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5 Leaders Share Insights From CES 2017

From cars that drive while you work to refrigerators that stock up for you, the future is being powered by connectedness.

This January, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) celebrated 50 years of bringing entrepreneurs, manufacturers, retailers and techies together for the latest gadgets and technological advances from major manufacturers and startups. Walking through the convention halls of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, is the best way to get a peek at a future that is coming sooner than we think. CES showcases not only improvements to existing devices but also bigger innovations that could significantly alter the way we work and live in the future.

We asked five YPO members who attended CES to share their top insights from the 2017 program.

Your home is about to get a whole lot smarter.

Amazon proved that Alexa, the virtual personal assistant inside its Echo smart speaker, is not the only one with the brains when it made Alexa available to other companies to build into their products. “There were more Alexa-empowered devices than most expected. Everything from the Samsung vacuum to Whirlpool’s appliances – washing machines, refrigerators, ovens and stove tops,” says EGC Group President Nicole Larrauri. “But it’s not just about Alexa; it’s really about the broader concept of how virtual assistants and digital products that listen and understand you will become part of every brand’s future. Even the Sleepnumber Bed had a strong show, with a bed that better reacts to your sleeping position.”

The day-to-day is getting a little easier.

“The winners now are going to be those people who understand the importance of finding ways to use connectedness to solve problems and actually simplify consumer’s lives,” says Cynthia Cleveland, owner of Broadthink, who has attended CES for more than 20 years and toured this year’s show with 100 women in tech. “For example, LG Electronics integrated Alexa into its refrigerator so that it alerts you when you are low on milk and can automatically reorder it for you. And the Zera Food Recycler composts your week of food scraps in 24 hours into something that looks like coffee grinds and has no odor.”

Wearable tech is evolving with more connections.

“When items become consumer-driven, price, integration and accessibility come down and industry vertical developers start creating applications,” says Founder, CEO and Chairman of Constrata Tech Consulting Rob Grimes. “The wearables section, including the fitness area with connected clothing, was a big attraction and had a lot of new technologies, applications and concepts. Watches and glasses still remain ‘in’ as technologies that will serve to be where applications reside, are enabled and accessed. But connecting it all together is the key – so a focus of CES was to go with truly connected devices – SaaS and HaaS concepts.”

Get ready to be a passenger in your own car.

“CES was like an auto show this year with the vehicles and their big screens, advanced technology and automation taking center stage,” says Hawthorne Direct CEO Jessica Hawthorne-Castro. “You may have thought that autonomous driving was further out, but it is coming at us much quicker than originally imagined. Tesla has paved the way and you might even know someone like I do who currently uses Tesla’s autopilot in rush-hour traffic at lower speeds of 0-25MPH. Hyundai, Ford and BMW were among those with impressive innovation. BMW announced it will make autonomous driving a reality in five years. I, for, one am looking forward to leaving my fully connected home and seamlessly transitioning to my autonomous driving vehicle and getting two hours of my life back during my daily Los Angeles commute so I can spend more quality time with my family.”

Get data on it.

“Big data is not new news but the intensity of how it is collected and used is the big story,” says Julie Schoenfeld, CEO and founder of Strobe Inc., which produces sensors for autonomous vehicles. “Everything you do is being tracked. When you search for something on your work computer and it turns up as an ad on your cell phone, you see the tip of the iceberg. Dash cam vendors are tracking and mapping where you go and they are selling that data to auto companies. Some applications use the data to teach you how to improve on performance and decision-making — this technology will ultimately enable decisions to be made without you.”

“I suggest that business leaders prepare for the future, and all of the future CES developments that will certainly center around generating or processing consumer data by starting to understand their most important key performance indicators, investing in the necessary analytics tools and thinking about talent recruitment in data analytics,” Larrauri says.

Melissa Fleming has previously worked for Catchafire, Fast Company, Harper’s Bazaar, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Time Out New York Kids, Town & Country and Vogue, among others.