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CES 2015: Records fall in tech frenzy

With more than 20 000 products, 3600 exhibitors and 375 start-ups, CES 2015 in Las Vegas last week broke all records – and sparked intensive debates across all areas of consumer technology.

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 USA, convened at the event. It also featured 375 startup 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 like automotive electronics, personalized health care solutions, unmanned vehicles, connected devices, 3D printers, and gaming.

The vast diversity of topics at CES was summed up by the speaker roster on day two and three of the event, which featured top executives from CBS, Cisco, Comcast, Cond√© Nast, Fox, Google, McDonald’s, MediaLink and The Walt Disney Company on the CES keynote 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 health care, transportation, safety and connectivity,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler reiterated the need for a regulatory paradigm that encourages competition and innovation at the same time.

“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, moderator David Kirkpatrick, founder, host and CEO pf Techonomy, led a wide-ranging conversation on the Internet of Things (IoT), data security and business practices that foster innovation. Panelists John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco: Neil Smit, president and CEO of Comcast Cable: and Werner Struth, chairman of Robert Bosch LLC, spoke openly about the need to innovate, reorganize and act nimbly as the IoT expands and more of the world is digitized and connected.

Chambers believes that soon every business will be a tech company as everything connects to the IoT.

To keep up with the pace of change, companies can’t be afraid to think exponentially, in other words, think like a startup,” said Chambers. One of the biggest issues companies are grappling with as the IoT evolves is who owns the collected data. Smit said the principle of transparency is going to be critical. The Brand Matters keynote kicked off with MediaLink’s Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan having a one-on-one interview with CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves. Their discussion focused on the opportunities for entertainment networks like 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 explained that 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 18-35 year-old category. Their discussion was followed by a panel conversation lead by MediaLink President and COO Wenda Harris Millard with executives from Cond√© Nast, Fox, Google, McDonald’s and The Walt Disney Co. The panelists discussed how their “corporate DNA” dictates their distribution and personalization strategy. The panelists agreed that all good advertising strategy has to emanate from quality product and that mobile is offering unprecedented opportunities. Margo Georgiadis, president Americas of Google said that, “technology enables personalization 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 Tim Bajarin, president, Creative Strategies, with executive panelists from Basis, an Intel company, Motorola Mobility, Samsung and Yahoo.

The panelists discussed design criteria, analyzed 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 also placed a strong emphasis on “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 (e.g. the ability to send haptic messages of heart rate with other owners). Panelists concluded that the smart watch has a very diverse market potential. The Evolution of the Smart Home, Wednesday afternoon’s SuperSession, was moderated by Grant Clauser of Electronic House, and featured executives from Bosch Software Innovations, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Lutron Electronics and Yetu. The panel noted that security is the top feature driving growth in the smart home market.

he panelists discussed the most effective methods of selling the concept of the smart home to consumers. 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 noted that manufacturers must create user-friendly and open systems to allow for ease-of-use applications across all platforms. The C Space Headliner with iHeartMedia highlighted the many ways technology is transforming the media industry. Featured speakers were Ryan Seacrest, Host On-Air with Ryan Seacrest and Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia Inc. Both agreed that radio is far from being in decline and that Internet radio sites like Spotify and Pandora are no threat to the business.

Radio is America’s companion,” said Bob 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 also stressed the importance of preserving the element of humanity in media since the very core of their business is managing relationships.

Seacrest added, “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.” Alan Murray, editor of Fortune, interviewed Nick Woodman, president and CEO of GoPro 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 Go Pro 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 percent increase over 2013, representing 2.8 years worth of content. “Storytelling is everything,” he stated. 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 being the final judge of what would reign supreme.

In the end, CES attendees chose the MeccaNoid robotics building system from Meccano as their favorite. 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 can 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 ten finalists. The mobile apps focused on everything from a wearable, portable and app-integrated breathalyzer, Breathometer, to Pure Imagination’s Perfect Bake app-controlled baking system and Fitnet’s fitness app that includes features like more than 200 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 also focuses on digital imagining. Lyve App allows consumers to gather, collect, organize, 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 organization, creating a single library of photos and videos scattered across your multiple devices. The Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) came to CES for its semi-final round of competition. Ten startups 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 Sir Richard Branson on his private Necker Island.

The contestants delivered five minute presentations to a panel of guest judges including CEA’s Gary Shapiro: former CEO of Priceline Jeff Hoffman: Co-Founder and CTO of BioHeart Howard Leonhardt: Founding Partner of Pacific Investments and Innova Capital Veronica Serra: Head Monster Noel Lee: President of Monster Neal Bobrick: Tech Evangelist and Author Robert Scoble: and Scientific Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr. Boris Nikolic. The competition was emceed by XTC Executive Director Kym McNicholas. The three winners were Breathometer, an FDA-registered medical device which 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 which allows users to communicate with board certified physicians for non-emergency issues and therapy.

IBM Watson also announced that XTC applicant Nextuser, a computing company, would accompany their team as the fourth competitor to pitch to Branson on Necker Island. Ford CEO Mark Fields awarded Bikee Bike, one of the 2 000 XTC applicants, with $50 000 and Boosted awarded Skully, a smart motorcycle helmet which competed in the semi-finals, with $1 000 for its massive social media presence. In a video address, Branson invited the other finalists, if they wished, to also come to Necker Island at their own expense.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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