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Our views on how changing market dynamics may lead to demand for capital in niche sectors of the economy.

Prevailing themes from the Consumer Electronics Show

Inflexion’s Digital Director Charlie Cannell reports on the latest trends from the first major technology event of 2018: 200,000 delegates visiting 400,000 exhibits across 27 venues.

In what has become a semi-traditional post-Christmas pilgrimage, the technology world recently focused its attentions on Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The CES has asserted its status as the preeminent platform for the major technology brands to demonstrate their breadth and depth, whilst being a springboard for start-ups and earlier stage projects. Last year we saw driverless car demos in the exhibition, this year they were on the roads and taking you to the airport

Voice Wars:

Hey Google” has dethroned ‘Alexa’ as the most used word in Vegas. This was the moment Google parked its tanks on Amazon Alexa’s lawn – Google built their own exhibit off site, sponsored the city-wide monorail and many outdoor screens, as well as deploying hundreds of white boiler-suited staff – effectively “Google Assistants” in human form – across the exhibits. Expect more in the way of audio advertising as people and homes become “smarter”.

The take out? Google Assistant vs. Alexa is a real platform war, focusing on gathering consumer insights, whilst securing control of home utility data streams. Expect security and data protection issues to become part of everyday life.

Car Wars:

It was clear this year that the technology for autonomous cars is now less of an issue for manufacturers than had been the case last year. The big OEMs such as Ford, Toyota and Honda were prominent in showing that they are challenging the traditional role of an automotive proposition with new services and vehicle formats in the spotlight. Ford demonstrated a car parking service for any driver, with any brand of car; Honda revealed multi-purpose vehicle concepts, which appeared to be more support engines for tasks than transportation devices for passengers. Toyota proudly showed their utility concept – a cross between a people carrier and a tube train carriage – which could be a school bus, delivery van or passenger car.

The take out? The technology is no longer an issue; the roadmap from partly to fully autonomous is clearly mapped out; it’s the business model and all the extras that the OEMs are now searching for.

It’s the data, stupid

In a connected world, data is not just a by-product, but rather an ingredient for a range of new products and services. Two exhibitors that lead the way on such macro themes are Intel and Qualcomm.

I was invited to join the Intel team, along with clients and journalists, inside the theatre for their keynote event. This kicked off the whole CES event, where this year the focus was firmly on data-enabled technologies. The most head-turning development was the impressive processing of huge volumes of data to provide a new style of sports coverage – the “Voxel” – a kind of 3D pixel – is a brilliant idea that Intel clearly feels could lead to real innovation in the content creation industries.

Qualcomm led with an end-to-end show of how their technology is effecting change and optimisation from field to shop floor and in other practical applications, such as healthcare. A series of demos illustrated the monitoring of crops through to food production and into the hands of the consumer via logistics. Though farmers were conspicuous by their absence, the point was clear: technology is now able to capture intimate details surrounding the growth of a crop and then connect and inform at a largely affordable price point.

Summary: The Caring Economy

The prevailing theme this year was one of incremental improvements on previous years’ “toys and gadgets”: the data capture is better, the battery life is evolving, the connectivity is stronger and – most importantly – innovators now have a reference point of R&D from the last few years to use as a benchmark.

This combination of small developmental factors is resulting in a more mature market of connected devices for the home, industry, school, healthcare, the farmers, the frail. In short, if we have lived through The Sharing Economy, we are now entering a phase of The Caring Economy.

For more information, please contact Charlie by emailing charlie.cannell@inflexion.com.