It’s not easy to grasp the dimensions of the gadget-palooza taking place in Las Vegas this week. CES started fifty years ago for the benefit of buyers and sellers of televisions and pocket radios. Today, it’s a five-day affair hosting 180,000 people and displaying tens of thousands of new products in 43 football fields’ worth of convention space.
I spent a couple of hours wandering through the morass yesterday, looking at products that ranged from a self-cleaning cat litter box to an indoor wall that grows lettuce under LED lights. There are “smart” products of all kinds – including smart toothbrushes, smart hairbrushes, smart mattresses, smart breast pumps. You can see some of our favorite new products here.
A few takeaways:
First, Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, Alexa, has established the early lead in becoming the operating system for the smart home. While Google, Apple and Lenovo all offer competing services, it’s the silver-throated Alexa who has convinced the most third-party vendors to develop clever new products in synch with it.
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Second, sleep is becoming big business. ResMed was pushing a sleep sensor, which monitors your sleep patterns from your bedside. And a company called NuCalm had conference attendees stretched out in lounge chairs, after first giving them a “proprietary formulation of amino acids,” hooking up “neuropatches” that provide a “sub-sensory microcurrent,” and giving them an eye mask and headphones that “modulate brain wave function between Alpha and Theta frequencies – where healing, recovery, and restoration occur naturally.” I was sorely tempted to join the slumbering crowd, but all chairs were taken.
Finally, CES has become the ultimate proof of a point I’ve made here before: tech is no longer an industry, it is a strategic piece of every industry. For auto executives, CES has become as important as the auto shows. Our Brainstorm Tech dinner Wednesday night even included a top executive from the insurance industry — Allstate CEO Tom Wilson — and one from the fashion industry — Ralph Lauren Vice Chairman David Lauren. To anyone in Vegas this week, it’s clear: We are all technology companies now.