Olof Schybergson

Four trends we expect to see at CES 2017

A lot of stuff will be launched and talked about at the giant tech fest CES in Las Vegas over the next few days. The show is vast, loud, and fast-moving. Finding something that will truly matter to you or your business amongst all the slogans, sales pitches, and demos can be tricky. I’d like to think that our Fjord Trends can help by offering some guidance for CES. In particular, there are four trends that I believe will be on show in a big way this week.

Our annual Fjord trends report aims to give our clients, our team, and others in our industry a compass for navigating the next 12-18 months – in a world that’s changing fast. Digital technology is now integral to most people’s lives, across everything they do. In the last ten years technology companies have come to dominate market capitalization tables, and people’s expectations have never been higher for what services, companies, and technology should be able to do for them.

In this world where new revolutionary technologies, business models, and habits appear on a daily basis, it’s more important than ever to make sense of what’s going on. What are the patterns, how do things connect, what matters and what doesn’t? Our trends help people make sense of the noise, and when it comes to big tech events like CES, MWC, and SXSW, the trends can help people find the signal in the noise.

The Fjord Trends insights come from our full team at Fjord, and given that the things we tend to work on usually will launch within the next 18 months and almost always include some elements of ‘new’, our team is a fantastic and very well informed source for trend spotting! We’re literally working on the things that will move from the labs to the mainstream in the next 18 months – in the space where innovation meets mass market appeal. Indeed, our team has worked on several of the key services and products that will be launched at CES over the next few days.

In our Fjord Trends for 2017 we highlighted eight trends. Over the next year we will see these trends manifest in various ways in various markets. Here are the four that I believe will be very central to CES. 

1. Thinking beyond the ‘car’

World on Wheels is about the perfect disruption storm that’s caused by a combination of the advance of autonomous driving, electric cars, and the ride sharing phenomenon. We are moving from thinking about cars as hardware to working with connected mobile environments, powered by software. With all big car brands involved, with regulators, legislators and insurers getting involved, and with various startups powering the conceptual and business model shifts, car transportation is about to be massively re-imagined. This wholesale change of the transportation industry will not only affect automotive manufacturers, but a very wide range of industries. We’re encouraging most of our clients to get involved, because new ecosystems and business models are emerging, and they should be part of it.

At CES there will be a wide range of products and services on show that will help transform the idea of a car as we knew it. In the week leading up to CES we’ve already seen a number of announcements in this space. Most eye-catching was probably Faraday Future’s launch of their first electric car – the FF91. AT&T have also been in on the action with an announcement that they’ll be the data provider for the largest testing facility for automated and connected cars in the US. Intel’s investment into the mapping platform HERE will help Intel create precise maps for autonomous cars. BMW, Intel, and Mobileye also announced that they will team up to test autonomous vehicles in urban areas in 2017.

At CES there will be many flashy and software-powered concept cars and technologies on display, and there’s also a whole section of the show dedicated to self-driving technology. A vast range of exhibitors will put the car at the center of their pitches. So both for the car buffs that love shiny fast cars, and for those who can’t wait to get rid of traditional cars, there will be plenty to play with at CES.

The new FF91

The new FF91

2. Interacting with Artificial Intelligence – is it chat or bot?

In the trend Me, Myself and AI, we highlighted the rise of Artificial Intelligence, with a special focus on chatbots, which is a very tangible manifestation of AI that most people will experience in 2017. When conversations are becoming the new interface – whether typed or spoken – the experience of interacting with digital services is changing significantly.

Most large companies will be launching or working on chatbots in 2017, and CES will show off a wide range of examples of automated but ‘intelligent’ interactions. Unfortunately, many of the chatbots that will launch in the next year will be bad bots – either lacking in feature set, sophistication, or most likely lacking an ability to connect well with people, or serve them well. Some things that you might probe as you’re browsing the different conversational interfaces at the show:

  • Is the service transparent about whether you’re interacting with a person or a computer?
  • Will the service be very specific in its functions and feature set, or will it aim to compete with the wide range of skills and features in Cortana, Echo and Google Assistant?
  • Is the chatbot leaning more into the chat aspect – human, conversational, soft – or into the bot aspect – machine-like, efficient, precise? Or is it awkwardly trying to master both?

 

3. Focusing on the social experience of digital services

Unintended Consequences is about the sometimes unpleasant side effects of digital services. It’s highlighting the social impact of our digitally fuelled and customer-centric world. It’s suggesting a need for companies to move beyond customer experience and employee experience, to also focus on the social experience of the digital services that they’re providing. Examples of unintended consequences include Airbnb’s alleged impact on local rental markets or the misuse of their platform by home owners to discriminate against certain types of guests, the impact of fake news stories on the U.S. presidential election, and Uber’s much-debated impact on labor markets.

Companies across all sectors are starting to pay attention. For example, the UK based business-led charity Business In The Community has requested that companies build an inclusive digital revolution.

While no-one is likely to be promoting their service’s unintended consequences at CES, we would encourage you to ask the probing questions and look beyond the obvious at the show. Just related to the couple of trends above, a few questions about the social experience of new shiny technology…

  • Will the self-driving car lead to a massive shortage of organ donors as some have suggested?
  • When we don’t need to drive the car anymore, can we turn it into our home, or into our office, and how would that change our lives?
  • Will the chatbot be given clear behavioral guidelines to operate within, to avoid it going rogue like Microsoft’s chatbot Tay which began promoting extreme views on Twitter quickly?

The Baidu Healthcare Assistant

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-09-27-57

Baidu Healthcare Assistant

4. Home sweet smart home 

A fourth trend that is likely to also feature prominently at CES is Homes Without Boundaries, which is about moving beyond the connected point solutions in the home to smarter and truly value-adding services. Amazon is aiming to build on the success of Alexa by turning it into the OS of the home, while electronics giant LG also announced the Hub Robot that will compete to be your home butler – a role that both Google and Amazon are already eager to play. Also, at a time when companies like Airbnb and WeLive are changing what we think of as ‘home’, and when an increasing number of people are choosing to retire and live on cruise ships, Carnival Cruise Lines have announced an advanced digital service for their ships that will help make the on-board experience for guests as personalised, comfortable, and convenient as what they might expect in their home. 

2017 will be another big year of change, disruption, and progress. And as usual, the craziness of CES is a fun way to kick it off – especially if you have a guiding system that helps you make sense of the madness.

Hub Robot

Hub Robot

Olof Schybergson

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