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3 Takeaways from CES 2019

A television that can be rolled up like a yoga mat. A telephone that can be folded in half. Bots that will fold your laundry or bake fresh bread. Self-riding motorcycles and walking cars. Oh, and a $250 smart diaper with a censor that measures temperature, moisture and gasses and lets parents know the ideal time for changing the baby. For tech geeks, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas offers a 2.9 million square foot amusement park featuring everything from the whimsical gadgets that will never see a showroom floor or an Amazon warehouse, to the brilliant innovations that have the power to change lives, evolve industries and redefine markets. For the growing numbers of marketers attending the exhibition, CES offers a glimpse into the future and an opportunity to gauge where and how consumers will be spending their time and hence the best ways to reach and engage them.

If you weren’t one of the 180,000 to descend on Sin City last week for the show (33,000-plus of whom were communications or marketing pros) here are some of the technologies that got the most attention.

Genuine Traction for Artificial Intelligence
In an interview with ZDNet, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the show, noted that AI would be the innovation this year’s show will be remembered for with at least 60 exhibitors featuring AI-related technologies (voice recognition, virtual reality, augmented reality, smart cars, etc.) and numerous speakers focused on the category. Dr. I. P. Park, LG’s president and CTO, discussed in his keynote how AI could be harnessed to make life easier by enabling refrigerators, washing machines, cars, etc., to learn and adjust to individual preferences. To hammer the point home, he was joined on stage by an AI-fueled robot. And just as AI promises to automate and streamline consumers’ lives, it will also help advertisers, as we noted here, to increase campaign efficiency through automation, provide better analytics and unleash new types of creativity.

High Five for 5G
In another keynote, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg honed in on 5G and its potential to enable, along with AI, smart cities, digital health and telecom, self-driving vehicles and other life-enhancing advances. This fifth generation of mobile technology can support internet speeds 20 or 30 times faster than today’s. According to Verizon, and other telecoms, 5G is designed to foster connections between everything from cities to clothes. What this means for brands is that 5G will help generate even more consumer data, enabling the various devices and services 5G supports to reach their full potential within the next year or two. Michael Kassan, CEO and Chairman of MediaLink, told AdAge, “This is a technology that will eventually transform everything about the way consumers live, and the ripple effect on content consumption patterns will be intense. 5G will arrive in earnest next year, bringing endless possibilities to life for marketers that they need to pay attention to now,” some details of which we covered here.

Consumer Privacy Issues Loom Large, Literally
If privacy didn’t figure prominently on the event agenda, Apple, who traditionally avoids the show, made it a focus when it erected a giant billboard outside the CES convention center proclaiming “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” While the snarky take on the Las Vegas slogan, which journalists tagged as misleading, was intended to troll Google and Facebook, it did underscore an important take-away for both consumers and the advertisers trying to reach them. In the age of data, pretty much every device being shown on the floor is generating data on a consumer, which makes them nervous. According to this study, 75% of consumers say it’s very important to be in control of who can get data on them but only 9% feel they have it. As data-collection increases, which will happen more for audience-targeting purposes than nefarious ones, so will consumers’ sensitivity to the issue. Mindshare’s Chief Instigation Officer Joe Maceda told AdExchanger, “I think if you’re at CES and not thinking about what this technology means for consumer privacy and data usage, then you’re making a big mistake.”

Ultimately, this year’s CES paints a picture of a bright tech-fueled future. But the advancements ushering in the data age will shift many paradigms and advertisers would do well to keep their eyes on these issues and be prepared to move in new directions to stay in step with consumers’ interests.