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William Anderson
William Anderson 17 January 2019

CES 2019: What does IoT, 5G and voice mean for marketing?

With the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas over for another year, we pick out the big trends that marketers and consumers alike will be mulling over in the year ahead…

William Anderson
William Anderson 17 January 2019

With the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas over for another year, we pick out the big trends that marketers and consumers alike will be mulling over in the year ahead…


Since the first Consumer Electronics Show back in 1967, it’s grown into a clear barometer for tech goings on for the year ahead.

Now held every January in Las Vegas, over the years CES has seen the introduction of some massive technological advances – such as the home video cassette recorder, the Commodore 64, Blu-ray Discs, OLED displays, digital satellite TV, HD TV, 3D TV, and 3D printers, to name just a few.

So, smart marketers always have their eye on the show, to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in consumer technology, and how the trends will define marketing in the months and years to come.

Here’s what we picked out from this year’s show…


‘Things’ are looking up

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices at this year’s CES really hammers home the point that connected homes are becoming more and more a consumer aspiration, if not yet a full-blown reality.

From auto-cleaning kitty litter boxes to a range of very pricey ‘smart mirrors’, it’s clear that the IoT world is only going to expand.

Hand in hand with the trend towards IoT in the home comes the ongoing virtual assistant wars. Stands across the show were keen to point out Alexa or Google Home compatibility, and the growth of virtual assistant technology clearly asks questions about the way people interact with and buy products in future.

Check out our blog on the impact of voice-recognition devices on marketing here.


Gimme 5G

The innovations coming from the IoT merchants will be empowered by another big theme of CES 2019 – 5G mobile networks. Requiring less power and with less latency than traditional 3G/4G deployments, 5G will crack open the opportunities that all this smart technology offers up.

However, this year the 5G bandwagon suffered similar stutters that 4G did in years gone by. Samsung announced it would release its first 5G smartphone this year, with 28GHz mmWave trials with Verizon already underway in the United States. Intel, Disney and Qualcomm all announced intentions to deploy 5G-based solutions in 2019, taking advantage of the much greater speeds afforded by the new 28GHz and 39GHz technology.

AT&T confirmed it already has an operational 5G network in major urban centres in the US, but undermined the whole thing by updating the phones of existing 4G customers to display a “5G E” logo (for “5G Evolution”), when in fact they were connected to modernised 4G networks.

AT&T did this before, with the iPhone 4S in 2012, showing “4G” when connected to an HSPA+ network – which the rest of the world calls “3G”.

This perception blunder aside, 5G definitely has a full head of steam going into the new year, simply because of the potential faster mobile networks have to change things.

The capability to transmit for longer and with lower delay enables augmented reality apps and vehicular communication at much higher fidelity and intelligence than with 3G or 4G. Yep, we’re talking driverless vehicles.

5G means autonomous cars can perform path planning and offloaded machine learning, and even small changes such as reducing a network delay of 100 milliseconds to 10 milliseconds can mean braking distances are reduced to the extent that driverless cars become much more viable.

Taking the smart technology revolution to the next level, US mobile network operator Sprint announced a “smart city build-out” in Greenville, South Carolina, featuring a test track for smart startups to test vehicle autonomy.


The art of the possible

We’ve barely scratched the silvery aluminium veneer on top of everything that happened at CES. The gadgets and toys that appear year after year are pretty much the same, but the audacious ideas that get generated going into and coming out of CES are the things for marketers to look out for.

Expect to be wrestling with voice channels, new ways to take advantage of mobile, and the growth of machine learned decision making to make an appearance on your agenda this year.

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