Even though there were no ‘blockbuster’ product announcements, this was the most exciting CES in some time. Between discussions and demos of drones, self-driving cars, IoT, AR/VR, and the next generation of screens, sensors and wearables, we came away with a pretty good technology roadmap for the next five years. There was some game changing stuff with potentially significant impacts on how we live and work.
In many of these areas, the technological development is moving rapidly and the platforms and ecosystems are falling into place. But I think that, over the next couple of years, the discussion will increasingly center on policy. Just like there are the “Three Rs” of education — reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic’ — so too, are there ‘three Rs’ that will have a huge impact on how some of these products and technologies are brought to market: Rights, Rules, and Regulations.
Let’s look at a few of the most exciting areas of the consumer tech landscape to see how these 3Rs apply.
TV Everywhere: It is clear the technology is there for the vision of “TV Everywhere” and/or the disruption of the traditional pay TV model, which continues to happen in increments. Apple for example, could physically and technologically execute on its vision of the future of TV tomorrow. But the hold up here is rights. Using Apple as the example, they have not been able to do in TV what they have done in music mainly because of the enormous complexity of rights issues.
Self-Driving Cars: It has become clear over the past year the technology for the self-driving car is evolving very rapidly. We are just now turning to the business, policy, and regulatory framework for self-driving cars, which of course is a huge governor for how, and how quickly, the market evolves. Many aspects of safety, liability, and so on will need to be revamped.
Health & Wellness: There were some fantastic new products related to general and digital health and wellness at CES. It was encouraging to see the presence of some of the major health care organizations and insurance companies at the show. There are some important legal, policy, and regulatory questions to sort out over the next couple of years. The issues of accuracy and reliability of these products is one area, as evidenced by the suit against FitBit. Issues of privacy related to consumer data and big data also need to be tackled. With so many products being introduced that can impact outcomes, the policy, legal, and regulatory framework is starting to get pulled along. An important part of conversations with innovators in this category will be not just about their products but also where they are in the regulatory/approval/compliance cycle.
Fitness Wearables: Of concern was the number of fitness wearables demoed at the show that have very similar functionality. There is going to be a significant shakeout in this category in 2016. However, one encouraging sign is there is a new class of products loaded with more and different types of sensors, geared toward the serious athlete or are best-of-breed with respect to a handful of functions, such as measuring sleep or certain types of motion. If these products are used at the elite level and are linked to training programs and particular outcomes, the concomitant legal framework will have to develop as well.
Drones: Drones for consumer and business use have become an industry almost overnight. There were some products and applications shown at CES that were downright amazing. One senses there will be a significant effort to evolve the “Three R” framework for this category, especially since there are so many practical enterprise applications for drones.
Finally, if there was one over-arching theme at CES, it was that this was probably Year One for IoT, except perhaps for a few earlier breakout verticals. These billions of connected devices will help to transform our homes, cities, our transportation and energy infrastructure, and our health. Naturally, there are “big data” opportunities linked to IoT, as well as concerns about privacy and security. It was encouraging to see substantive discussion about these issues at CES. Un-sexy as it might sound, the development of the proper “3R” framework will be as important as the products and business cases in key IoT verticals.