This post is a summary of ideas, interesting trends and startups to follow that Moffu Labs has synthesized after having visited the CES 2017 in Las Vegas
Moffu Labs: Highlights from the Consumer Electronic Show
Objective(s) of the CES 2017 visit:
1. Understand the latest and winning trends in consumer electronics
2. Assess the interest of emerging startup to expand in Europe
3. Identify potential startup candidates or successful technologies that could be interesting
CES is the largest Consumer Electronic Show in North America and among the largest in the world, taking place every year early January in Las Vegas, spread across threesites (LVCC – Las Vegas Conference Centre, The Sands, Aria).
Focus is primarily on consumer-oriented hardware, across almost every B2C industry. Limited showcase of pure software or B2B hardware, apart few exceptions like key stakeholders in Silicon Valley such as chip makers.
A large hall is dedicated to startups, bulk of them in “late stage” with a few exceptions in “early stage” but almost all of them in “post revenue” phase
- CES and HighTech B2C market is dominated by USA and Asian (China, Taiwan, and South Korea – followed by Japan) players. The CES had limited presence of companies from different regions than North America and Asia, a part from the notable exception of a large French cluster in the startup hall led by semi-government “umbrella” called La French Tech (http://www.lafrenchtech.com/). Probably Europe is more an area of expansion/development of foreign-generated ideas and products, than a ground where to nurture and develop new ideas.
- Different consumer industries are at a very different level of development. Some industries, such as brown goods, wearable gadget/devices and drones are very advanced (drones probably at a point of maturity), while some others such as EEG, smart-clothing and automotive are at a relatively early stage. As a consequence, there are some consumer industries that are still “green”, where is still a good time to invest, vs. the ones that are more “mature”, in absence of a technological revolution, such as drones.
Main insights and conclusion:
- Gadget and wearable hardware seems extremely advanced segments, and are the segments that will probably reach an inflection point soon. Specifically, two sub-industries (wearable-sport and wearable-health) where showing a large number of players with extremely advanced and user-friendly solutions.However with such a proliferation of solutions that, at this stage, is unclear to understand who will be the winner in the mid term. Particularly, within the wearable-health, the “sleeping” sub-sub-industry seems to have a particularly strong offering
- Elderly, kids and pets are creating a new stream of devices. In the pet-care sub-industry, there is again a proliferation of devices to monitor and to track animals (e.g., http://www.kyontracker.com/). In the kids segment, robots (especially modular-robots) seems a particularly developed segment, with a strong focus on “education” and teaching kids the basics of logic and programming. In the elderly and social interaction segment, social robots are becoming a reality, thanks to voice recognition software that are well above a satisfactory level, working very well also in environments with a lot of noise. Not surprisingly, Japanese players, where aging population and consequently the cost of keeping it active is already an issue, had several companies offering similar solutions.
- None of the companies interviewed during CES were interested into a business partnership with a European player, a part some limited interest for distribution. Excluding the large household names like Samsung and Sony with large European operations from the interviews, the bulk of the Small/Mid-size companies in growth stage, claimed they were comfortable selling their products in Europe via the likes of Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. None has shown any kind of interest into a business partner, a part from getting in touch with distributors able to reach European electronic retailers.
- Drones is a very mature and fragmented market, dominated by Asian cheap manufacturers. Walking across the halls, drones were available in any shape, color, and design, leading to the conclusion that probably there is not much to invent in that sector anymore and is too late for a late entrant.
- Not surprisingly, Chinese and Taiwanese dominated the manufacturing side of CES. However what was surprising was the quality, the fit and finishing of many of the unknown household names. Plus the speed of development, as in many areas, included the most advanced sub-sectors such as wearable-health: it looks what once where called the “cheap Asian” manufacturersare not lagging behind their North American counterparts in them of latest technologies and features.
- As spotted by many magazines, Alexa was the clear winner in the CES. Alexa, and its voice recognition system, was present in almost every technology, even beyond where you expected to find it, such as smartphones (e.g., Huawei): from automotive (e.g., Ford, VolksWagen) to home appliances/automation (e.g., Whirlpool, Samsung, LG), media (e.g., inside Dish DVR), social robots, lights (e.g., GE leds). Overall Alexa clearly leapfrogged what I consider semi-competitors such as Microsoft Cortana and Google Now (not to mention Apple Siri, which was almost non-present)
- TV and brown goods hall suffered from a “sea of sameness” perception. The feeling is that TV 3D is already forgotten, while curved display are really not taking off. In the meanwhile, screen manufacturers are trying to differentiate themselves from competition via such advanced technologies that need to be displayed in extremely specific environments, such as closed environments or super-dark rooms,in order to make them consumer noticeable.
- White goods were also in display, but primarily linked to smart home solutions (again Alexa presence was far above Google Home). However more often than not, smart home solutions where next to anti-hacking solutions, which, from the psychological point of view, I believe somehow limited the appeal of smart home solutions.
- Automotive had a huge presence (OEM, accessories like audio, parts manufacturers, and software) but it was by far the more “disconnected” ecosystem in the whole CES. On one side car manufacturers showing prototypes at very different stage of development (from VW showing an almost basic “connectivity” solution to Toyota showing a prototype 20 years down the road, via Faraday Future launching its own end-to-end product to compete with Tesla), on the other side parts manufacturer (such as lidars (a detection system which works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser), the sensors required for autonomous driving) and microchip manufacturers (e.g., Intel, Qualcomm, Blackberry with its real time QNX software, Nvidia) showcasing advanced safety solutions and autonomous driving. All around, minor players, from electric car charging stations to smart fleet management software. The feeling was that the mobility industry does not look like a well balanced ecosystem, where each of the players become leader in one of the value chain steps: passenger car manufacturers try to position themselves as end-to-end offering a portfolio of services from connectivity, to self parking, to autopilot; companies coming from high-tech showcased advanced technologies, unable to clarify when they will be available, on which models. Plus the feeling of a huge investment in autonomous driving, in absence of clear guidelines and rule from the regional regulatory bodies. To note, NHTSA was not present at any panel on future of mobility and didn’t even have a stand.
- Notable, a part from Faraday Future and a few prototypes, electric vehicles where almost not present at CES.Quite surprising for a Consumer Electronic Show, neither electric cars nor electric motorbikes were very visible at CES. However a few look-a-like electric powered small-scooter, mopeds and skateboards where present in the Asian booth, but without much emphasis.
Early stage companies potentially interesting to follow: