With consumer technology’s big show behind us – yes, CES 2019 is a fleeting memory for some – it remains top-of-mind for the B2B tech channel, since CE is always a pillar of the IT channel. When we think about the B2B tech channel, we often defer to the data center; but, CE is a large business for the channel. System builders, physical security resellers, and ProAV resellers/dealers, cater to the consumer market for smart home design and protection, repairing broken phone/tablet screens, general IT repair/service, and much more. Thus, CE will continue to be a key segment for the IT channel especially as things break and more devices are connected, but may not work on the first try…
Some of the best technologies we see today were developed many moons ago for the B2B market and typically make their way into the hands of the consumer. What we see are improved iterations that make the technologies slightly more advanced or less expensive over time. Do you use GPS in your car? Well, that’s been around since the 1970s, owned by the U.S. government and made available to you in the 1980s. Do you like your unmanned aerial vehicle – or drone, as you likely call it? Yep, one of the earliest applications was the pilotless Ruston Proctor Aerial Target created in 1917; only 16 years after the Wright Brothers took flight.
The fact is, one of the easiest ways to predict the future of consumer technology is to look at the past, what a science fiction writer or futurist dreamed of, or what our basic needs are via Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. Below are a few areas I observed at CES 2019 that I believe will continue to be key themes in the future for the consumer and B2B channel.
We Want Safety & Security: Safety and security were featured nearly everywhere you turned, in smart vehicles, smart homes, smartwatches, and more, and I believe this will continue to be one of the hottest markets moving forward. Many vendors were showing off new surveillance cameras incorporating motion sensing, facial recognition, and night vision, even allowing consumers to connect video feeds to smart TVs, creating a command center viewpoint. Security will remain of utmost importance for many reasons. Consumers are ordering items online more than ever before making theft a key concern. In fact, 31 percent of Americans have experienced package theft, according to an article from Packing Strategies. Another catalyst is we live in a tattletale society where people are regularly recording and uploading to YouTube, which I expect will continue, whether it’s video from your doorbell cam, drone, or smart connected vehicle. A final area I would characterize under security is the smart vehicle, which thanks to 5G, edge computing, and AI, will let you know of potential accidents with a car, person, or animal. For channel partners, one of the key opportunities will be installing edge devices for state and local governments, K12, and more. Thus, it makes sense that anything that fosters safety, prevents personal injury, theft or property loss, will gain momentum in the future.
Same Things - Different Medium, More Mobile and More Realistic: First, we love to be entertained whether its music, art, theater, or movies, these things have been part of our lives since the days of Ludwig Van Beethoven or cavemen performing at a fire. Second, we love to be connected with one another whether it’s via phone, at a party, a picnic, etc. Thus, key areas where I expect continued growth are wrapped around this theme. For example, Sony unveiled its 360 Reality Audio format allowing a more immersive audio experience, similar to being at a concert, which also ties to virtual reality allowing you to attend a concert, sporting event, or exhibit with a near-real experience. Lastly, there were new 8K TVs from vendors such as Samsung and LG, offering a more realistic experience while watching your favorite game and the tech continues to get better. For the B2B channel, this should bode well for the ProAV resellers, Apple resellers, and others that are automating homes.
Make My Life Easier - Voice Activated, More Intelligent, Metric Driven & Predictable: We live busy lives and want things to be streamlined, whether managing our kids, cars, homes, and friends. As a solution, voice-activated devices and compatible sensors were everywhere at CES - embedded in refrigerators, blenders, cars, speakers, TVs, you name it. Thus, expect your smart assistant will soon be aggregating sensor data from everything, providing you with alerts, pre-alerts, and options to optimize your time and money. Imagine you’re on lunch break with a finite amount of time and you need to get a gift for an event in the evening. Your smart assistant will tell you where you can find the item in stock, how much time it will take to get there, if the parking lot is full, if the store has good customer service and more… Guess which path you’re going to take? You guessed it, the one of least resistance and the one that is most cost-effective. For the B2B channel, this will result in upgrading quick service restaurant drive-thrus with ruggedized tablets, headset devices, digital signage (smart menus), and mobile app development to pre-order and pick-up your meals.
In summary, a lot of what we are seeing today can be tied to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs depending on what is the most important to you. In addition, a lot of what we are seeing today has been thought of or invented, but continues to be perfected and made more available to the mainstream consumer, albeit in a different form factor. Thus, areas where I’m placing my bets for the future will be wrapped around safety and security, we will be doing the same things but with different mediums or new platforms, and we want our lives to be easier (e.g., voice activated, more intelligent and predictable).