CES Report: It’s All Connected

SFW has always monitored the pulse of technology’s elevated role in consumers’ everyday lives. This year at CES, we observed a tipping point of sorts. The showcase at the 2015 show confirms that the Internet of things (IoT) is beginning to penetrate the marketplace at critical mass. This infiltration of the IoT will usher in new consumer behaviors that will install connectivity to shopping, particularly when it comes to products to do with the home.

Still a relatively new term, IoT refers to interconnected devices: smart objects and appliances that use embedded computing technologies that allow interface with an Internet. Home climate control and security are two mainstream examples of IoT, but are just the tip of the iceberg.

With a solid majority of mobile users carrying smartphones, digital connection and control of one’s surroundings will continue to evolve rapidly. Sensors are getting cheaper, connected technology is becoming standardized. (Samsung has pledged that 90 percent of their devices will be connected by 2017 and all by 2020.) In fact, IT research firm Gartner says up to 500 home items could be connected by 2022.

Standout examples of the IoT infiltration we experienced at CES fall into three buckets: home, individual and automotive.

IoT and the Home
Today, connecting home devices like lighting and music often involve a home integration professional channel. Home automation companies like TiO offer these dealers an easy solution to get homes connected. Expect user-friendliness and integration of home automation to evolve.

Bridging into other devices, keyless locks for home from Schlage let you control your locks using Siri. LG is offering a refrigerator with a camera that lets you peek inside while you’re away at the grocery store. Appliances are interfacing with text messaging so you can ask the dryer how much longer before the load is ready. Even the garden is connected with the Edyn Garden Sensor, which displays moisture and nutrient levels, giving you data to know if you should turn on automated watering.

Home monitoring device Mother offers a variety of sensors they call Motion Cookies, which can attach to virtually anything and alert a parent of everything from the temperature of a baby’s crib to if a video game console is moved (and used beyond a child’s permission). Want to know how long your kids spend brushing their teeth without standing over them? Now you can.

We’re keeping close watch on Apple, who today offers a HomeKit framework that integrates with multiple devices, but still doesn’t offer hardware. Once Apple gets into the hardware game, the home automation adoption curve will rise sharply.

IoT and the Individual
Wearable technologies have become more fashionable and pragmatic by integrating into watches. Medical monitoring, such as an under-arm thermometer for parents to keep tabs on a child’s fever, join the ranks of insulin level and heart trackers that let users stay on top of their health and share with medical professionals.

IoT and the Car
Cars are getting smarter and more connected. As automated parking, collision avoidance and self-driving vehicles evolve, brands like Hyundai are introducing practical interfaces that let you control your smart phone from a larger in-dash screen.

The implications of the IoT for brand and product managers are multi-faceted and will be discussed beyond this report. But a key point revolves around engagement. Previously “dumb” electronics that had a limited place in one’s life can now be interacted with and take on new meaning, with the result that brand is ever more important. This new level of engagement equates to unprecedented data. While accessibility to this data will have some limits, there will be plenty of avenues to gain knowledge of how consumers interface with products that will drive a multitude of marketing implications.

Welcome to the IoT.