As I scurried to catch the opening CES session at the Las Vegas Convention Center I passed by Zoltar the Great in the Hotel shopping promenade. I found it a fitting reminder that all predictions of the future are probably not much more accurate than a coin-operated vending machine from a 1988 Tom Hanks movie. I will pass by Zoltar each morning and evening so perhaps he will help temper the irrational exuberance that often comes over CES attendees. You will be my judges on how successful I am on that.

I am attending CES to observe trends and network with suppliers and partners that I believe with help advance the local innovation ecosystem. In partnership with Zpryme, I will be publishing a couple of short blog posts about the things I am learning and the interesting innovators I am meeting.

CES is a huge event with an estimated 175,000 people attending. You likely have seen a lot of stories about CES in the media as there are over 1,200 registered and they have had behind the scenes access for the last two days before CES officially opens. Rather than duplicate their efforts, I will focus on reporting on the following subjects that I believe will be interesting for Zpryme’s network, including:

  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Electrification of Transportation
  • Smart Cities
  • Resilience
  • Startups

In addition to the exhibit halls that open on Tuesday, I will be spending a lot of time visiting Eureka Park, a showcase of over 1,200 start-up companies from all over the world. Have something you want me to investigate at CES? Post a comment below and I will get back to you with what I find.

A Couple of Takeaways from Day 1 Educational Sessions

CES is more well known for its expansive exhibit halls (4,500 exhibitors) and CEO keynote speeches than its educational sessions. Since exhibits are not open on day one I attended a handful of sessions and offer the following takeaways you might find interesting.

Customer Experience is not as simple as we were taught! The mantra goes something like segment your customers, record their preferences, create personas and journey maps to guide your design, and you will have the building blocks for the road to delighting customers right? Wrong according to Carol Campbell, Managing Director, Consumer Insight at Delta Air Lines. Delta has learned their customer expectations are different when they are traveling to speaking engagement versus the return trip home when they might want to relax and have a more indulgent experience. They have also learned that humans are more likely to have a physiological response to sadness and fear at altitude than on the ground. For the Utility industry, the corollary is the customer involved in an outage rather than not involved in an outage. This is logical and intuitive but is often not mentioned in other sessions I have attended.

Change is hard until it isn’t. A couple of speakers used a number of well-cited metaphors to illustrate how disruptive change can be and how quickly people actually adopt the things that initially they refuse to consider. Yes, you are probably thinking of Kodak and digital cameras but I think the early car phones are the better analogy. How many of us heard people say why would I need that with the ubiquitous nature of payphones and landline telephone network. Or how many Blackberry users scoffed at the idea of a mobile phone without physical buttons. Fast forward to today and rumors are swirling that the next iPhone will not have a charging/headphone port. Soon our phones will be externally featureless blocks of glass and metal. Wait… I sense Zoltar judging me.

The debate between “ownership” and “usership” is increasing in volume. The context within the session applied to vehicle ownership (purchase/financing), assumed ownership (it virtually belongs to you for the leasing period), and mobility-as-a-service access via a subscription network. The speaker defined the subscription experience as getting into a car with someone else’s old coffee cup and sunglasses left behind. That speaker implanted a thought bubble that made me question my exuberance on an impending robo-taxi invasion. Switching industries, what model will prevail in a world where point-of-use power generation becomes economic and widespread?