Leaving the floor of the 2016 CES floor and returning to normal civilization feels like stepping back in time. Shoes aren't tracking every step taken, refrigerators aren't streaming live images with options for 1-click buying, and most light bulbs just illuminate - they don't have speakers or microphones built-in and they certainly don't talk to the cloud. Yet, all this will be normal... very soon!
This was a record-breaking CES, with more than 170,000 attendees from over 150 countries. The show had a very international flavor with over 50,000 attendees coming from outside the U.S., including 100 official foreign delegations. History was also made by the first delegation from Cuba to ever attend a CES show. The 3,800 exhibitors and 500 innovative startup companies got great exposure from the 6,000+ media professionals at the show. In fact CES officials report there were 1.3 million mentions of the #CES2016 hashtag and 15.2 billion (yes, billion) impressions on social media.
The opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses at CES seem endless. For example, an entire section of the 2.47 million-plus net square feet of exhibit space was dedicated to 3D printing technologies. Not only are 3D printers changing the efficiency of going from concept to working prototype, but new materials and the availability to access the technology has created a burgeoning marketplace. Exhibitor 3dprintler.com showcased its tool that compares prices for 3D printing jobs and also showed off its API for other businesses to tap into. Whether you want to construct a model or print an edible cake topper, 3D printers are having a huge impact on manufacturing and development.
That was not a misprint above about 3D-printed cake toppers; 3D printed food is here and it is sweet (thank you 3D Systems Culinary Lab for the sample). In fact, technology throughout the kitchen should have a ripple effect in multiple food industries. If you're the proprietor of a coffee shop, for example, you might be interested in the Ripple Maker, a printing technology that allows the most novice barista to print any image onto coffee foam.
While 3D printed food is fun, there was an even bigger movement with companies using the "Internet of Things," AI and cloud computing to improve health and wellness - starting in the kitchen and moving far beyond. Indiegogo start-up, SmartyPans, is releasing a smart pan that tracks and measures the weight and temperature of your food (recognized through voice command) and then provides nutritional information - and yes, it is dishwasher safe!
Everything in the kitchen is getting a "brain." We saw whisks, bowls, blenders and storage containers get smart. Storage containers from iCuisine added a food tag that talks with a smartphone app - you tell the tag what you put inside the container and it uses that information to alert you when the food is about to expire and even recommends recipes based on the ingredient(s) inside.
The wellness movement extended into the bedroom with smart mattresses that monitor, analyze and even adjust during sleep cycles, from companies such as Variowell and Coway. Not to mention, all the daily activities that get people tired and ready for bed have created a burgeoning industry of smart socks, shirts and more from companies like Sensoria Fitness. All the wearable trackers weren't sports-related though. GlamFit Jewelry focuses on style, so women can track their movements without looking like they're training for the Olympics.
Taking everyday items and adding a chip or tag that allows it to communicate with an app or the cloud is an opportunity all product and service providers should look into.
Nowhere was this trend more evident than in the Smart Home section at CES. In fact, it was difficult to know where the Smart Home section of the show began and ended because the technology and devices were ubiquitous. The market is finally maturing on smart home protocols and hubs and this CES demonstrated the power and momentum of connecting everyday objects to people and other objects. Specifically, the protocols of Z-Wave, ZigBee and Apple's HomeKit were very well represented for those looking to tap into this network.
A new Smart Home Marketplace Survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate says 45 percent of all Americans either own smart home technology or plan to invest in it in 2016; and 70 percent of those who already own the technology say purchasing their first smart home products made them more likely to buy another one. Shouldn't your business help them make their first - or second or third - purchase?