CES 2018: Key Takeaways

neXCurve attended the largest consumer electronics trade show on the planet with over 180,000 in attendance to identify the deeper technology and market trends that are underlying the rapid evolution of our digital lives and are expressed in the new digitally-enabled consumer applications from smart homes, virtual reality to connected vehicles.

This year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) was bigger than ever and more difficult to navigate than the shows that we have attended in the past few years spanning at least seven convention halls and hotels across The Strip and the LVCC.  After 18 miles of hiking through multiple convention halls and interactions with over 200 companies and startups, we walked away with six key takeaways that we believe define the state of consumer digital today and drive where it will go in 2018.

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Key neXt Curve Takeaways from CES 2018

Smart Cities Need a Holistic Vision, A Holistic Approach

This year, we attended a couple of seminar discussions on the topic of smart cities hosted by leading consultancies to get a pulse on the state this category of Internet of Things use case. Most smart city projects seem to continually face challenges in developing compelling business case that deliver transformative value beyond simple cost savings. Lani Ingram, VP at Verizon, emphasized a need for a broader solution that addresses a more compelling problem, yet most smart city initiatives are focused on smart lighting and metering or hanging their hopes on 5G and the promise of autonomous driving. Our take – cost reduction is a great outcome, but cities need bigger, more holistic ideas and aspirations to realize transformative value, which will require rethinking and reimagining the idea of a city enabled by digital and non-digital technologies.

Personal Mobility Takes the Catwalk – Stylish & Sexy


We continue to see advancements in personal transportation with offerings taking on more stylish forms across categories from scooters, mopeds, electric bikes and hover boards.  A great example is the UJET electric scooter, which provides personal mobility in a light-weight, portable assembly that can be controlled via a mobile app with GPS, Bluetooth and 3G connectivity. Additionally, we are seeing increased use of IoT solution patterns across alternative transportation for security, tracking, maintenance, and other advanced functions that we associate with connected cars. We hope to see broader adoption of personal transportation as they continue to evolve with new modes of convenience, connectivity and improved cosmetics.

The New Hope of Wearables – Sports

With improvements in biometric sensor and new implementations in the form of smart clothing, wearables are increasingly capable, accurate and widely deployable in new use cases.  These improvements in wearable functions and applications have brought about a notable shift in vendor focus from simple fitness to sports and athletics.  We have come a long way from the FitBit activity tracker.  We are also seeing the emergence of new social gaming and performance management apps based on granular biometric data points harvested by the new generation of wearables.  We expect that the wearables category continues toward higher-end applications in sports and athletics, especially the sub-category of smart clothing.

Say Bye to Smart Speakers.  Say Hi to Digital Companions

Digital Companions

As robotics and AI technologies converge, we will see digital companions further humanize the interactions that we have with digital interfaces/things in the home and commercial settings through gestures.  Gestures and “facial” expressions are important aspects of human communication.  Devices such as Jibo provide a deeper level of emotional engagement through physical cues such as nodding, blinking, head-tilting, which are intelligently interlaced into the spoken communication that you have with the device. The digital companions are sedentary, but we already have examples of mobile digital companions such as the Softbank’s Pepper, which is mobile and eerily “human”.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Face… Reality

After a fast start out of the gate back in 2016, the steam seems to have come out of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality this year.  It seems we have reached the peak of inflated expectations and are not headed to the trough of disillusionment as compelling content seems to elude the market of clunky headsets that continue to suffer from archetypical experience issues.  We didn’t notice any huge advancements in device form factors in either the AR or VR categories.  We feel that “good” consumer VR and AR are still a way off and it will be necessary to draw earnest dollars and creative energy into the content that will create a viable market for these technologies.

Bifurcated Future of Transportation – East vs. West


Over the last few years, the auto industry has dramatically expanded their footprint from after-market audio and infotainment systems, to autonomous systems and entire vehicles (integrated digital systems).  This year, we were impressed with the broadening category of digitally-enabled “non-car” platforms such as electric bikes, connected scooters, GPS and LTE-connected hover boards.  If we were to think about how legacy auto manufactures redefine their business, it would be Toyota’s e-Palette, which represents a compelling reimagining of personal mobility and commercial transportation.  We felt that the e-Pallete went back to the essence of what an auto company does, provides personal mobility solutions.  Innovative big auto companies such as Toyota may be key to enabling the rethinking and redesigning of how we live, how we work and how we operate our business and supply chains in a new digital economy.

Implications for Business Leaders

There is a difference between digitally-enabled innovation that creates new products, business models and customer experiences, and the digital-enablement of conventional products, business models and customer experiences.  Nowhere is this realization more critical than with the idea of smart cities and the next big thing in transportation, which continue to become bigger topics at CES in recent years and years to come as digital consumer technologies continue to change the way we live.  In our observation smart city and transportation of the future initiatives are mired in conventional thinking that limits the value potential of digital technologies to enable new forms, infrastructures and possibilities for what cities can be and what will be the next big thing after the car.  “Disruptive innovation” will only come with re-imagination – e-Pallete.

For more detailed insights and findings, check out our webcast replay – CES 2018 Event Review featuring Leonard Lee and Akshay Sharma.  Leonard and Akshay share their top technology picks of CES 2018 and detailed insights into the key trends and technologies that will shape our digital lives in 2018 and beyond.

You can also listen to the audio replay of our CES 2018 Event Review webcast by playing the media below or downloading the Podcast available on iTunes.  Subscribe to our Podcast channel and keep up to date on the latest insights from neXt Curve.

Audio replay of the CES 2018: Key Takeaways webinar


Leonard Lee

Managing Director, neXCurve


Akshay Sharma

Research & Advisory Fellow, neXt Curve

January 15, 2018

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