CES 2017: Alexa Had The Last Word


In a recent J.Walter Thompson Intelligence article, Shawn DuBravac from CTA is quoted saying, “It’s (CES) no longer a technology show; it’s a connected life show and an advertising and media show.”

We could not agree more. Each year, we are on the lookout for the products and trends that will most affect consumer behavior and create disruption for marketers and advertisers.  While VR/AR seemed to be what people were talking about, I thought Alexa stole the show.

Following are the trends that stood out to us during CES 2017:

  1. Amazon’s Alexa got the last word
  2. Everything is “smart”. Sort of.
  3. Virtual Reality is growing
  4. Driverless Cars are mainstream
  5. Four cool things

Amazon Alexa got the last word

I went to CES expecting to see a lot of Internet of Things items and to compare ecosystems of the leading competitors in this area.  What I was not prepared for is that one device has taken over as the conduit to manage all of the other devices:  Amazon’s AVS (Alexa Voice Services) was the clear winner of ubiquitous representation across CES.  Hundreds of brands and devices (everything from appliances and toys to apparel and even a hair brush) touted the tagline “works with Alexa”.  As it turns out, the device introduced as a means to drive sales and convenience for Amazon customers has become the most capable tool for linking all of your smart home devices and apps together.

Everything is “smart”. Sort of.

Smart TVs, Smart Appliances and Smart Electronics were everywhere. From the LG refrigerator that could tell you when your groceries where expired to a Smart stove knob by Inirv that tells you if you left the stove on. These products will make our lives easier, and in some cases may already be doing so, but the future of Smart has not yet been realized because the data that is being collected and transmitted has not yet been fully leveraged. As these devices become ubiquitous, the future winning marketers will the ones who figure out how to access that data and make it actionable. 

Virtual Reality is growing

In the weeks leading up to CES, the buzz was all about virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality (or because we are all acronym junkies, VR, AR and MR).  This year there were 77 exhibitors in the Gaming & Virtual Reality category vs. 40 last year, so clearly the area is burgeoning. 

CNET discussed the vast improvements in live-streaming VR which is a critical advance if this technology is to gain acceptance for sports, music and other big ticket ad-supported events.  The high quality of Next VR’s NBA content makes a compelling case for how this will become another widespread way to enjoy the sport in 2017.

Driverless cars are Mainstream

As a car enthusiast, I haven't been taking the news coverage about driverless cars too seriously.  The appearances of the cars we’ve seen to date have been more about function than form. But the cars on display at CES looked like mainstream-looking cars!  The auto industry was out in force, making it clear reinforcing, that self-driving cars are not just another Google side project. 

Like it or not, driverless cars are here and advancing technologically more quickly than anyone imagined or predicted.  The looming competition between the establishment auto industry and disrupters (Tesla, Google, Uber, Lyft and more) combined with the sharing and on-demand economy will transform consumer behavior and the industry rapidly.  The question is no longer about the technology but how long government regulation will delay the change.


Cool Things:  In no particular order, here are a few cool items that stood out to me:

PicoBrew – who wouldn’t want fresh craft beer that automatically brews in 2 hours and is ready to drink in as little as one week?  WiFi connectivity allows remote monitoring of your Pico from any web connected device.

Zera Food Recycler– this is the solution for all of us who want to compost but need it to be THIS easy.  Recycle a week’s worth of food waste within 24 hours and create ready-to-use fertilizer

Smart Remote by sevenhugs – a remote control that instantly adapts to anything you point it at (TV/Media, Lights, Thermostats, Cams etc.)  If you don’t feel comfortable asking Alexa to turn on your smart devices, here’s your solution.

AirTV making it ever easier to cut the cord, this new device from Sling television enables you to combine live local channels with your Sling TV and Netflix subscriptions.  Of course you can already do this by getting an antenna and switching inputs on your TV to view each option individually, but the AirTV Player brings it all together with a single screen interface.