At CES 2016, the big names disappointed. And when you trek to one of the world’s largest conferences showcasing technology and innovation, you expect more. Much more. The big boys (Samsung, LG, etc.…) continue to focus on the flashy products that on the surface are certainly shiny, but don’t really serve a consumer-centric purpose. That said, while there were some devices that impressed, the big hype was around PR worthy innovations. And so in the age of the loT (Internet of Things), companies are trying too hard to make every product “smart”. Nothing wrong with smart, but consumers need new products that do their job better than the previous version (or solve a problem). That would be smart enough.
A perfect example was Samsung’s new Family Hub Refrigerator: You slap a giant tablet to the front of the door; throw some cameras inside the shelves and now it’s “smart”? Doesn’t this just add another cumbersome gadget that will annoy consumers when it doesn’t solve all the problems it claims it will? How will it know that I’m out of milk when the carton isn’t see through? Maybe next year’s biggest invention will be the transparent milk carton.
Surprisingly, the Family Hub Fridge completely overshadowed what I would say is a much greater achievement for the fridge, Whirlpool’s new Smart French Door Refrigerator. This new model was about solving problems, not straining to be smart. And the problems it solved were based on the types of features consumers actually use, including organizing the low tech parts more intuitively while adding the new tech that makes things better and more energy efficient. I started thinking about all of the pains that my current fridge causes: I simply can’t see the ice cream growing frostbite in the back of the freezer. I simply can’t fit the pizza box in. And the damn ice maker keeps partially melting cubes together.
Here’s a small list I compiled of what I thought to be the best (underrated) innovations at the conference that may have not received a lot of attention, but are certainly set for helping consumers for the future.
First Alert Baby Monitor – As a father, who is scared by everything, low and behold a baby monitor that tracks your child’s breathing without needing to strap a tangled contraption to them.
Mcor Arke 3D Printer – These guys didn’t just go with the trend and create another plastic resin printer. They reimagined how 3D printing should be.
Sevenhugs Smart Remote – There were a lot of smart home repeats, but this is one of the devices I’ve been longing for – A remote that can seamlessly transition and control any device in a house.
Tangible Displays – A unique way of featuring product details in retail environments.
Think & Go Connected Screen – A digital display that can drive impulse purchases with tap and pay built into the screen.
To wrap, I’d say while the big names at CES focused on making supposedly “smart” connected devices with gratuitous tech; the innovative companies were solving real problems. Always better focus on encompassing all facets of innovation, not just the cool stuff that won’t help us navigate the near future, especially in the retail sector. In retail, it’s not just what’s in store, it’s what’s intuitive.