CES – Drones, Phones and Wearabletech!

For those of you unfamiliar with CES it’s the annual Consumer Electronics show and the Hollywood of Tech. A glitzy VIP club for the latest shiny new things. It sends the press into hyperbole and brings out the techno-geek in all of us. Of course Las Vegas is the perfect backdrop – an incongruous fantasy world in the middle of the desert (a description that could apply equally to both show and city). The combination is quite overpowering, yet seductive enough to attract 150,000 visitors annually. After four shows I’m still not sure whether I love it or hate it – either way there’s no doubting its credentials to fuel the imagination in ways few other shows can match.

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The Strip at night.

2014 was the largest in history with 2 million square feet of exhibit space and over 3200 exhibitors. It is simply stellar in dimension. This year the pretty young things were hailed as wearable tech, drones, 3D printing, next gen smart phones and the Internet of Things to name a few. All exciting opportunities no doubt, but time will tell which live up to the promise. That 3D printing and wearable tech have been around for decades didn’t seem to matter; this year both technologies had evolved to a futuristic sexiness that demanded attention.

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South Hall Entrance

Wearables had been catapulted to stardom by the booming smartphone and app market and just needed the sensors to catch up. Perhaps I should be more interested in how long I’ve sat down and how many calories I’ve burnt, but what would I do with the information bar feel a little guilty about my second piece of toast? The real potential of wearable tech is still waiting in the wings. Imagine a comprehensive health monitor that diagnoses all manner of health problems before they arise – now that sounds useful, but still only scratching the surface as just about everything we use evolves into a connected network.

So we enter the surreal Internet of Things. A rather expansive term attributed to the British technologist Kevin Ashton, encapsulating the concept that everyday objects are now connecting to the internet. Each one uniquely identifiable, accessible, controllable and working silently in the background to make life better. (At least I hope that’s the outcome). And the machines manage themselves. M2M or Machine to Machine technology is growing with google-like determination, with IDC forecasting 212 billion connected things by 2020 and over 30billion autonomous things. Whether the thought of things controlling things without human intervention fills you with wonder or something less savory, it is going to happen and will be one of the biggest revolutions over the horizon. All part of the BIG DATA phenomenon.

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The LV Monorail – every 4 minutes to the show at peak times

3D printing in the home is an impossibly exciting prospect, but what would I print? It’s too slow and expensive for things that can be mass produced – if you wanted a new plastic fork, you’d just buy one. No, the value of 3D printing, at least in the short term, is to create something unique. The prototype and hobbyist market is booming whilst personalization of objects has yet to find mainstream appeal, but watch this space…!

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3D printed models (hand painted) at the 3D systems booth

And so to Kodak Alaris. This was our first CES as the new company. As I entered the foyer to the South Hall and climbed the escalator, a Kodak Moments sign hove into view. We had secured prime position at the hall entrance – it could not have been better sited.

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The Kodak Moments Print Place

The team was busy setting up an array of kiosks and mobile printing sales collateral. I continued on to our conference room suite and demo facilities in Hall 4 of the South Hall next to Google. (Incidentally – it is always a source of amazement to me how the show floor moves from utter mess to pristine overnight.)

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South Hall the day before opening.

Our show message was mobile. A third of the world’s population will have a smartphone with a hi-res camera by 2017 – already the preferred way of capturing planned as well as spontaneous photos. Gartner estimates total app downloads tripped past 100 billion in 2013. The number of digital images in existence is now estimated at over 2 trillion and growing fast. And each time we make it easier for consumers to print and do more with their images from smartphones we see a step change upwards in printing. Already we have accounts with over 20% of orders from Mobile devices. Our My Kodak Moments app passed 3 million downloads in December, and in October last year we took the bold step of allowing any developer to add Kodak printing capability to existing and new photo based apps with the launch of the Kodak Photo Service.  We now have seven partner apps live giving a total of 14million app downloads available to print.

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Image from CNN article 8th Jan 2014

Our message at the show was simple. You can now print easily from your mobile devices wherever you are – and the Kodak connected infrastructure and range of apps able to do this is growing all the time.

On the first day of the show the severe east coast weather was still making headlines. I was delayed a day travelling over and with 17,000 flights cancelled the prior week;there was no doubt early attendance was affected. It quickly picked up on Day two though as airlines worked their way through Atlantic quantities of de-icer and got the US moving again.

The lobby booth was a storming success and bustling with activity from dawn till dusk every day. Feedback was unanimously positive and we have a great opportunity to further expand our touchpoints, connected retail distribution and awareness. Our open platform mobile strategy in this space has been well received by press and customers alike and there is much to play for over the coming months.

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Karen Hoff –  in control at the lobby booth!

Finally I would like to thank our tireless team who really did a wonderful job in the planning and execution of our CES presence – it was a great success! The next show is the big one for our industry – Photokina, which takes place in September at Cologne. Look forward to sharing the experience as it happens, it’s sure to be a something special

Best wishes to all for 2014!

Darren