CES 2015: Emerging Trends and Technologies to Watch

CES 2015: Emerging Trends and Technologies to Watch

CES 2015: Emerging Trends and Technologies to Watch 800 343 Chute Gerdeman

While the big consumer electronics players had over-the-top presences, they all started to blend together after a while at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). I mean, how many times do I need to look at a prototype 8K 100″ television? It’s big, it’s bright, and there are more pixels than my eyes can see. There were of course a few exceptions:

  • LG demonstrated a flexible bending OLED screen. Granted, it only flexed a few inches, but this core technology could someday give us tablets that roll up into a tube when not in use.
  • Sharp debuted a 104″ ultrawide display that they cleverly demoed vertically, a perfect new addition to digital signage and interactive kiosk capabilities.
  • Panasonic introduced a “Space Player” that is one of the first all-in-one projection mapping systems. The capabilities were impressive, but the real magic is that it’s designed for permanent installation rather than just events. It uses laser LED instead of a projector bulb, so it can go for several years without requiring maintenance.

For the most part, the truly fascinating things were found in small booths off the beaten path. Trawling through these, we uncovered some interesting trends.

Chic, Cool and Fabulous: Form Trumps Function as Fashion Reigns

The convergence of tech and fashion is hardly a new story, but we saw a tipping point reached at CES where the emphasis shifted from function to form. With features sets on products essentially commoditized, fashion designers are finally flexing their muscle and creating products which are beautiful first and functional second. From iPad cases designed by Jean Paul Gaultier to Tory Burch jewelry enclosing a FitBit, there seemed to be accessories to suit any taste or style.

But beyond these, there were several instances of full integration of technology capabilities into fashion accessories. One manufacturer combined a battery for phone charging with a lighted compact mirror, and Swarovski (of crystal fame) debuted a crystal fitness sensor that could be worn either as the centerpiece of a necklace or on a bracelet.

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Key Takeaway: Look for “consumer electronics” as a product category to continue to erode as more and more non-CE brands debut electronic products in non-traditional channels like jewelry and fashion stores.

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Focus on Family: New Products for Seniors and Children

In addition to mainstream adults, seniors and children are the new targets for special-purpose devices. A host of products offered simplified interfaces, specific functionality, or just a targeted design aesthetic to make them more useable and appealing to either children or seniors. A fascinating crossover between wearables and the connected home offers adults a comprehensive look at their elderly parents, sending an alert when something is out of the ordinary.

Key Takeaway: In addition to simply being expanded market segments for consumer electronics, kids will become tech-savvy earlier than ever, and new capabilities for in-home monitoring and communication mean seniors may be able to spend more time at home and less in care facilities.

Brandless Brands: Emerging Product Categories Commoditizing Quickly

High profile brands like Nest and Apple are already under attack in “new” product categories as Chinese manufacturers are introducing products with 90% of the functionality… at 10% of the price. There were literally dozens of manufacturers of smart watches, thermostats, drop cams, gesture-based interfaces, and a host of other gadgets, mostly focused on securing distribution for their products. This means that shoppers wanting function and value will eschew high-profile brands in favor of “generic” products.

Key Takeaway: All of this excess technology capability begs a key question: Why would a shopper buy a watch from Apple instead of Franck Muller? Or a thermostat from Google instead of Home Depot? Non-electronics retailers and brands have a golden opportunity to develop private label products that integrate electronic capability into their core product category.

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Fitness For All: Moving From Performance To Health

Fitness electronics are nothing new. Anyone with runner friends has probably heard endless debates about the relative merits of Fitbits versus Garmins and the like. And all of those companies had a prominent presence at CES 2015. But looking beyond the more well known brands, there was a flurry of innovation in health sensors, from pulseoximeters to connected scales.

Key Takeaway: The fitness electronics industry is shifting from athletes and performance enhancement to mainstream consumers and health maintenance.

Tech Joins the Real World: It’s an Augmented, Not Virtual, Reality

While there were a handful of new entries in the virtual reality space, most of the excitement was around augmenting your view of the real world rather than replacing it. The “nerd cool” (cough) Google Glass has given way to a host of alternatives, ranging from fashionable new frames from name brand designers to new tech offerings from Epson and ODG. Yes, you still look like you’re wearing something different, but both the form and function are improved from this time last year.

Key Takeaway: While we’re not anywhere near critical mass where large numbers of people will walk around with AR glasses, now is the time to starting thinking about how to integrate information and content into real-world experiences.

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Special Bonus: 3x the 3D Printers

Several core patents related to 3d printing expired in 2014, and there were literally dozens of new entrants into the space touting their wares at CES. Several boasted different printing materals, improved resolution/accuracy, and lower cost than the 2013 brands.

Key Takeaway: This category will continue to grow, as increased competition forces capabilities up and prices down. Look for specialization: there already is a company in China that went from printing 10 small houses in 24 hours in September 2014 to creating a five story apartment building in January 2015.


A collection of insights research and observations across retail, restaurant, c-store and grocery. Helping brands provide a better experience for their customers. Enjoy.

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