CES 2015: Never mind the booth babes -- here's the future

(Photo courtesy CES)
(Photo courtesy CES)

JWT Intelligence's worldwide director walks the show floor and hobnobs with the White House CTO

LAS VEGAS — I’m two days down at CES 2015. Several press announcements; about four football pitches of stands covered (praise be to comfortable shoes); a series of great panels and speeches; and many spongy carpets down the road — at CES, your stand is nothing if it’s not situated on super-bouncy super-plush carpet. Some have been a good three inches thick and springy as a gymnast floor underfoot.

There have been some fascinating things, some innovative things, and some wacky things — I remain to be convinced about drones.

In an era when the Chief Technology Officer and technology advisor to President Barack Obama is a woman — the brilliant Megan Smith — I am struggling with the show’s continued reliance on semi-clad booth babes. Come on, tech world … it’s the 21st century! And women are an important consumer tech market now. Already in the UK, more women own tablets than men, according to research by eMarketer. They also make up 52% of gamers in the UK alone.

Incidentally, I saw Megan Smith talk at an intimate Ipsos Girls Lounge event Tuesday night, introduced by Makers founder Dyllan McGee. In a suite in The Encore, overlooking the strip, to a packed room of successful professional women, Smith shared her experiences of the White House (government websites are on her list to overhaul), as well as unlocking the innovation and coding talent in the US through outreach programs. She’s also been working to uncover the previously-hidden history of women programmers, technologists, and innovators — from Apple to NASA to the Second World War — who’s stories have gotten lost.

 What else? On Monday I spoke at Brand Innovators’ Mega Trends day, held at The Four Seasons, opening the day at 9:40 a.m. (Amazing. People actually showed up at that time. In Las Vegas.) My speech was about how technology is being used in new creative ways to make immersive, multi-sensory, sometimes magical experiences in stores, at events and in public spaces. By doing so, they’re bringing a new emotive layer and sense of wonder to technology.

Brands from Intel to Hyundai to Google are also coming up with spectacular, creative ways to visualize data, which — in an era of Big Data — is making data more human. Also on the lineup were AOL’s Digital Prophet David Shing and NBA star Shaquille O'Neal. Shing spoke of the opportunity in real time responsive marketing to events — mentioning the runaway Twitter success of KitKat’s reply to the "Bendgate" Apple iPhone 6 scandal. KitKat’s Twitter response was famously, "We don’t bend. We break." He also spoke about the frenetic multi-screening habits of Gen Ys. 

And then there were trends: On the subject of bending screens … Curved TV screens have been big. (The thinking is that make entertainment more intimate — that or they’re just a fad to make people buy new screens. You decide.) Ultra high-resolution 4K televisions. There’s been limitless, limitless, wearable tech and wearable health tech.

There’s the connected home — connected refrigerator, oven, you name it. The big question remaining though, is how these will all connect together. Will people really buy all their home appliances from one brand? Lots of the brands from Samsung to LG have been creating self-contained eco-systems of products.  Standardization as a result has been a hot topic of discussion. Qualcomm, who’s impressive stand focused on the Internet of Everything, is answering that question by being a platform that connects that data. It’s banners read: "When will everything speak to the next thing? The world will change when every device speaks the same language." Qualcomm has also been delving in to the connected home with its SmartHome platform. 

Intel drew on a similar theme — the idea of creating a platform to connect devices. It also showcased some of its more experimental work, including products by the finalists in its Make it Wearable Challenge. On show at its stands was a series of finalists from the competition, including clever 3D printed prosthetics and incubation aids for premature babies in which vibrate and contract in sync with a mother’s heartbeat. Many of the innovations echoed trends identified in JWT Intelligence’s Future 100, released December. Intel has been doing some interesting creative projects recently. I’m a big fan of its Creators Project work — in particular its collaboration with Canada-based creative tech studio Moment Factory. If you haven’t looked at Foresta Lumina, the multi-media theatrical park experience they created for a Montreal park in summer 2014, you should.

More football pitches, comfy shoes, and plush carpets on the horizon next.  

Lucie Greene is worldwide director of JWT Intelligence.


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