CES Musings

Drive Carefully

I’m an old time CES attendee… then I took an entire decade off. There is only so much “better, faster, cheaper” one can handle. About six years ago something changed. Everyone I wanted to talk to, or see, was there. Every CXO and their people were there for at least the first couple of days. Fish in a barrel. It became one of the more efficient weeks of my year. And the tech was awesome.

Everyone still goes, but the tech wasn’t as surprisingly cool this year. There should be an IES, Industrial Electronics Show, for the next few years a lot of the potential for the tech I’ve seen will transform companies, industries and manufacturers. Digital transformation is real and overwhelming, but that is a topic for another day.

First, yup, the driverless car is on its way. However, it’s going to be way harder than we imagine. I’m a tech optimist; this tech is extremely important. But, to put this into context, the best article I’ve read on this topic is already three years old. I do consider it required reading though: “Fasten Your Seatbelts: Google’s Driverless Car Is Worth Trillions” by Chunka Mui in Forbes. Its big, its bad, its coming… but when you need to swap out trillions of dollars of assets, infrastructure, policy and laws it takes time. Huge investment opportunities lay undiscovered.

IoT was everywhere and was mostly underwhelming. It felt like “corporate imagination” (usually an oxymoron) run amok. Clearly a bunch of CEO’s are asking “what’s our IoT strategy” with predictably obvious, boring, and poor answers. Worse, there are competing standards so the stuff doesn’t interoperate. Fix this folks.

The best of AI was basically embedding Amazon’s Alexa into stuff. I liked it. Another win for Bezos. If you haven’t gotten an Echo, its time. They have a $50 puck. AI will be the story this year for sure. Its behind cars, Siri, Watson, robots, etc. If you can only track a couple of tech trends each year watch this one closely.

AR/VR, I don’t have much to add here. This was supposed to be the big year. So far, VR is about gaming. AR is what I’m interested in, but it’s on the industrial, medical, instructional side.

What did I like? The MetalX 3D printer from MarkForge and the Willow wearable breast pump. I liked the Willow because it is just brilliant and helps to solve a real problem. Breast pumps are torture devices.

The metal printer is important because it is 1/10th the cost of most other metal 3D printers (yes this is a better, faster, cheaper play. But a 90% cost reduction is a breakthrough). This puts metal 3D printing into striking range of most corporate department budgets. It has the potential to be very disruptive.

Finally, a shout-out to my favorite tech from 2015, EyeFluence; you never heard of them? Often the best tech is not on the floor at CES, but is in the suites high above the crowds. It’s the mouse of the future. Congratulations to Jim Marrgraff, your team and to Google… for buying them. And yes, I will be at CES next year. Still a must in my book. Next up SXSW where again, the fun stuff is off the show floor.