Advancements in Auto Tech, Especially Around Safety
At Tech East, we saw evolution from previous years, including super-connected cars, autonomous self-driving cars (controlled by smart watches) and electric vehicles (even a BMW that charges by parking in an inductive space). But what stood out as brand new? In particular, a few new concepts and prototypes centered on safety: Smart Headlights
- BMW’s M4 Concept Iconic Headlights are integrated with sensors to see shadows and shapes, giving drivers new vision in the night. The headlights adopt based on info provided by the sensors, looking up to 650 yards down the road to detect things like turns, pedestrians or animals. They visualize other road users and turn down so you don’t blind them. They also detect narrow passages and alert you if a space is too narrow to drive through. They even see turns through GPS and light them.
- Intel showcased car integration that tracks eye movements. A camera embedded in the dash reads drivers’ eyes, ensuring they’re paying attention to the right things on the road (and not texting while driving). Drivers are alerted via audio when their eyes stray too far.
- Prototypes like the new Volkswagen touch-and-gesture car enable drivers to open windows, activate buttons, etc. with just a gesture—the idea being that if you’re not feeling around for knobs, you’ll be more focused on the road. The Volkswagens also have vibration tech to guide your fingers in places where you may have to reach around a bit. Some models barely had buttons or knobs at all.
These innovations in auto tech may soon have far-reaching implications—from impacting street signs and road infrastructure, on-road mobile communications and even insurance rates.
More “Things” Move to the Internet, with New Potential to Help Brands Create Better Customer Experiences
At CES, the Internet continued to extend to just about every “thing” imaginable. Most interesting were the things outside the household (e.g. beer kegs in bars or office coffee machines), which have potential to (1) help brands create better customer experiences and (2) collect customer data, in real-time, that can influence experience optimization, and even advertising. Things, Things & More Things
- New Samsung SmartThings enable users to easily build smart, connected homes. They connect to sinks, air conditioners, fridges, doors, etc. They’ll tell you—via any screen, including your phone from a remote place—if your sink is leaking, your fridge door is open or you have a visitor. They’ll even shut off the water to prevent floods.
- Parrot Pot and H2O are connected plant pots with: automatic watering systems (for when you’re away), sensors the monitor plant health and apps for all of it.
New Opportunities to Improve Customer Experience
- The Internet of Things is also extending beyond the household. This is of particular interest to brands because, as multiple people use these things (like office coffee machines) more data is created to leverage to optimize customer experiences.
- The new Intel SteadyServe iKeg monitors the level of beer in each keg based on a weight underneath. It transmits data to a cloud-based analysis engine. Bars can then access keg status reports via mobile, ensuring that a new keg is ready (the customer doesn’t have to wait for the bar to bring up a new keg). The iKeg can also transmit data to distributors to ensure that they can stock faster.
- The Intel Internet-connected office coffee machines know when they’re low on coffee grounds, milk or cups. They also knows when milk is old, enabling them to make the exact same quality cup every time, improving user experience.
- There’s also potential for brands and advertisers to collect consumer data—in real-time—on how people are interacting with these “things”
- An Internet-connected coffee machine (or beer tap, or vending machine, or anything) can track data like real-time consumer preferences (e.g. which selections are most popular per certain times of day). As users log-in to these machines to reload their preferences, brands can also start to learn the tastes of individuals, which can inform things like ad- or offer-targeting.
- At Performics, we live on this type of real-time consumer data, which powers optimization for clients. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but the consumer data trove from the Internet of Things (even something simple as how people take their coffee) could prove quite valuable in creating, tailoring and optimizing ads.
Wearable Fitness Evolves, but Market is Crowded, Undifferentiated & There’s No Holy Grail
Fitness/activity wearables were a major innovation in recent years at CES. But 33% of fitness bands are discarded after 6 months (CNET), making evolution imperative. Unfortunately, CES 2015 just brought more, undifferentiated wearables with only minor innovation. Lack of Differentiation & Innovation
- There was certainly no shortage of fitness wearables—bands, watches, headphones and glasses. Wearables with heart rate monitoring, GPS, calorie counts, mileage counts and activity tracking were everywhere. But these capabilities are just table stakes. Minor evolution included:
- Headphones from brands like Jabra and Sony that wirelessly monitor heart rate
- Headphones like the Sony Smart B-Trainer that select the best songs from your library to play, based on your heart rate, to really get you moving
- Some fitness bands, like the new Sony SmartBand Talk, have become streamlined vs. bulkier products like the Microsoft Band. The SmartBand Talk also enables users to make calls or take notes.
- There’s still no wearable that can act as a personal trainer, and really integrate with your body to push you to the limits. Samsung is coming closer, however. The Samsung fitness band integrates with Life Fitness treadmills via a health monitoring app. The Samsung band can also track weight lifting—like biceps curls—and count out the reps based on your movements. However, this capability is currently limited to basic movements.
Glasses Still Bulky & Distracting; but Sensors Show Promise
- Many brands were demonstrating glasses for golf, running and biking, but data on glasses lenses continues to be distracting, and glasses are uncomfortable for sports
- Sony’s new golf glasses prototype shows (on the top, right side of the glasses screen) data like distance-to-the-hole and wind speed to aid in golf performance
- New sensor-embedded equipment seems more functional (and less distracting) than wearables
- Sony’s Smart Tennis Sensor is embedded within rackets, enabling you to view data like ball impact and swing speed—in real-time on your phone to analyze performance
- 94Fifty’s smart basketball measures spin and acceleration, and the Adidas miCoach Smart Ball does the same for soccer, all connected via apps