CES 2016: From Science Fiction to Science Fact

2016’s Consumer Electronics Show has once again left me with the certainty that the 4K OLED Ultra-HD future is upon us.  But this isn’t some “Blade Runner” dystopia; the influences here are brighter, more empathetic, more helpful and designed with better intentions.  

Perhaps I spent too long on the automotive sector over the last two days, but I cannot shake the feeling that we’re entering a technology and design phase that is remarkably similar in aesthetic to that which was portrayed in “I, Robot” (without the maverick killer robots.) The Mercedes concept car on display best encapsulated this—battery powered, self-driven, web-connected and a truly head-turning design, even to someone like me who isn’t a “car guy.”
This week has shown me that we’ve quickly moved from the ‘Internet of Things’ to ‘Internet of Everything’ – with ubiquitous connectivity, not only to the internet, but between the machines themselves, via the internet. The all-powerful ‘Skynet’ that wreaked global war on humankind in the “Terminator” films has, quietly, been reimagined and is truly a reality, though without the nasty “AI” self-awareness and bad tempered outlook on us humans.

So, as I leave the bright lights and man-made excess that defines Las Vegas, I wonder:  Are we placing ourselves at risk of rebellion of the machines? What happens when the internet crashes? How helpless are we?

But rather than worrying about the impact to humankind, I’ll focus on something I can grasp: the impact to advertising.

CES 2016 proved that screens still dominate. TV, and TV sets, clearly remain the centrepiece of the entertainment business, and therefore the Marketing and Advertising business; however, for the first time this year, many of the demo screens at the show were demonstrating their capabilities by streaming content from Netflix or Amazon.  This may seem like a subtle observation, but it’s indicative of the growing blurriness we’re seeing between TV and video – a crucial and seismic shift for advertisers. (Notably, the Financial Times has just reported that Netflix’s market capitalisation of close to $46B is more than the combined value of legacy broadcast businesses CBS and Viacom.)

On all the screens across the showroom floor, there’s no doubt that video rules; it’s how we’re going to be entertained, everywhere we go, with the sight, sound and motion we have loved for decades on our televisions.  But more ubiquitous, more personalized, and definitely higher definition. 

My second takeaway is that ubiquitous connectivity means increased data, and therefore places heightened emphasis on the need for strategies that provide deep insight and analytics of this data so that advertisers can apply deterministic-empowered planning and communication adjustment across all phases of the marketing plan.  It also means permissions and privacy need to be handled with appropriate constraints, and with checks and balances that provide public confidence. I don’t need other people knowing when I’ve left my house, or when I’ve run out of milk

In the meantime, I’ll continue to stream my favorite Science Fiction movies with the hope that the changes we’re seeing are all about convenience, relevance and efficiency—not about the end of human kind.  But if it is, at least I’ll have fresh milk.

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