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Over the course of three days, Carat was focused on how the latest technologies could be applied to current brand and business challenges. It is our goal to ground the innovations we see in an understanding of human intelligence that prepares brands for today, tomorrow and the future.
The tipping point
As we look ahead, 2020 will be a pivotal year on many fronts, not only for tech, but for
society and culture. In previous years, CES provided ongoing updates on incremental
changes. This year, we saw that most of the “things to come” are technologies and
applications that we’ve already seen.
Whether it’s autonomous or flying cars, robots in the home, the promise of AR/VR and 5G
- not many concepts surprised us this year. However, we believe that the next wave of
technologies to come in 3-5 years will unlock new concepts and applications we simply
aren’t thinking of today.
In 2020, we are at the beginning of a tipping point where recent advances in these
technologies (particularly Artificial Intelligence and 5G) will lay the foundation for these
revolutionary new concepts and technologies to take shape. Carat approached CES
2020 with the lens of “Practical Innovation,” understanding how consumer behavior is
being shaped, and how technology drives it.
Everyone is and will continue to talk about
politics on a daily basis, especially with the
upcoming 2020 U.S. elections looming.
Not only are certain candidates taking on
big tech companies, but there is new
legislation, like CCPA, being implemented.
All of this chatter is creating more awareness
and knowledge of these previously more
opaque topics to the average American.
Privacy continued to be a hot topic at
CES and is even more important due to
the change in consumer knowledge on
After a 28-year hiatus, Apple joined a
Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable
discussion at CES, which also included
P&G and Facebook.
The streaming wars gather momentum, as
Quibi and Peacock both held keynote’s at
Not only is there a fight for people’s wallets,
but more importantly for their time and
attention. These streaming video services will
take a chunk in advertising sales, creating
an increasingly cluttered environment for
Technology without context is impractical.
Tech’s unintended consequences
CES 2020 showed us a future of connected everything. Cameras in every corner of our
homes, facial recognition on our streets, and in our cars. Then add Alexa to everything -
even if it doesn’t make the most sense (see Kohler’s $11,000 Alexa enabled toilet?).
We’ve seen many examples of tech backfire, whether it’s data leaks, in-home camera
feed hacks, or Deepfakes. We are moving at such a rapid pace in integrating our lives
and personal data with tech that we aren’t properly equipped to mange the
unintended consequences of it.
Although it’s almost impossible to stop the moving train of tech, CES 2020 highlighted
some products that considered the user’s privacy. From laptop camera “kill-switches”, to
Delta’s Parallel Reality privacy screens, or even self-destructing DNA tests via DNANudge,
we look forward to seeing even more responsibility from tech companies when it comes
to mining our data and assuring the consumer of their privacy.
Ring Camera’s feed hack
Delta’s parallel reality screens HP laptop with webcam kill switch
Apple’s Global Privacy Director
addressing encryption on device
Innovation for good
While Innovation for good continues to be a theme, what we saw this CES was a shift to
more practical and launchable products that improve people’s lives – or the planet. A
few great examples:
1. With the global rise in anxiety, Muzo took a look at how to improve your everyday
environment by eliminating noise pollution that can add to anxiety and stress. Goodbye
to those obnoxious car horns while you are trying to work from home- this device uses
vibrations to absorb sounds and cancel out harmful noise.
2. Segway has upgraded the wheelchair by creating a sleek, covetable design that is
easier to use and takes less effort than a traditional wheelchair. This was one of our
favorites as this year’s event.
3. Impossible Foods leveraged CES to launch new products, with this year being the year
of fake pork. The Impossible Sausage crossiant-wich will be at limited Burger Kings later in
Muzo’s noise cancelling device Segway’s wheelchair
Impossible Foods announces Pork
One of the most exciting themes we noticed at CES 2020, was the use of technology to
democratize healthcare. Where many parts of our country (and the world) cannot
afford access to great healthcare, many companies are looking to find solutions through
tech. We saw a future where wearables and devices could supplement practitioners,
predict health issues, or even help heal through therapy.
Some of our favorite examples include:
- EyeQue – self administered eye tests brings the optometrist visit to your home.
- AerBetic – wearble diabetes device that uses breath, not blood, to infer diabetic
- WELT – smartbelt that assesses and aims to prevent fall risk with the elderly.
- OrCam – AI driven wearable for the vision and hearing impaired. A camera that can
read to the user, read lips, and even recognize friends.
- Jennie – animatronic dog with realistic fur designed to provide comfort for seniors.
EyeQue Jennie by Tombot
AerBetic WELT Smartbelt
Personification of technology
Robotics and voice assistance has had an ever-growing presence each year at CES, so
we were excited to see what is next in this space.
Due to an aging population and a rise in the ”single” economy, this vertical of
technology is morphing from “assistance” to “companionship,” becoming more human-
like in look and interaction.
The most exciting news in this space was Samsung’s Neon project. Neons are digital
avatars that look and act like real people. They are not all knowing like AI assistants, but
are designed to be more like humans who learn from interactions and experiences.
Neon is designed to help with goal orientated tasks or things that require more of a
human touch. We expect service industries like education, finance, health care, and
entertainment to be the first to test this new technology. Samsung has assured that deep
fake technology can’t be used with these avatars.
Who knows, this time next year you may be getting your morning news on Quibi from a
Neon digital avatar.
Samsung’s Project Neon
Beyond the car
CES has easily become one of the Auto industry’s biggest showcase, with most of the
focus being on concept cars, electric vehicles, autonomous cars, and flying Ubers. This
year we saw more of the same, but the big auto makers weren’t the only stars on the
floor. As the industry looks at what’s next beyond the car we saw many technology
companies unveiling their in-car tech, but in Sony’s case, their own concept car, the
There was a strong presence from tech companies like LG, Koch, Amazon, Byton, and
Sony, who all showed their version of the “future living room,” as cars turned into
entertainment theaters, nap pods, and offices. Although we are many years away from
this future, it’s interesting to see how dominant media will be inside the car.
Hyundai x Uber promises
their “Air Taxi” by 2023
Source: CNET - https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/pictures/cool-car-stuff-ces-2020/9/
ZeroG Lounger by BMW
Sony’s own produced concept car,
Streaming wars fueling ecosystem wars
Last year we discussed the Streaming Wars and how the new platforms and services
were going to battle it out over who would win consumers’ attention and wallets. With
new entrants from Disney+, Apple TV+, Quibi, HBO Max, and Peacock, and Netflix
doubling down, we expect to see the first glimpses of this battle royale. Although we
won’t really see the affects of the “Streaming Wars” until content is returned back to
their respective platforms between 2021-2023.
Furthermore, there are a couple additional trends that are shaping where we view
content as a weapon in the greater overlapping ecosystem confrontations:
• We’ve seen pureplay content platforms like Netflix start to see adversity without
ancillary business models to drive revenue. With more competition in the market,
subscription prices are lowering, IP losses push increased budgets for original
content, and Netflix still doesn’t offer ads or data licensing.
• Tech’s rapid adoption of bundling content to prevent churn or to make tangential
businesses with higher margin more desirable to benefit the full ecosystem.
• Telecom companies are acquiring content creators to control the pipes, the
content, and data.
• Most streaming platforms have diversified revenue sources in which content
and data enhance their other offerings.
• Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL, HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple
TV+, and Hulu all offer either free or highly subsidized with service.
Source: NYTimes, Motley Fool, Matt Ball VC
“When we win a Golden Globe,
it helps us sell more shoes”
– Jeff Bezos
The new value exchange
Due to the increase in pay-for services, consumers are starting to get angry about the
number of things that are piling up in their bank account. From gym memberships, to
music platforms and streaming video services – not everyone can afford the price tag.
Brands have the ability to help alleviate some of the tension between great content and
the increasing costs to access. While some companies are doing this by bundling
services together, platforms like Twitch are letting brands subsidize the costs of products
like subscriptions to streamers. The Subway x Twitch ”Subtember” program was a great
example of this coming to life, which created user love and earned media.
Adaptable ad formats
With the choices for consumers to buy out, tune out or skip the ad, companies are
looking to innovation to create a better ad experience, with the user at the heart of
designing the experience.
- Pandora partnered with Instreamatic to create an engaging voice interaction ad
unit, which gives you more information with a simple yes/no response.
- Twitch continues to innovate with non-traditional ad products, like branded emojis.
- Quibi’s new turnstyle ad product allows the user to get a different experience and in-
show perspective by turning the phone between portrait and landscape mode.
- The RAZR flip phone is back and with a seamless screen on the inside (open) and a
single screen on outside (closed).
For the past few years, we have seen tech take on more natural designs. This year, we
saw more examples of how tech is looking to be almost invisible, allowing it to work
without active inputs.
A few examples:
- Alexa & Google Assistant in EVERYTHING. Whether it is a refrigerator, coffee pot, light,
TV, or even a toilet, the need for a ‘dedicated robot speaker’ is diminishing.
- Withings Smartwatches are designed to look like well crafted time pieces, however
they also have all the capability to track sleep, heartrate via EKG, steps, and even
- UltraSense helps turn any traditional surface into a touchscreen. This allows our walls,
homes, cars, desks, paper, etc to become screens.
- Mui Lab Panel is a smart display that uses natural looking wood aesthetics with inset
Mui Labs LED Panel
Year of the test & learn
Is 5G finally here? Yes and no - although 2020 is a marquee year for the big four telcos
(AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint) to roll out their versions of 5G across the country, it will be
a moderate, focused, and slow rollout.
Although we won’t immediately have smart cities lit up or self driving cars in every
driveway, we expect to see many media and tech companies benefit from the network
rollouts. We anticipate many “first-to-market” or “never-been-done-before” opportunities
to arise from the increased speeds of 5G as well as the accelerated learning of AI. As
these opportunities come through the agency, we encourage our teams to think about
how the future consumer will be interacting, creating, or viewing media and be open to
taking on test and learns to gain further insight.
We never imagined the types of apps, platforms, and behaviors that 4G has given us
(cars or food on demand, social media dependency, streaming content and music),
and believe that once 5G is fully adopted, it will spark a new wave of media and
The possibilities from 4G below, give us excitement for what 5G can bring:
Wrap Up Report
To learn more or discuss how human intelligence and innovation
strategy can help drive value for your business, please contact
VP, Director, Mobile,
Innovation and Strategy
SVP, Head of
Strategy & Insights
Check out Carat’s podcast:
The Human Element.
Exploring how insight and humanity
impact modern marketing to build