4 days at CES: The best surprises, the worst disappointments

It's a simple but powerful reason tech enthusiasts flocked to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show this week – it's the first look at some of the exciting, groundbreaking technologies we'll see in the market in 2019. But CES also serves as A bit of a crystal ball into what technology can look like in three or four years. You get a glimpse of pieces and pieces that have not yet gathered, but you can see everything the promise and the potential.

Although some booths flash the lifted or showcase potential realized, others may fall flat. Here's a look at the nicest surprises and the most uninspiring disappointments we came across during our four days in Vegas and what they can mean for the tech world in 201[ads1]9.


Voice Activation and Bots Everywhere: One of the great surprises at CES this year was that the easiest manual tasks we take for granted in our daily lives are quickly dependent on bots and voice activation. Take the travel process, for example. Here it looks as if it is based on technology at this year's CES: You vote activates your flight and hotel check-in. When you enter your room, a robot will sort and fold your clothes. You call the room's fine to bring late-night snacks and beer. Then activate the voice of the wall to watch TV. When it's time to sleep, you cook up next to a sleeper robot to ensure a good rest. The night watch wakes you gently, or wildly, depending on the sound of your voice. Let's hope you are happy, so the bones are not too hard. And once awake, you check the smart mirror in the bathroom to tell you how good (or bad) you see. You then clean your teeth for 10 seconds with a fine toothbrush. You tell the shower to turn on and what temperature the water should be. Then take a piece of fresh bread from the bread bot, tap the head of your companion's cat bot, and add the show while your voice-activated smart door locks behind you. Through speech activation and bots, the journey to the 2021 CES show can be much easier, relaxing and (hopefully) productive.

Precision Use: John Deere provided a good example of the remarkable innovations that machine learning can run by using its combines to improve food productivity through precision use. They use image recognition to separate a weed from a crop so that they can spray herbicide right onto the hatch without contaminating the food. They also use sensors, machine learning and things to stream large amounts of data to improve productivity.

Mixfit custom vitamin shakes: Connection was a main theme of this year's CES. Take e.g. Treningssporere. Traditionally, they do a good job of collecting user data, but it never went beyond that. It changes. Mixfit makes a blender that makes a vitamin shake for its subscribers every day. Every month you receive a custom package of ingredients based on data from your training track. This is an example of how businesses begin to use data more creatively to increase the value of the end user. The more companies become open and interconnected, the more value they can create, where the sum of 1 + 1 is greater than 2.

Audi's Holoride ecosystem: It was exciting to see ecosystems that replaced silos. No matter how big a company is, the ability to innovate will be greatly handicapped if it does not cooperate to become part of a larger ecosystem. Audi demonstrated this with Holoride, a spinoff company that will produce VR entertainment in the car. This is the first time a car manufacturer has developed a startup to share its innovation with other manufacturers. We hope this is an indication that a stronger impulse towards sharing is occurring and that we are moving away from a world where all manufacturers are trying to be sunbathing and getting their competitors to revolve around it.

Apple can be an interesting test case for this too. After several years of products only on their own platforms, Apple changes the course to allow Apple TV to co-exist with other platforms.


Unnecessary technology: We saw so much "innovation" that solves non-problems and begins to become ridiculous. Just because it's possible doesn't mean it should be done. For example, a cat litter that measures the stench and degree of moisture so that it knows when it needs to change. And do we really need a self-propelled suitcase that looks and follows us while we go through the airport – especially when unmanned luggage travels so many alarms? Products like this seem to actively ignore the context and do not solve a real problem. The list may continue, but when you consider how much your investment money has been purged into these pseudo innovations, it is very disappointing.

Lack of Chinese Presence: Chinese representation, especially in the automotive space in CES, shrinks and does not represent the current state of the Chinese market or its importance. Innovation is constantly coming from the east, but you can get the impression of CES that the most important innovations still come from the West. CES organizers seem to be denied this, but it hurts the US technical sector to be out of touch with new global technologies. Hopefully we will see this change on next year's show.

5G underwhelms. We were all optimistic that the 5G technology was coming soon with exciting innovations, but instead it was one of the biggest downloads of CES. This week made it clear that 5G is still several years away. No one was presenting the technology's potential. Intel had the best demonstration in an otherwise lukewarm display, as most could only talk about 5G's capabilities, but didn't show any substance.

Wolf "Ingo" Faecks is CEO and SVP at Publicis.Sapient for EMEA / APAC. He is also the head of the car, mobility, production and health of EME / APAC.

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