Jon Bibo made it out of CES 2018 in one piece (barely) and shares his final thoughts on what he experienced: 

So, my 27th CES is now in the rearview mirror. First time ever in Vegas without a single (beloved) Vegas Buffet!! Trust me, I didn’t starve myself.

After some years at CES, I would leave feeling inspired, but also feeling like much of what “wowed” me was 5-10 years away. This year, I came away energized, believing that much of what I was witnessing is more like 2-4 years away (and some of it is already upon us).

Let’s hit some highlights:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): a really bad name, but a concept that will affect us all. IoT refers to the connectedness of devices and, well, “things.” Cars, roads, refrigerators, ceiling fans, door bells, food containers, apparel, pillows, toothbrushes, windows, chairs, toasters, TVs, mirrors…all of these can and will communicate with one another to theoretically make our lives easier/better/safer/happier.
  • Get ready to be sick of the word “smart,” because you are going to be hearing it a lot. Your smart refrigerator will tell your smart phone that your smart egg carton is getting empty and will create a smart shopping list, so your smart autonomous car can take you to a smart grocery store and your smart health bot will tell you to pick up green peppers instead of sausage to make a smart omelet in your smart frying pan because your smart health monitor is gently telling you haven’t been eating smart and your smart scale is crying out to all connected smart devices in your world to stop you from eating unhealthy food in large quantities and to stop you from being…….dumb!
    • NOTE: just because you can invent something, doesn’t mean you should. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Smart Diaper and the Smart Ukulele. I don’t think we need to be notified via an app that a diaper needs to be changed, our nose knows.
  • Here’s a very cool video, made by Panasonic and shown at CES, that shows an advanced autonomous vehicle and highlights many of the IoT technologies that will soon be part of our lives:
  • Voice-Activated Virtual Assistants: it was a Battle Royale between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You couldn’t walk more than 20 yards without seeing a sign or a reference to these voice-activated virtual assistants. The biggest innovation is the extent to which these technologies are being integrated into everyday items. Your car will be Alexa-enabled; your TV will respond to “Hey, Google.”
    • Google gets my vote for winning the marketing war—they had massive “Hey Google” marketing messages everywhere. Their oversized gumball machines had 100s of people lined up to win hats and speakers and other SWAG.
  • 3D Printing: continues to advance in terms of speed and materials able to be used for prototyping and manufacturing. I’ve been waiting to see if or how 3D printers could become an item college stores could sell in decent volumes, and I am afraid it probably is not going to happen. Still it is fascinating to watch those printers crank out complex and intricate shapes, textures, and colors.
  • 3D Camera: very cool technology takes Go Pro and puts it on steroids for a 360-degree view. Keep an eye on this—could be a nice college store selling opportunity.
  • Gaming and eSports and Sports Tech: significant opportunity for college stores to ramp up their assortments to capitalize on campus gaming clubs and teams. eSports is about to explode in terms of media coverage and will be treated much like other sports in society.
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Apps?!?: Yes! Health/Wellness Tech was huge at CES. Sleep tech, hearing tech, toothbrush tech, it was all there. I believe this does represent an opportunity for college stores as these tools and products hit the market.
  • Wait, What?? Blackberry is back? Is this CES 2004? They are promoting IoT security software and, wait for it…..smartphones! We will see if they can rise from the ashes.
  • It’s Good To Be Among Friends: lots of college store industry store and vendor partners were at CES. It was good to talk about college store opportunities with the team from Douglas Stewart Company. And it was great to host some friends (vendor partners and college stores attendees) for a fun night of socializing and comparing notes at our ICBA social event.
  • All Work & No Play…: OK, so I spent a few minutes at the Gibson Guitar Pavilion shredding on a Gibson Explorer and a Gibson Flying V (I do play a little guitar when I am not focusing on the college store industry…and even when I am). And I hung out at the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience watching CES attendees get whipped around in donuts by professional drivers.

Well, that's a wrap from this CES 2018…it overwhelms, yet it is loud, but you have to listen…it disrupts, yet it screams opportunity!

See ya in 2019!