I spent last week at CES 2015 in Vegas. This show was really different from all past shows. Central Hall, the traditional location for all the glitz and glamour at the Las Vegas Convention Center, was strangely flat. Sure, there were shiny TVs (4k, 8k), bigger TVs (105″!), curved TVs, and now, beautiful curved office monitors! There were even curved smart phones. There were ultrabooks, storage devices, and lots of gleaming household appliances (LG almost certainly has a winner with the door-in-door fridge and their Twin Wash washer-in-washer seems pretty convenient).
But it wasn’t, well, that exciting. Seen one supersized high-end TV, seen them all, eh?
After three days of pounding the floor at CES 2015, I’m back in Washington, DC and ready to collect my thoughts about this year’s experience. Originally, Donna Hoffman and I expected,as we usually do, to spent most of our time at Central and South Halls in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not this year. In 2015, CES was divided into three zones: Tech East (Las Vegas Convention Center ), Tech West (Sands and Venetian) and C Space at the Aria. Tech West housed pretty much all of the new emerging product categories we were interested in – smart home, fitness and health wearables, 3D printing, robotics and sensors and over 375 startups in Eureka Park. While it’s overgeneralizing to say that Tech East only showcased big TVs, its a fair generalization that Tech West came across as housing the new and emerging and Tech East the same old-same old. With some exceptions – Oculus was situated in Tech East (BTW I wasn’t impressed by the Samsung Gear VR – it’s a step up from Google Cardboard but not a full blown Oculus experience). So, most of our time was spent at Tech West – the “New CES.”
Smart Home Systems. In my last post, I talked about Samsung’s big push this year promoting its new SmartThings acquisition and the role that Internet of Things (IoT) is playing in Samsung’s product and marketing strategy. In Tech West, it became clear that Samsung and SmartThings has a lot of competition. Lowe’s displayed its entire Iris line of connected home products, including hub, cameras, motion sensors, smoke alarms, leak sensors, locks, keypads, lights, plugs, garage openers, smart pet doors, and more.
Donna and I spent most of the first of our three days at CES 2015 at Central Hall. Fresh from last night’s keynote by Samsung CEO BK Yoon, where he announced that in 5 years 100% of Samsung devices will be Internet of Things (IoT) devices, we first headed to the Samsung exhibit at Central Hall. If my memory serves me correctly, while the new Samsung TV’s were as flashy as ever, the exhibit didn’t have the overall grandeur of past Samsung displays, such as the massive sculptural arrangements of dozens upon dozens of LED TVs at 2010 CES.
However, true to CEO Yoon’s promise that Samsung was 100% onboard to the Internet of Things, newly acquired SmartThings was given a prominent position in the Samsung exhibit. The “Infinite Possibilities of IoT” was reflected, for now, in the finite number of SmartThings devices (hub, sensors, outlets) and the finite but growing number of firms producing products that work with the SmartThings system.
Presumably, the “infinite” possibilities of the IoT will come from the ways these devices will be combined with each other, once they are in the hands of consumers. For now, Samsung and SmartThings chose to highlight four fairly basic scenarios of Samsung’s IoT devices – the living room, kitchen, bedroom and garage – designed to create peace of mind, energy savings, convenience, and a “welcome home” feeling. These scenarios were pretty specific and in some cases involved technology that is currently out of reach of today’s consumers, such as “voice command your car to pull out of the garage.” Unfortunately, a self-driving car isn’t one of the current Samsung SmartThings modules, so I guess we’ll have to wait for that.
At CES 2014, I don’t recall Samsung saying much, if anything, about the Internet of Things. A year later, with the acquisition of SmartThings, IoT was at the heart of Samsung’s CES message. I was surprised to see Samsung so heavily promoting it’s investment in IoT at CES – what a difference a year (and a good acquisition) makes!
The vast majority of the smart home and IoT activity this year is happening at the “Tech West” in the Sands (which I’ll visit tomorrow). Given CEO Yoon’s keynote statement that “IoT needs open standards and universal inclusion to be a game changer for society,” it’s a bit to confusing to find Samsung’s IoT presence was at Tech East, while most everyone else was present at Tech West. Does that mean anything?
Although I found plenty of interesting IoT parts at the Samsung exhibit, and good examples of how these parts can be combined into specific use cases, still lacking was a clear sense of what the smart home as a whole was going to be like. We all know the whole is going to be more than the sum of the parts. The problem is people seem focused on the parts, instead of what it is all going to mean. One place where it started to come together a bit was a prototype of what a smart home TV-based dashboard might look for the new SmartThings hub coming out later this year. The Samsung rep couldn’t provide specifics on the dashboard, but this is a place where things do start to come together. Still, it’s not clear how all of this will change the relationship people have with their homes, or the experience of what one’s home is. Maybe that will become clearer tomorrow at Tech West.
Tom and I spent the day at the main show in Central Hall and were both shocked how – well – ordinary it felt. There were plenty of amazing TVs – 4k, 8k, straight, curved, and super thin, thinner than the slimmest smartphone, even! And I loved the door-in-door fridges from LG and the LG dual clothes washer. But pretty much everything that we saw we’d seen before.
The day was about incremental improvements, not revolutionary jumps.
Samsung made a big deal of the Smart Things acquisition, but I’m not sure they understand what to do with it yet.
Over at South Hall we checked out Oculus Rift. We sampled Gear VR with the Samsung Galaxy, but honestly, I didn’t think this was much better than the Google cardboard we played with over the holidays. Obviously, Crystal Cove is a killer “app,” but I’m not sure how big the market is for this amazing tech.
The drones are evolving – nano! From $100 to $300 you can buy a drone to serve as your personal videographer at sporting and outdoor events or even use it as an improvement on the selfie stick. They are wifi enabled and controlled through a smartphone app. This tech is moving in scary directions, I think.
Tomorrow we hit Eureka Park – all the IoT is over there so I’m hopeful tomorrow is going to knock my socks off. We walked over 6 miles today and I’m exhausted so lights out until tomorrow!
I’m excited. Tomorrow we head to CES 2015. A lot of the “what to expect” reports are talking about the ultra-HD (i.e. 4k) TVs, the high-res smartphones and phablets, and the drones.
Oh, and the 3D printing space is going to be massive – but really, they need to start printing things besides Hobbits and keychain tchotchkes. And of course, Oculus Rift is promising to show us something even cooler in augmented reality. (Check out my “shocked in the rift” from last year…)
Even so, I think the real news for this year’s show is on the bigger focus underlying the show – it’s all about connecting consumers through their wearables, cars, appliances, and other devices to the Internet ecosystem. The digital is becoming real!
It’s also exciting how large the Eureka Park tech zone is going to be this year – 375 startups this year from all over the world compared to 220 last year – with many focused on Internet of Things ideas.
Third and last day at CES. We’re staying at the Venetian, so this morning we had the easy commute down the elevator to the Eureka Park booths in the Venetian. The products below are all from Eureka Park.
Lifelogger. Lifelogger’s claim is that it will “completely change the way you remember your life.” That’s a tall order and I was a bit skeptical, but after seeing the Lifelogger camera I came away impressed. This is a product I could see myself actually using. The Lifelogger camera is a personal wearable video recorder with streaming capability. It can store a day’s worth of video. The camera can clip onto a headband (Donna has it on in the picture), or can attach to the side of your glasses. It’s about the size of a small USB stick. The battery lasts a couple hours, but a supplemental battery that clips on the headband will…
We spent most of yesterday at Eureka Park over at the Venetian checking out the start-ups. There was some great tech and some pretty lame stuff. Then it was over to LVCC for the connected cars – they park themselves – it’s pretty darn cool – and then back to LVCC for a meeting with Misfit Wearables to talk about the Shine.
Then we caught up with Larry Downes and Paul Nunes (authors of the awesome new book Big Bang Disruption) for a delicious dinner at China Poblano over at the Cosmopolitan. Then Tom and I headed back to the Venetian for Lenovo’s amazing social media night party at Aquanox. We got to play with all the pcs and tablets and phones. Fun! Good party – thanks for inviting us!
Heading back to DC today so I’ll post more this weekend about the new tech after I get organized for…