This was first published on M and M global – Link here
CES was dominated this year by a few core themes: the Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything, connected consumers, connected homes, curved screens and wearable tech were all very dominant on the show floor. Amongst all of this noise and buzz I sensed that people were left a little perplexed as to what to focus on, how it would impact them and how overwhelming the issue of data collection and management is for the average person. The slew of apps to download, data to interrogate and the wealth of choices left many bewildered and without clear direction.
The one area of real innovation that stood out for me, with a clear application to our day-to-day life was the development in the automotive area. The connected home moved to the connected car, but more than that, to the green, eco-friendly, self-driving connected and communicative car. The car stands at CES showed us that the future is really here now. It has crept up on us quietly but with great efficacy – even now as I watch a TV Ad demonstrating how a car can park itself, I feel like I am watching Blade runner many years ago, and yet this is reality.
The car is becoming connected through a number of different routes. One of which is the collaboration between car manufacturers with the likes of Apple, Android and Microsoft systems to link your out of car life with your in car life. The approaches between operating systems do differ – Android is powering an in car brain, whereas Apple is using the iPhone as the source of connectivity whereby the car is not connected until your iPhone is plugged in. The battle of the operating systems is like a classic western bar brawl where the fight started in the bar and spilled out onto the street. Apple and Android have of course gone toe-to-toe in the handset space but now the car is the next frontier, and what a huge battle it will be. Android seem to have aligned with Audi right now whilst Apple are in with Honda, Mercedes and Volvo, amongst others.
What can we expect from the connected car? Well first there are all the usual Apps you would imagine, the likes of Twitter and Facebook etc. will all be there, subject to a number of legislation tests to ensure safety, but the really interesting stuff comes from being able to control the car externally and the areas of navigation and communication. Imagine the following scenario – you’re lying in bed on a cold winter’s morning and as you get ready you start your car from the comfort and warmth of your house using an App and make sure the heating is on and the windows defrosted. As you eat breakfast you click on your calendar appointment and open directions for your meeting which you then fire through to your car. The car now has control – the route is planned, the estimated time taken care of and all information to make the journey as seamless as possible is plugged in. Once in the car your journey will be monitored, if there’s a delay the car can e-mail the meeting organiser directly updating them and letting them know when to expect you. Once you are close to your destination the car can search for parking spaces and will guide you straight in with the final twist being the car parking itself and paying for the ticket through a connected link to city parking. You get the idea.
There will be a crazy amount of new apps and software coming out over the coming months and years but my sense is most of them will be additive to our lives, rather than for the sake of it. Travelling to a new city will be transformed by advice, ideas and recommendations for where to go and how to get there. It will be intelligent though, not the user searching, rather the car making suggestions based on your previous preferences and habits. With super accurate GPS you will have micro information piped through to the driver.
This is what really stood out to me. While TV manufacturers have been creating 80 inch curved TV screens that only one person can watch whilst ideally sitting about two feet away, the automotive business has been creating useful opportunities that will enhance our lives.
We have all heard about the Google self-driving car, it has made a lot of noise over the last few years, but at CES up popped Audi with a self-driving car that was legal in Vegas, as long as it drove itself under the 40mph speed limit. It’s incredible that this has stayed under wraps. Google are themselves testing in Nevada, so soon the Vegas strip will have a number of cars with red number plates (the sign of a self-driving car) cruising up and down. The reality of a truly self-driving car world is still not here but it is accelerating rapidly (excuse the pun) and the idea is to not just create a ‘get home drunk’ vehicle. There are lots of inherent safety features built in to avoid accidents. When everything is automated, what does happen if you fall asleep at the wheel? If the driver doesn’t wake up after a loud buzzer sounds the car will stop, call the police and put the hazard warning lights on. The manufactures have even built in a system to allow the driver an option to avoid red lights as the car is plugged into the city traffic light infrastructure. The trouble is the car will adjust its speed accordingly to help you do this and I am not sure I would be comfortable crawling at 15mph just so I am timed to avoid a red light. It’s a nice idea but it’s up there with the curved TVs in my opinion.
The final element of note from the show floor was the fact that electric is becoming cool. The BMW i3 was a show stopper for many, as well as a Formula One car that could reach 150mph and 0-60 in 3 sec with no accompanying sound. Of course the Tesla is the poster child of eco- friendly travel and even Range Rover are entering the hybrid marketplace. The range of battery power is increasing and combined with technology, as exemplified in the BMW, that constantly evaluates your range and distance to your nearest charging point all ensures you won’t find yourself stranded. I am not sure when it happened but electric seems to have flipped from very uncool to the leading edge of innovation in automotive, all the while being enhanced with better technology lending a supporting arm between engine and driver.
So when you consider what your favourite gadget is, you may in the future find yourself pointing out the window to the car parked outside. We all spend too much time in cars, too many people die as a result of car accidents, so this technology and innovation is really making a difference to our lives and for me that made it all stand out as incredibly valuable in a CES show dominated by connected fridges and curved TVs.