Putting the Consumer Back in Consumer Electronics

Yesterday we touched on the maturing of technologies that have surprised and impressed us in past years.  Of course, with that maturity comes more and more true consumer electronics–products that are ready for consumers to buy and use, as soon as they show up on the shelves of our local Target store or our Amazon app recommendations. (One of our personal favorites: https://www.smartgurlz.com/)

Consider though, the consumer who aspires to use all these devices:  

  • One device/app to assess your skin, another to mix your custom moisturizer blend and another to track your latest foosball record

In the Whirlpool displays, a refrigerator with integrated Amazon dash buttons on its small touchscreen sat in the same model kitchen as an oven with a sign reading “works with the Google Assistant”.

  • Remember to say “Alexa” before asking to order Tide or unlock the front door, but “Hey, Google” if you want to turn on the oven or change the lighting.
  • Renovate your home with “smart” connected solutions but choose wisely between whole home solutions from a company like Vivint and great point solutions like Ring.

For large companies, this introduces a challenge to integrate across disparate business units so that individual products can be presented as true solutions. (For instance, could parents and children have just one app to help them brush their teeth?)  But considering the bigger picture there’s another more interesting opportunity to create platforms that allow things to coexist.  (Can we just say “Preheat oven to 350” instead of remembering if Google Assistant or Alexa is managing the oven?)

In our first prediction for CES 2019, we expect to see lots of creative advancements in creating platforms that bring the focus back to the consumer and help them sort through all the apps and assistants.  We’ll also expect more aggressive vertical integration along the lines of Whirlpool’s prominent placement of Yummly alongside their appliances.  It’s a short leap to imagine a world in which Whirlpool/Yummly decide where your groceries will come from and what brand they’ll be–based, of course, on business partnerships with grocery chains and CPG companies (or maybe just with Amazon?).