:
FTC head says consumer health companies need to do more to protect data privacy http://t.co/TXkAK17vmr— MedCity News (@medcitynews) January 7, 2015
One way companies -- especially the startups that dominated CES -- can mitigate these IoT risks, advised FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, is by taking a "privacy by design" approach by building privacy controls into a product from the start. "Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked," she warned.
Robots large and small
Wearables and the IoT weren't the only things that drew gasps at International CES 2015. Robots of all shapes, sizes and levels of creepiness also made a splash. Attendees tweeted about some of the animatronic standouts:
While some of these robots (such as the beer-pong bot) seemed to exist largely to draw oohs and ahs from the crowd, others, according to attendees, are closer to making a dent in certain industries:
Upcoming robot techs: better interpretation of robots' surroundings (more sensors, more data), cloud robotics #CES2015— International CES (@intlCES) January 6, 2015
A few more years and a few more tweaks to robots' capabilities -- such as endowing them with social discernment -- could make the difference in whether these droids go mainstream, if the hype at CES is to be believed.
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