28 Days Later - CES 2020 - The Year of Consumer Value & Experience

TL;DR: Sporting a brand new acronym – Amazon, Apple, and Google are playing nice. Overall, the innovations on display at CES weren’t blowing our minds. Unsurprisingly, the IoT market is maturing and demanding interoperable solutions that actually drive value to the consumer. 

It has been four short weeks since we left the painfully dry air, bright lights, and excitement that is the CES experience

CES being by far the largest juggernaut of a conference to try and make sense of, especially when you’re directly in the middle of the mêlée of new products and mega-booths.  Whether it’s vertical TVs that nobody asked for, or creepy softball sized robots that follow us around our house, it’s a 4-day sensory assault for even the most seasoned CES attendees among us. We have a tremendous adoration for those folks that can quickly assess the show and communicate valuable insights in near real time (we’re looking at you Stacey). 

That being said, the team wanted to take some much needed time to follow up with new connections, reflect on the show, and also avoid our thoughts on CES getting lost in the mosh pit of a media circus that surrounds CES season.

It’s safe to say that as a group, we witnessed the arrival of the long anticipated shift in strategy from both product manufacturers and their technology suppliers to find ways to dramatically increase adoption of the IoT.  For MMB and many of our colleagues, interoperability has long been viewed as the ultimate goal for all market players, and the current technology landscape identified as a significant barrier to achieving that goal. 

At the technological level, Connected Home over IP (CHIP) announced in December by Apple, Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance dominated the discussions we had with customers. This is a project focused directly at solving unnecessary fragmentation in the IoT from a technological perspective. 

As an active participant in the handful of carefully selected companies that have been working on CHIP for the past year, we certainly anticipated some noise from the market, but were pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest there was at the show.

At the product level – interoperability was the theme of the week. Product solutions in the IoT market are maturing at a rapid pace as companies that jumped into this space (or are about to) have realized the tremendous impact that connectivity can have on the overall customer value chain. Albeit, when it actually works.

As it turns out, finding universally accepted ways to just make things work is a common thread between product manufacturers, silicon providers, and everyone in between. Crazy right? 

Take a peek at what some of our dedicated IoT experts had to say about CES 2020. If you have questions about anything related to CHIP – feel free to reach out to a member of our team here. 

Sam De Marco – Executive Account Manager

 “Smart Health” really made a splash at CES 2020. There were some pretty cool wearables on display ranging from “smart belts” to smart watches with built-in ECG technology to detect atrial fibrillation! This technology is not only useful and practical on so many levels, but it can actually lead to saving lives. For me, that application of IoT technology in the form of wearables demonstrates the maturity of the market. It isn’t just about connecting a watch for the sake of it, there was deliberate purpose and end user value built into that product that was then enabled by connectivity. 

“…most OEMs are shifting their thought process from ‘should we add connectivity’ to ‘we need to add connectivity.’ ” 

If I had to pick a product on display at CES with top marks for innovation it would definitely be the Hydraloop water recycler. With an ultra sleek modern design, and the capability to decrease water consumption and sewage by +45% this product is pretty game changing. Using WiFi for connectivity, the unit will switch to a reserve water source in the event of any failure, then send an alert to the user and an email to the installer. Simple, but effective. 

The most important takeaway for me from this year’s show was that most OEMs are shifting their thought process from “should we add connectivity” to “we need to add connectivity”. 

As the above example illustrates, connectivity enhances more than just the product experience for the end user. Connectivity also provides insights into important consumer product engagement which companies can then leverage to increase customer retention and market expansion. 

Daniel Moneta – CMO and EVP Corporate Development

In my opinion, when it came to the Smart Home Space, CES 2020 was the year of CHIP.

If you haven’t heard of the Connected Home over IP Project (CHIP), this is the recent announcement made by Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance, that the major ecosystems will be coming together to develop a universal smart home standard. 

As an active member of the Zigbee Alliance, we’ve been working hard on this for a while now. It was great to hear the buzz and excitement around this announcement at the show. We answered a ton of questions about this in virtually every meeting and conversation we had over the course of the week at CES. 

For more on our take on CHIP, see our blog post here. We’re putting together more educational material on CHIP for our customers and partners, so if you want to stay informed on everything CHIP as things develop, let us know

“…connectivity is more than just a gimmick but part of the core consumer value chain.”

As for CES as a whole, I find that innovation showcased at CES goes through a pretty typical cycle.

First Stage:

Someone shows up with an innovative, disruptive, or at least finally-commercialized technology. Drones, folding phones, smart speakers. Think Amazon being largely credited as “winning” CES a few years back with the launch of Alexa.

Second Stage:

Everyone else jumps on the bandwagon and there is a glut of spending (*cough* Google home *cough*) and wild iterations on that innovation.

Third Stage:

After some level of consolidation has happened around that new technology, and all the copycat versions have disappeared. Those short-lived fringe applications from the second stage give way to more practical implementations and use cases. Larger companies that may not be the originators of the technology have at this stage figured out how it fits into their go-to-market strategies and business models.

This year felt like that latter stage for me, at least when it came to the smart home. Key categories like door locks had both new entrants and refined offerings. Big consumer packaged goods vendors (like P&G) showed us that connectivity is more than just a gimmick but part of the core consumer value chain

The idea of connectivity as a staple in the consumer experience is reinforced when you look at the big strides the main ecosystem vendors have made in getting smart home products to work together more reliably and break down their walled gardens. 

I often get asked “what’s the craziest thing you saw at CES this year?”. For 2020, aside from Apple, Google, and Amazon all working together, which is pretty crazy, I didn’t see any technology that seemed like it was going to change the future. But I did see a lot of technology that seemed like it was ready for our homes today.

Philip Emsley – Field Applications Engineer

From a device technology perspective, nothing shocked me at CES 2020 (at least in the Smart Home space). While there was a large plethora of smart home devices, very few of those devices were new or innovative applications of IoT technology. I came across a lot of the already mass deployed device types: locks, cameras, switches, outlets, buttons, sensors, etc. 

The basic technologies enabling the IoT have not changed much in the last few years, but the applications have been getting more polished and seamless – especially in the area of interoperability. The loudest indicator of that change being of course the CHIP Project announcement, but even having more cohesive experiences within ecosystems today was very nice to see. 

“a well thought out user experience and seamless integration of several different sensors will dramatically increase adoption of the Smart Home.”

A great example of that came from the French company, Somfy and how all their products work together. They had an automatic window solution that had open, close, and open a crack functionality. 

Even more exciting was that the window control switch had an integrated air quality sensor, meaning the house could automatically open the windows a crack if it detected fresh air was needed. Keeping security in mind, when the window was opened in that use case, it also locked the windows when cracked open, and could even trigger an alarm in the event someone tried to force entry. 

This kind of well thought out user experience and seamless integration of several different sensors will dramatically increase adoption of the Smart Home.

The pursuit of seamless interoperability will continue to drive the shift from simply having smart home “devices” to having them comprise a truly “smart” home. This is where technology ceases to be a novelty that is at times intrusive and frustrating, and becomes a useful background assistant that could be forgotten about and just expected to work.