Why CES 2016 was all about the power of real-time data

Fresh back from Vegas, Andy Hobsbawm, co-founder and CMO, Evrythng, outlines his key takeouts from this year's CES.

Given that Las Vegas itself is the world’s largest example of virtual reality, it was fitting that VR was one of the key CES trends tipped for a tipping point in 2016.

Like 3D before it (or rather, for the headset makers and content creators, hopefully not like 3D before it), VR was touted as the re-imagination and salvation of entertainment and the new, must-have hardware device.

This also seemed to be the year of impressive French start-ups at CES

Rather than self-contained content experiences, I think that technologies like VR are more interesting as interfaces to visualize and navigate the explosion of real- time, connected data generated by online devices, objects, people and systems. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg said just last week that visualizing data in virtual reality would help him build better services for Facebook.

In fact, it’s this real-time data that connects all the most important CES technology trends, from virtual reality, wearables and connected health to smart cities, cars, drones, machine learning and the granddaddy of them all: IoT.

This is important for marketers to understand because modern marketing is increasingly about harnessing real-time data and context to drive more meaningful, memorable and effective conversations, media, messages, offers and content. New connected, live data is essential as the raw material to create more personalised, contextual and immersive interactive brand experiences.

In terms of pure gadgets, it wouldn’t be CES without walls of bigger, brighter TVs with new digital bells and whistles and definition so insanely high that viewers feel like extras in Game of Thrones. The only one of real interest though was LG’s truly futuristic, rollable, wafer thin OLED prototype.

LG's OLED prototype stole the show

This also seemed to be the year of impressive French start-ups at CES. DietSensor’s Bluetooth-connected molecular sensor that conducts infrared scans to analyse the chemicals composition of any food or drink is very Star Trek.

And from a creative environmental behaviour change point of view (a personal passion), I loved the Hydrao Smart Shower. It pairs with your smartphone to trigger built-in LED light displays on the shower nudging you about water usage, all powered by a mini water turbine instead of batteries. Awesome.

Hydrao Smart Shower

Drones certainly had their moment in the sun; they even had their own sideshow at CES, the Drone Rodeo, held 17 miles out of town away from designated commercial air space (hard to get to by regular human transport but highly accessible by drone, obviously).

Lastly, in more earth-bound connected transportation news, Ford’s partnership announcement with Amazon’s Echo so drivers can talk to their homes from their cars and vice versa was significant as a proxy for all smart technologies linking together the ecosystem of environments and devices in our digital lives.

Ford and Amazon's Echo allow you to control your house, from your car.

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