"CES 2020: 3 Key Takeaways From An Innovation Strategist"

Jem Reis VP, Innovation & Strategy @ Reprise Digital

After an average of twenty thousand steps per day, many panels, meetings, and networking events, and witnessing the one and only LL Cool J live on the mic after decades, here are my three key strategic takeaways from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES.)

1. Evolution, not Revolution

Every year at CES we crave for an announcement that will dramatically change the way markets or industries function, like the time Atari introduced Atari 400 and 800 at CES 1979, defining the personal computers for an era, or when Nintendo launched the NES, Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1985, saving the gaming industry. Well, this year wasn’t one of those revolutionary years. CES 2020 brought us more of the evolution of the existing consumer technologies, rather than new, groundbreaking solutions.

Make no mistake; there were a lot of impressive products and ideas. There was Delta Airlines’ exoskeleton that turned the freight loaders into superhumans, Y-brush solution that can brush your teeth thoroughly in ten seconds, or iCaros VR fitness equipment that exercises your core muscles as you fly over the mountains like a bird.

But other than a few exceptions, everything was more or less a variation or a combination of existing technologies and ideas. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows that we have plateaued the first wave of our fourth industrial revolution. Referencing the Technology Adoption Life Cycle by Geoffrey A. Moore, most of the electronics at the CES have moved from a minimum feature set to a full product solution and have ‘crossed the chasm.’

2. Brands’ Identity-Crisis

If we define identity crisis as “a period of uncertainty and confusion due to a change in one’s expected role in society,” we can safely diagnose our beloved brands with this condition.

As multiple technologies advance exponentially and simultaneously for the first time in human history, digitalization of everything blurs the lines between industries. Technological progress delivers new experiences, and this alters modern consumers’ expectations from the brands they interact with. As a response, brands become cautious about this evolving ecosystem of commerce and investigate ways to stay relevant. CES 2020 was a great manifestation of this brand-new world where brands’ identity crisis provided unexpected yet valuable solutions.

This year, we witnessed the consumer experience taking the center of the stage regardless of the industry. Wellness wearables were more intuitive, smart appliances were designed to talk with each other seamlessly, and the user interface design of the products was slicker, less invasive, and more embedded into everyday moments.

Brands were not shy about taking on new roles and responsibilities. Nearly every automotive company, and even some consumer electronic goods companies like Bosch, delivered a type of autonomous public transport solution that looked like a living room on wheels. The most unexpected announcement was the concept electric vehicle from Sony. Safety Cocoon (the project name) carried 33 sensors inside and outside of the car and provided a 360-degree view of its environment. It was built mostly to demonstrate the capabilities of Sony’s connected car platform Vision-S and is an excellent example of how the walls between industries are coming down.

We also observed more collaboration and partnership between brands from different industries. Hyundai partnered with Uber offering a futuristic flying-taxi service. This partnership will see Hyundai producing the air vehicles and Uber providing the aerial rideshare network interface and the support services, including the ground transportation connections.

Another promising and good-looking partnership was from Lamborghini and Amazon Alexa. In 2020, owners of Lamborghini Huracan Evo will be able to control numerous in-car features, including changing the radio channels, setting up the cabin and seat temperature, and even more complicated tasks like switching from Strada street mode to Corsa race mode by asking Alexa.

3. Privacy & Policy Discussions 1.0

Last but not least, privacy and policy discussions were at the heart of the CES this year.

From the biggest tech companies to the smallest startups, everyone was very enthusiastic and proactive about explaining how they handle their user data, and how transparent their policies are.

During the CES, Google announced that their users would be able to command “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week,” or inform their Google assistant that “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you.” Facebook presented an updated version of its privacy checkup tool with new features, including enabling users to understand how their information is used. Amazon Ring introduced an ‘opt-out from the local police database’ option for its users. Probably the most surprising thing was seeing Apple back at the CES after 28 years. And they were not there to launch a product but talk about privacy

IPG also hosted a great panel on “How Data Privacy Policy Correlates to Brand Health” at its renowned annual Women’s Breakfast event.

IPG’s Chairman and CEO Michael Roth opened the morning, emphasizing the importance of the data privacy policies. The panel presented Cheryl Guerin (Mastercard,) Allison Murphy (the New York Times,) and Sheila Colclasure (IPG Kinesso,) with Pam Scheideler (R/GA LA) moderating the panel.

The remarks of Sheila Colclasure, Chief Digital Responsibility and Public Policy at IPG Kinesso, summarized the sentiment in the room:

“Digital responsibility gets at the idea that advertising and marketing should be safe, sensitive, a good fit, ethical, and accountable. Digital responsibility moves away from the idea that privacy is a legal check-the-box activity and begins to build it into the fundamental business strategy. If your business is depending on data and connecting the users in valuable, powerful, meaningful, accountable, and ethical ways, you need to begin to think about digital responsibility.”

I think it’s the much-needed start on such an important topic, and our digital privacy policies will only mature in the upcoming years.

Before I wrap up, I want to mention one of the leading-edge innovations I came across at the CES 2020, something that will dramatically change the way many markets and industries operate. Misapplied Science, a startup from the Seattle-area, presented their Parallel Reality solution in partnership with Delta Airlines. Their technology enables a single digital screen to display different visuals/images to different people all at the same time, even personalizing the information for each person. Did you read that sentence twice? I can’t blame you. The technology is mind-blowing and still at its Innovators stage and expensive. But there is no doubt that it will be scalable soon. We all must keep a close eye on it.

Thank you for reading.