CES 2016: 3 things that mattered

CES2016 brought less innovation, more maturation. The stars of the past few years: drones, wearables and smart homes have exploded in volume and variety. But it seems innovation has stalled on the show floor, offering only minor improvements in size, design, style and functionality.

For fitness wearables, common features like motion sensing, heart rate, smartphone connectivity and wireless charging are now table stakes, and it was rare to find products that offered more.

The hundreds of consumer drone variants on display were effectively the same product under the hood - offering high-res video, basic autonomy, OK battery life. Some were bigger (EHANG 184 can even transport a person), some were smaller. 

Smart home tech offered thousands of ways to turn a lightbulb on and off, but not much else.

Why the sea of samenesS IN 2016?

The reason for the stagnation is price - in the past few years, component manufacturers in China have tooled up and expanded production of the same wearable components, reducing the cost of doing the same thing as everyone else. 

What really mattered at CES?

Products that truly explored a unique context and user experience at CES2016:

1) Sports-specific wearables: Easton Baseball, EagleEye Football, Xensr & Trace for action sports and Hykso for boxing exploit the passion for their sports via analytics and UX to give insight, training info and bragging rights to users.

2) Smarter drones like Hexo+, Typhoon H & Snap are designed to capture autonomous, awesome "in the moment" videos their owners can show off. These drones are adding auto-follow, collision avoidance and cinematography capabilities into their A.I - trained by seasoned film directors. 

3) Finally, the smart home tech that went largely under the radar was the Amazon Dash-compatible home appliances from Whirlpool. Partnerships between Whirlpool, P&G and Amazon mean the appliance renews its supplies automatically. Whirlpool's Connect to Care system even donates to charity via the internet every time you wash. Washer/dryers, coffee machine and refrigerators now deliver on the decades-old promise of "an appliance that can replenish itself via the internet". This presents an interesting challenge to marketers: a dishwasher doesn't watch TV. It doesn't look at magazine ads. It has brand/retailer allegiance pre-programmed. What is the role of marketing in this Internet Of Things age?