CES 2015: Records fall in tech frenzy

The 2015 International CES closed on Friday as the largest CES in show history, with more than 2.2-million net square feet of exhibit space featuring more than 3 600 exhibitors and 20 000 products. More than 170 000 industry professionals, including more than 45 000 from outside the United States, convened at the trade show. It featured 375 start-up companies, up from 220 last year.

Owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), CES 2015 ran from January 6 to 9. Innovators showcased the latest across categories such as automotive electronics, personalised healthcare solutions, unmanned vehicles, connected devices, 3D printers and gaming.

The speaker roster on day two and three of the event summed up the vast diversity of topics at CES, featuring top executives from CBS, Cisco, Comcast, Condé Nast, Fox, Google, McDonald’s, MediaLink and Walt Disney on the CES keynote speakers stage.

“The International CES has broken every record as wireless, sensors and the internet combine and entrepreneurs present innovations which enhance the human condition and solve problems in healthcare, transportation, safety and connectivity,” said CEA president and chief executive Gary Shapiro.

Open access
Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler reiterated the need for a regulatory paradigm that encourages competition and innovation simultaneously. 

“The old regulatory system doesn’t work anymore and we’ve got to have a new way of approaching that,” he said.

Part of that paradigm, according to Wheeler, is ensuring innovators and consumers have open access to the networks.

During the Fast Innovation: Disrupt or be Disrupted keynote speech, moderator and Techonomy founder and chief executive David Kirkpatrick led a wide-ranging conversation on the Internet of Things, data security and business practices that foster innovation. Panelists Cisco chair and chief executive John Chambers, Comcast Cable president and chief executive Neil Smit and Robert Bosch chair Werner Struth spoke openly about the need to innovate, reorganise and act nimbly as the Internet of Things expands and more of the world is digitised and connected. 

Chambers says soon every business will be a tech company as everything connects to the Internet of Things. 

“To keep up with the pace of change, companies can’t be afraid to think exponentially. In other words, think like a start-up,” said Chambers. One of the biggest issues companies are grappling with as the Internet of Things evolves is who owns the collected data. Smit said the principle of transparency is going to be critical.   

The Brand Matters keynote address kicked off with MediaLink chair and chief executive Michael Kassan having a one-on-one interview with CBS president and chief executive Leslie Moonves. Their discussion focused on the opportunities for entertainment networks such as CBS. 

“We have to create great content and get it to people in ways they want to experience it, said Moonves. “We need to make sure we make that content available to everyone.” He said CBS wants consumers to watch their content but is not concerned with where it’s watched. 

The two discussed how viewership tracking must be updated as consumer viewing habits change. “Eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds matter,” said Moonves, explaining why the rapid growth in video consumption across all age categories should inspire advertisers to focus beyond the 18 to 35-year-old category.

‘Corporate DNA’
A panel conversation followed, led by MediaLink president and chief operating office Wenda Harris Millard with executives from Condé Nast, Fox, Google, McDonald’s and Walt Disney. The panelists discussed how their “corporate DNA” dictates their distribution and personalisation strategy. The panelists agreed that all good advertising strategy has to emanate from quality product and that mobile is offering unprecedented opportunities. 

Americas president of Google Margo Georgiadis said “technology enables personalisation and it should be like a toothbrush, something a lot of people use at least twice a day”. 

The Market for Smart Watches SuperSession, presented by CEA, was moderated by Creative Strategies president Tim Bajarin with executive panelists from Basis, an Intel company, Motorola Mobility, Samsung and Yahoo. 

The panelists discussed design criteria, analysed market potential and presented differing views on the idea of whether or not the smart watch needs a “killer app” to catch on with consumers. The panelists emphasised “glanceability” and convenience, both being key characteristics of any smart watch. 

The idea of “the network effect” emerged on the panel, suggesting smart watch value will be derived when whole families and friends can achieve unique, personal connections with each other that only a smart watch with sophisticated sensors can accomplish, for example, the ability to send haptic messages of heart rate with other owners. Panelists concluded that the smart watch has an extremely diverse market potential.   

Grant Clauser of Electronic House moderated The Evolution of the Smart Home, Wednesday afternoon’s SuperSession, which featured executives from Bosch Software Innovations, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Lutron Electronics and Yetu. The panel said security was the top feature driving growth in the smart home market.

The panelists discussed the most effective methods of selling the concept of the smart home to consumers. They all agreed that retailers must build an experience allowing customers to fully grasp the range of smart home capabilities. When addressing challenges in the smart home space, the panelists said manufacturers must create user-friendly and open systems to allow for ease-of-use applications across all platforms.  

Radio alive and well
The C Space Headliner with iHeartMedia highlighted the many ways technology was transforming the media industry. Featured speakers were TV presenter Ryan Seacrest and iHeartMedia chair and chief executive Bob Pittman. They agreed that radio is far from being in decline and that internet radio sites such as Spotify and Pandora are no threat to the business. 

“Radio is America’s companion,” said Pittman. “That emotional connection is why it hasn’t died. You know someone is on the other end of the line curating and putting together content for you.” 

They stressed the importance of preserving the element of humanity in media as the core of their business is managing relationships. 

Seacrest said: “You can’t think of radio as just radio, you have to think of it as everywhere. It’s connection, great content, engagement and emotion.”   

‘Storytelling is everything’
Alan Murray, editor of Fortune, interviewed GoPro president and chief executive Nick Woodman at the Leaders in Technology Dinner at the Venetian. Woodman described the founding of GoPro as a way to capture his friends’ best surfing moments. He explained how GoPro is known for its incredible content and for allowing people to capture and share their passions. 

“People don’t buy things, they buy solutions,” he said. Woodman explained how 6 000 video uploads of GoPro branded content were uploaded in 2014, a 40% increase from 2013 representing two years and 10 months worth of content. “Storytelling is everything,” he said.   

Winning gadgets and apps
Day three of the 2015 International CES kicked off with The Last Gadget Standing competition, where attendees voted on the hottest gadgets of the 2015 International CES. Produced by Living in Digital Times, the competition was emceed by Jon Hein of the Howard Stern Wrap Up Show. 

Products ranging from molecular sensors to connected pet monitors and non-wearable sleep monitors to environmentally friendly 3D printers faced off on stage, with the audience the final judge of what reigned supreme. 

CES attendees chose the MeccaNoid robotics building system from Meccano as their favourite. Much like an erector set, owners can build the four-foot tall humanoid robot, which features built-in voice recognition. 

Next to MeccaNoid on the winners’ stage was the winner of the Online Voting competition, SCiO, the world’s first molecular sensor. This no-touch optical sensor can fit in the palm of your hand and is able to scan and detect what an object is made of and give information on it, such as how much fat is in a specific type of cheese or salad dressing.   Also emceed by Hein and produced by Living in Digital Times, the Mobile Apps Showdown followed the Last Gadget Standing competition and featured 10 finalists. The mobile apps focused on everything from a wearable, portable and app-integrated breathalyser, Breathometer, to Pure Imagination’s Perfect Bake app-controlled baking system and Fitnet’s fitness app that includes features such as free video workouts, webcam scoring and heart rate monitoring.

At the end of the competition, the top prizes went to uCiC and Lyve App. uCiC (you see I see) is a location-based app that enables users to reach out to others in any area of the world to share pictures and video. Sharing the stage, the Lyve App focuses on digital imagining. 

Lyve App allows consumers to gather, collect, organise, view, rediscover and protect their entire digital photo and video collection from any device and from any location. The app takes care of all the organisation, creating a single library of photos and videos across multiple devices

Extreme technology
The Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) came to CES for its semifinal round of competition. Ten start-ups in the areas of digital design, facial recognition, medical devices and applications, aerial robotics, automotive safety and DNA laser printing competed for the opportunity of a lifetime: to pitch to Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island. 

The contestants delivered five minute presentations to a panel of guest judges including CEA’s Gary Shapiro, former Priceline chief executive Jeff Hoffman, BioHeart co-Founder and chief technology officer Howard Leonhardt, Pacific Investments and Innova Capital founding partner Veronica Serra, Head Monster Noel Lee, Monster president Neal Bobrick, tech eangelist and author Robert Scoble and scientific adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr Boris Nikolic. XTC executive director Kym McNicholas emceed the event.

The three winners were Breathometer, an FDA-registered medical device that uses sensors to monitor alcohol consumption and detect halitosis, diabetes, asthma and various types of cancer; Wanderu, a ground travel aggregation platform; and Doctor on Demand, an app that allows users to communicate with board certified physicians for non-emergency issues and therapy. 

IBM Watson announced that XTC applicant Nextuser, a computing company, would accompany their team as the fourth competitor to pitch to Branson. 

Ford chief executive Mark Fields awarded Bikee Bike, one of the 2 000 XTC applicants, with $50 000 and Boosted awarded Skully, a smart motorcycle helmet that competed in the semifinals, with $1 000 for its massive social media presence.

In a video address, Branson invited the other finalists, if they wished, to come to Necker Island at their own expense. – Gadget

Follow Gadget on Twitter on@GadgetZA.

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