CES 2017: The Good, The Bad and The Trends

Now that CES 2017 has come to a close, I wanted to take some time and reflect on some of the key takeaways from the event.  First and foremost, it was a really good one for the Xively team.  Despite feeling like a single slot machine at the Venetian at times (you really don’t know how big Vegas is until you are sharing it with scores of other people), our booth was constantly busy with folks having really great conversations about how connected products were going to change the world.  As I walked around the show floor, I observed a number of key trends as it pertains to connected products and the Internet of Things.  Here were a few of my favorites:

The IoT is Dead.

Well not really.  But the term is.  This is one of our predictions for 2017, and my time at CES validated it.  People are talking less about the IoT and more about connected products.  I hardly heard the word “internet of things” muttered all week and that was interesting to me.   Companies no longer want to become “IoT companies” they are thinking about connected products as an evolution of their existing product lines.  Which, frankly, is exactly how it should be.  A great example of this was Toto Toilets.  They are building a connected toilet that makes sure both the user and the bowl feel fresh and clean at the end of the day.  They don’t want to be an IoT company, they just want to continue delighting their customers with a best in class bathroom experience.

Ease of Use Will Win Out over Features and Functions.

There were thousands of connected product manufacturers exhibiting at CES this year and only time will tell which ones will be a hit and which ones will all but disappear.  The more “things” there are the more confusing it is for consumers trying to navigate the market place.  The products that will win out are the ones that will provide a good core value beyond just the connectivity.  It really isn’t about having the most robust feature set, it’s more about having features people will use every day.   Name brands like Whirlpool or Amazon can get away with less differentiation.  Why?  Because people trust them already.  Even if they are building “me too” products, consumer believe that by purchasing those name brands they are getting a quality product that will be easy to use and will be fully supported for years to come.

Sustainable Business Models are a Must.

I have said this time and time again, but it was nice to see proof of it live in living color.  If your product doesn’t have a sustainable business model beyond just the connection, it’s a recipe for failure.  Consumers are becoming desensitized to the connect feature – they want more.   A great example of this is Heatworks.  If you were at CES, they were showcased in our booth.  Heatworks debuted a connected tankless water heater.  They aren’t the first company to offer a tankless water heater and the connect part alone isn’t why consumers were excited.  Where Heatworks will succeed is the added value adding that connectivity provides.  By being able to tightly manage your water temperature — e.g. kid mode to ensure anti-scalding and hotter settings for your dishwasher, etc. ensures that users can balance water usage with comfort.

Temptraq was another great connected product I saw.  They took the traditional baby thermometer and turned it on its head.  By wearing a sticker, Temptraq will track your child’s temperature throughout the day so you can monitor their progress.  As a dad, this is something that really resonated with me.  Being able to easily and comfortably get a temperature reading will make all the difference for parents.  That’s a much better value, than say, just connecting a thermometer to an app which might only give you a log of the results every time you take a temperature.    Sure it might be good to have that to show a doctor, but is it necessary?

Overall, CES was (as it always is) a remarkable event.  The connected product space is still really crowded and because of that can be confusing for consumers, but it’s also really exciting.  Seeing so many companies, new and established, jumping on the connected product bandwagon was incredible. And knowing that so many companies are using technology like ours to reinvent themselves is truly inspiring.

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