Advertising Technology

CES 2014: A new year, a renewed love of technology for brands of all shapes and sizes

Forbes 30_Jan 2014 Whitney Fishman is currently the Senior Director of Innovation and Consumer Technology at MEC, one of the world’s leading media agency networks. Since joining MEC in 2013, Fishman has initiated innovation and developed new client communication tools. She has previously held positions at MediaVest, Grey and Buzz Marketing Group. 

January doesn’t just mark the start of a new year. For over 40 years, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has rung in the new year with the ultimate conference meets technology party, giving innovators, technology companies (both large and small), brands, and marketers the opportunity to learn about and engage with the ultimate in breakthrough gadgets and consumer technologies.

This year was no exception, with over 3,200 exhibitors, 20,000 products launched, 300 conference sessions, 152,000 attendees from over 150 countries representing the $203 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. Much of CES 2014 focused on the evolutions of existing consumer technologies and their implications, both short and long term, on our everyday lives.

Every year, marketers come to CES to see the newest gadgets, explore the latest media and technology trends, and, let’s be serious, indulge in a bit of wining and dining with clients, partners and vendors. For many fellow marketing veterans, we spend much of the time leading up to CES, and even during it, predicting the next big product or trend waiting to disrupt our lives, while lamenting on the best, and worst, of this massive trade show. The convention center is too big. My back hurts from walking the CES floors. The hotels are too far apart. And there are just too many companies and events to engage with them all.

And yet, every year (and this year in the midst of a polar vortex experienced across most of the U.S.!) we excitedly pack our bags and ship off to McCarren International Airport in Vegas, eager to see what the technology brands will be showing off. It’s one of my favorite times a year, as industry executives are let lose in a Candy Land of new, almost futuristic, products and experiences to explore and identify new opportunities for brands to reach, interact and engage with consumers in our highly connected, digital world.

After all, what possible opportunities do hospitality, finance or education brands have among cars like the BMW i3 or the Audi A6 touting technologies that help put the car in more control of the driving experience? Easy: With automated features such as finding parking spaces and “piloted driving” modes, consumers are able to have an enhanced driving experience, resulting in increased opportunities to engage with more forms of relevant media.

From wearable technologies to fully integrated smart homes, emerging technology such as device control integration systems, are making it possible for all our devices to connect and ‘talk’ to each other, and data-tracking sensors (e.g. movement or temperature), to track our every move.   As we embark on a new and exciting year, we’re moving towards a world where the ‘internet of things’ is becoming genuinely intelligent, in both features AND aesthetics.  Aside from helping to track the number of steps taken throughout CES via devices like the Garmin vivofit or LG Lifeband Touch, these new product introductions have the ability to deliver both marketers and consumers integrated and automated solutions to everyday life.

While only a handful of wearable technology devices have reached the mainstream, CES 2014 proved that wearable technology is no longer solely about function, with introductions like Netatmo June Wellness Bracelet demonstrating that it’s not enough to just be practical; you must also be fashionable

And of course, who can ignore biometrics (e.g. eye scanners and fingerprint sensors), which this year moved from inside the lab to the main attraction on the show floor. Before the launch of the iPhone 5S with its fingerprint recognition, this type of technology didn’t have strong consumer presence or recognition. But, 2014 is proving that biometrics is ready to evolve beyond the device, opening an entirely new category of products that utilize the body as the new lock and key. In a digital world where security breaches are frequently making headlines, biometrics offers consumers new ways to keep their private data and content (e.g. credit card information, personal photos) secure through innovative verifications tool that are difficult to replicate.

While on the surface it seems more technical than most marketers’ tastes, as we watch the digitization of everyday consumer objects collide with increased sensitivities around security and privacy, biometric companies like EyeLock myris that turn users eyes into the passwords via iris scanning, will play a major role in increasing consumer trust in the coming years, while offering brands new ways to  asses and track consumer behaviour through a mere gaze via tools like Tobii eye-tracking software

One thing is clear, the Internet, and its resulting data, will continue to tag along with consumers no matter where they are of what they do, providing exciting opportunities for brands to improve experiences in both subtle and not so subtle ways.

I’m proud to report that, what I lost in sleep and visible daylight during CES 2014, I gained twofold in inspirational conversations with the designers and developers creating our tomorrow, stronger relationships with clients and partners passionate about designing our future, and a renewed passion for the magic innovation and technology can bring to the world.

MEC is one of the world’s leading media agency networks. MEC features over 4,500 highly talented and motivated people working with domestic and international clients in 84 countries, and manages more international media assignments than any other network.