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Lessons Learned from CES 2017

January 10, 2017

And just like that…another year goes into the books at CES. Farewell, hour-long cab rides, triple-priced hotel rooms, Uber surge rates…and multi-million dollar booths showing off what's out now, what’s coming soon, and what makes you say “wow,” but may never make it to market.

What did we learn at CES 2017?

We learned that... the Internet of Things (IoT) that has been discussed for the last 3 years is closer, but it’s coming as an almost imperceptible, but steady trickle and not a tidal wave. IoT refers to the concept that all of the items with which we interact will be interconnected and will improve our lives (e.g. cars speak to each other so they don’t crash, your chair knows if you are chilly and warms up automatically, your ear buds know your heart is racing while you run and tell you to slow down, your lights turn on when you near your house and your music system knows you like to rock out with some Zeppelin on Friday nights but prefer John Legend on Wednesdays). IoT is starting to happen and internet-enabled sensors are being added to more and more everyday items, but it’s not something that will motivate consumers to make major changes in the short term. Instead of wearables, the buzz word was “imbeddables,” meaning that items will be interconnected without you having to do anything extra special.

We learned that…Health & Wellness is being supported by all manner of electronics: improved sleep, improved baby monitoring, improved fitness, improved medicine consumption consistency, can all be improved with technology.

We learned that…3D printing is still super cool and the technology is improving: prices coming down, speed and precision going up, wider variety of materials being used. However, while 3D printing is now an essential part of manufacturing and courses of study (architecture, engineering, health sciences, etc.), it’s still not a viable retail product that will appeal to average consumers. 
We learned that…Under Armour really is a technology company. Kevin Plank, UA’s Founder and CEO, gave a dynamite keynote address that was part branding overview, part history lesson, part motivational speech, part beat down of competitors, and, importantly, a lesson in how a company is embracing technology to gather mounds and mounds of data to understand their customers better and grow sales. 
When Kevin brought Michael Phelps on stage to demonstrate Under Armour's new connected fitness apps and shoes with built-in sensors (see IoT), the crowd was clearly impressed. When you get those new UA jammies for Christmas next year that are made out of a secret material that reduces inflammation, reports on your health, and improves your overall health, remember you heard it here first. 

For college stores, what did we learn?

We learned that…augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will become more and more prevalent and that AR and VR demos are very popular and can drive significant interest. Plenty of booths showed off the state of the AR/VR market and the opportunity to provide immersive experiences is very appealing to consumers (think movies like: Minority Report and Total Recall).

We learned that…with IoT comes security risks. The Norton Core product from Symantec and others like it are coming quickly to market. The message is: network protection and security now must include your refrigerator and your dog’s collar and your blender, and not just your PC or tablet or phone.

We learned that…selling products to the Institution is a critical opportunity for College Stores beyond traditional retail sales. Every new tech development and product unearths add-on selling opportunities for accessories, peripherals, etc. As the Institutions you serve invest in new technologies, try to learn what selling opportunities exist to support new hardware or devices being used on campus.

We learned that mobile gaming is coming faster than we thought.

iOS-enabled gaming controllers, like this one from ICBA partner Kanex, and other similar products could break big over the next year.

So, instead of goodbye, I’ll bid Vegas farewell for now and say, “CES ya next year…”

Jon Bibo


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