Yesterday (Tuesday, January 6, 2015) I spent six hours walking the North, South and Central Exhibit halls of the Consumer Electronics Show. While overwhelming, it was also inspiring and thought provoking.
My short summary of the technology is that things are getting larger, thinner, faster, clearer, cheaper and more connected, while everybody is lusting after or leaking into everybody else’s business.
Besides the technology I focused on how I felt on the floor, since in the end the technology should be in the service of people and their hopes and dreams.
My three big takeaways are
1. Optimism: Despite constant concerns about the economy or the state of the world, things are actually getting better. And technology is absolutely magical in making it so. More and more people can afford some of the most mind-blowing technologies that let us discover more, entertain more, express more, learn more, be more productive in finding a job, doing our job, and saving more. For a cost of less than $250 a month, a family can have a 50 inch state-of-the-art television, a tablet, a powerful home computer, a couple of smart phones, a decent internet connection, and access to streaming movies via Netflix and music via Spotify. And the power and connections of Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and much more. Globally, smarter and cheaper phones are providing opportunities for both a better life and people revolution. We all have “God like” power.
2. We must find ways to overcome complexity and offset regret: Many of us remember the days when we would buy computers only to find that the same computer cost half as much a year later. Now that is happening to more and more things we buy. While walking around and thinking whether I should buy a 4 K TV, I came across a Sharp 8K TV! And my thought was: let’s wait! Increasingly, as more things get obsolete faster or cheaper faster, companies may want to think about enabling access rather than ownership. Leases not just for cars but for almost everything.
In addition to regret (did I buy the right thing at the right time at the right price), there are just too many choices. And in this Internet of Things mania the possibilities to confuse will grow. The ability to link things together so they are easy, solve a need and deliver value will be key. Which is why I believe the first platform for scaling the Internet of Things will be automobiles. Automobile companies package bundles and all of the stuff works in tandem. The home is a long way off since there is a riot of offerings that are discrete, unconnected and just goddamn ugly.
3. Connectivity is a double-edged sword: Everything is getting connected, from large objects like televisions and automobiles to smaller objects like pedometers and watches. Humans like interaction, but we will soon reach the stage of more than occasionally wanting to be disconnected. It was only when I left the panels, meetings, and gatherings and put down the phone and just walked around either the show or between the hotels that I could think and actually be me. Otherwise I was finding myself in the flow of the status quo. It is important to recognize that our minds are being both enriched but also colonized by connectivity. If I am constantly connected and interacting with you and your thoughts what will happen to “me”? Man is both a social animal but also a solitary one. Robert Frost noted that ” Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference “.
(Painting is “Under a Cloud” by Albert Ryder from collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)