Some Thoughts On #CES2016

Last week, I wrote about how excited I was at the prospect of going to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It was a pretty interesting and incredible week . . . though I left Vegas thinking that we, as consumers, are not any closer to the seamless, frictionless experience that we often hope for or are told will exist . . . but that might be OK.

Some of the topics I found interesting:

The Internet of Things. Having sat through a couple of panels on this topic, I left thinking that IoT is still much more an idea, or ideal (?), than anything resembling an on-the-horizon reality. At the heart of the issue is a simple question: what is the benefit of IoT to consumers? My sense is that no small part of the churn comes from the fact that IoT is being used as an umbrella term to describe a myriad of possibilities from a myriad of perspectives.

“Smart” homes. In many ways, this is a subset of the Internet of Things . . . and encompasses many of the forces and tensions at play in conversations about IoT. I think that the most germane bit of context was that while the first steps toward consumer-facing home automation are rooted in the 1970s, “smart” homes remain very much on the fringe (i.e., more often than not, it remains a DIY movement). A lot of time was spent discussing how “smart” a home needs to be and the short half-life of delight: when a convenience works well, it often becomes the expected experience. While many manufacturers are making a play for enabling smart(er) homes, they seem to be focused on zero-sum games that are odds with the variety of brands that co-exist in my home, and all of my friends’ homes.

Wearables. Far more mature than the Internet of Things but still evolving. In contrast to IoT, wearables seem to be well into the early majority phase of the adoption curve, which leads to some really interesting discussions. Privacy certainly circled the topic, as did the accuracy / efficacy of any given platform, but I thought one of the more interesting thoughts came from doppel’s Fotini Markopoulou, who asked “Do you want your wearable to tell you what you should be doing?” in the context to the emergence of clinical-quality wearables.

The conversation around connected cars was interesting, though I am surprised at the amount of energy being put into integration when many of us carry around a small, fairly powerful computer that reflects our preferences, in the form of a mobile phone. Some of the more interesting thoughts revolved around content being contextual (what I listen to might be very different depending on who is in in the passenger compartment travelling with me) and the fact that manufacturers are putting a lot of technology into cars . . .even if they don’t know how that infrastructure might be used in the future.

So why do I think that an unintegrated future might be OK?

Before CES, I assumed that the lack of integration would inevitably result in friction and frustration in terms of user experience. On reflection, that friction and frustration often exists within a domain (how many remotes do you have to control the various pieces of your home entertainment system?), if not within a brand.

Assuming that our personal technology ecosystems remain comprised of multiple brands, the question becomes: how might we integrate and leverage disparate data sets so that they enable deeper (and more useful) insights? In my experience, the solution involves table joins (something that 1010data, like many analytic platforms, enables provided there are common hooks such as date/time stamps, etc.).

In a broader sense, though, this returns us to the Wired piece that I cited in last week’s blog: if no single data source is likely to be wholly satisfactory. A single source might produce “big” data but, increasingly, the more valuable insights are to be found in complex (i.e., multi-source) data.


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