CES Reflections

Executive News & Opinions, Technology CES image

Technology is so emotional. Well, not the technology itself, although the evolution of artificial intelligence may change that someday soon. Technology evokes emotions in people from all walks of life. Fear or excitement, sadness or joy, the emotions toward technology are broad. Love it or hate it, technology is ever increasing its role in all our lives.

 

Last week more than 100,000 technology-loving humans made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to attend CES 2018. They go to be wowed, inspired, surprised. They go to feel where consumer electronics are taking us by seeing it themselves. A brave look into the future delivered by more than 4000 companies from around the world.

 

New Technologies on Display at CES

 

CES delivers not just a view of the future, but also a glimpse into the feeling. The sheer size of CES is almost overwhelming, with booth after booth of innovation. People packed into the bigger exhibits like LG or Samsung, waiting in line to experience it. Feel it. Years before it reaches our homes, cars and offices.

 

These innovations promise to make our lives better, easier, simpler. Many deliver on this promise, but many do not. What differentiates them? There are three characteristics that seemed common in the ones that delivered:

 

  1. Technology powering from the background
  2. Personalized technology for me
  3. Bring technology to where I am

 

Let’s take a look at each one…

 

Technology powering from the background

 

Given the ongoing dislocation caused by technology, exposing most technology directly alienates and complicates. As a technologist, I think it’s cool to have a refrigerator with an Alexa Voice front-end. But really? Alexa for a refrigerator? How many times have you stood in front of your refrigerator and said “If I could only talk to my refrigerator …” What would you tell it? “Thanks for keeping my apple pie fresh?” What does it say in return? “You should really eat less pie and more veggies, Alex!” No thanks.

 

Some of the greatest technologies live in the background. Throughout the CES show floor, companies left and right were celebrating the power of big data and artificial intelligence. The message was this: “Come see the power of artificial intelligence to make the products you know and love smarter.” Most software companies have already figured this out. Advances in machine learning, natural language processing and other technologies are embedded inside experiences at Amazon, Google and Facebook. At Intuit, TurboTax can predict to near perfect accuracy whether you should itemize or take the standard deduction. Our customers don’t need to understand how a graph database or machine learning model work, but those things work for them in unison to make the experience smarter.

 

Personalized technology for me

 

My first trip to CES 4 years ago included a big splash with drones everywhere. Dancing drones, synchronized drones, creepy camera drones. Very cool technology but not very useful. It was technology for technology’s sake. Something every 12-year-old could love.

 

Technologies that personalize a product for me make an even bigger impact. The drone exhibits in 2018 were specialized to your activity. Do you ride a dirt bike and want a drone to follow you around? We have a drone for you. Do you want a drone to take selfies of you and loved ones at those special times? We have a drone for you, too!! How about a drone to conduct a light show (who needs fireworks)? We have 250 drones for you!

 

Lots and lots of personalized technology. The world of software embraces personalization. Use big data, create segments, deliver personalized experiences. It’s what we do. Personalized cars? Technology from MOBIS and Hyundai demonstrated modular cars built to your specifications. Order an SUV for the weekend, then come back Monday for a sedan for the weekly commute.

Many technologies on display at CES are building blocks of personalization. Ways to make it cheaper and easier to deliver a product just right-for-me. The combinations seem endless but if you look past the singing robots, you see personalization at its best. Like personalized robots for the elderly providing companionship, interaction and safety too. Not just building blocks of “cool tech,” but real-life applications that enhance life.

 

Bring technology to where I am

Humans are creatures of habit. The only thing harder than learning something is unlearning something. Technology that can come to me where I already am prevents having to unlearn the way I did things. I just keep doing it and it just works better.

 

Nothing reflects this better than the wide array of automotive technology on display at CES. Nearly every automaker is in the “smart car” business. Once a dream, self-driving cars are becoming more and more real. Yet not everyone wants a self-driving car. I enjoy driving my car and other than long trips on the interstate, I don’t want to give it up. I do want my car to be smarter and easier to use with fewer distractions of buttons to push. As much as I don’t want to talk to my refrigerator, talking to my car is great. Well, Panasonic announced that it has created a platform to make it easier for carmakers to integrate Alexa into cars. The limited and crude voice interaction with my car leaves me longing for more. Perfect upgrade. Can’t wait to see it in my car!

Another place always looking for technology to make things better is the classroom. Electronics manufacturer Haier introduced a series of smart home solutions, but most compelling to me was a virtual chalkboard that not only allows you to easily draw and erase, but has lots of built-in teaching assistants. I took a quick primer on how to “draw” Chinese characters. The device can also enable remote learning. It was a little clunky, but it’s already possible to see the power of such devices.

 

Intuit’s Role at CES

 

At Intuit, we do not produce consumer electronics. Why do some of my colleagues and I make the yearly trip to CES? Since Scott Cook founded Intuit 34 years ago, we have dedicated ourselves to customer empathy. Not just understanding the customer emotion, but feeling it ourselves. The attendees at this event are our customers, too. Tens of millions of consumers looking for the next gadget use TurboTax each year. Millions of self-employed and small business owners searching for solutions to simply run their business use QuickBooks. As the world of physical, biological and digital come together, Intuit wants to understand these innovations. We arrive in Las Vegas to be inspired, to feel the emotion of our customers and to ride the wave of technology. We strive to drive prosperity around the world by developing personalized solutions. I’m inspired and can’t wait until the world sees what we do next.

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