CES 2018: Living in the Woah-ment

Whoa. Wow. Wait…why? There was a lot of each at CES 2018, and if you spent as much time wandering the showcase as VSA, you know exactly what we mean. The show is organized chaos at its very best, promoting a powerful and compelling vision for our future. Read on to see what we took away from the sprawling tech conference, including highlights, advice and even a few wardrobe recommendations.

Your pants are smarter than you think
Watch out—smart clothes in. Garmin, Casio and a host of others introduced the latest in smart watches and wristbands at Tech West, but it was smart clothing that stole the show. From meditation and sleep aids to hydration-tracking underwear, CES was awash with intriguing wearable tech designed to integrate technology even more seamlessly into our everyday. Exhibitors this year demonstrated a willingness to move deeper into the high-stakes world of health & wellness, reaching beyond basic fitness trackers to develop tech that gets even closer to your heart—and your brain.

Is CES the next great auto show?
Autonomous driving and vehicles are on their way, so it’s no surprise CES was dominated by transportation and automotive businesses. Cars took up 10% of the show floor and roughly half of the event’s mindshare. SuperSessions like “Self-Driving Cars: The Future of Personal Transportation” included reps from tech, auto, government and insurance spaces, focusing heavily on the latest in transportation tech showcased at the show. There were fun facts and pats-on-the-back aplenty, but the forums also featured strong calls to action. Allstate CEO Tom Wilson implored the audience to think of the next 3-5 years as a transitional period, a time where focus and development are absolutely critical.

“Let’s build for 6G, not 2G,” said Wilson. “We need to spend more time on the transition, not how to build a car that… Everyone can play a game on.”

Too true, Tom. The industry promised a transportation revolution, but we’re still waiting.

Not your father’s trade show booth
More than 4,000 businesses showcased their wares in booths that spanned more than 50 football fields worth of space, and a few stood out as exceptional. Ford and LG created thoughtfully curated experiences, and both raised the bar on what a booth could be.

Using a massive 30×80 foot video wall display, Ford asked visitors to consider how technology can improve urban living. The dynamic display was counterbalanced by an area for relaxing (and grabbing a drink). The impressive and thoughtfully-constructed booth provided visitors with an experience they could approach from their own perspective, all while conveying Ford’s thinking on the future of Smart Cities. LG’s OLED Canyon was a similarly large and beautiful walk-through showcase for its curved television screens, designed to demonstrate their high definition impact. With coordinated displays featuring waterfalls, rainforests, and, yes, a canyon, this felt more like walking through a Universal Studios ride than visiting a regular old booth.

Clever advances in smart cities
If the projections are to be believed, 70% of the global population will live in cities by 2050, up from 30% in 1950. As more and more people pack into smaller and tighter spaces, technology will need to improve—and fast. Enter smart cities. Speakers representing a broad cross-section of industries shed light on the latest in urban evolution at CES, sharing their vision for the future and identifying potential market leaders. Exhibitors including ZTE, Deloitte, Ericsson and IBM demonstrated the potential of 5G, AI and IoT to help realize that vision, presenting advances in autonomous vehicles, clean water, power grids and healthcare. The global demand for smarter cities is obvious. In Las Vegas, so was the progress.

Look before you leap
CES is… Expansive, which makes it critical that you do your homework and plan ahead. Map out your day, but leave room for distractions and be prepared for the unexpected (e.g. cool swag, ice cream, Rob Lowe!). Connectivity at the show is questionable—as is the LVCC roof structure in the rain. So is the app. Though functional, we were surprised there wasn’t more. The lack of an in-app networking capability felt like a miss, and a partnership with Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. could go a long way in the future. Some advice: If you’re just going to roam, look for the “wow” factor. The most memorable and impactful exhibitors were those that maximized their space, provided clear paths to desired content and built an experiential element into the exhibit (hello, LG OLED Canyon). You’ll know them when you see them.