Photo by John F. Martin for Delphi.

A visit to CES is like taking a trip to Europe. You have to choose where you spend your time or you run the risk of experiential overload. There is a lot to see and too little time. A high degree of patience is required for any visit to Las Vegas. There are people everywhere and dinner reservations are at a premium. These, of course, are developed world problems and I was lucky to be able to experience the show over two busy days.

CES is set up in 2.74m square feet of space housed in three different venues from the north of the Strip to the south end. There were 3800 companies exhibiting and the show attracted approximately 175k visitors from North America, Europe, Asia and many other countries. The investment in manpower, travel, marketing, show design, exhibit fabrication, setup and tear down must be an astronomical number. It’s really amazing that anyone with business credentials, a nominal fee for entry and the desire to walk miles every day can experience everything the show has to offer.

My time at the show was spent in the Tech East venue and adjacent lots focused on automotive electronics and accessories with a little time spent on smart home and health and wellness. To revisit the Europe analogy, I decided to visit Spain, France and Italy rather than covering the entire continent. This, as it turned out, was a very wise decision.

We exhibited automotive interior content with Delphi, including the integration of electronics and lighting modules, in their V2E autonomous vehicle. We worked as an extension of the Delphi studio team in Troy, Michigan and Kokomo, Indiana working with the Delphi UI/UX group in California. Timelines were extremely tight and we were able to deliver an excellent solution working with Special Projects on the build and assembly of the vehicles. Customer feedback was extremely positive and it was wonderful to see our work on display. A world of thanks to the Delphi Team for this project opportunity!

Following my time with Delphi, I toured the North Hall to visit automotive OEM and suppliers. The level of investment in technology on display was amazing. The rate of acceleration on advanced development increases every year.

IoT (the internet of things) was an underlying theme of the show across all product categories. This simply means that at some point in the not too distant future, everything will communicate with everything else, even humans. I question when and where we will reach the tipping point as consumers. We are already distracted by third, fourth and fifth screens in our lives and I sometimes just like to drive my car. Of course, we can always turn off the technology if we are brave enough to miss a text while motoring down the highway in our non-autonomous, human driven cars on our way to a meeting with another human. Remember the good old days?

I believe that the future will belong to the designers, engineers and executives who understand that people are tactile animals and there will always be a place for knobs, buttons, and 6 speed shifters in sports cars. I might be wrong about this, but will maintain my positive outlook about the future.

Okay, back on track with my other observations?

Emerging and evolving technologies on display at the show included:

OLED, curved screens, VR, autonomous vehicles, smart home, IoT, heads up displays, navigation, infotainment, and this is just a short list!

I listened to a wonderful news story earlier this week on NPR where the reporter expressed an opinion that the linkage and collaboration between Silicon Valley and Detroit will be the key to breakthrough products that solve real world problems. Michigan has a 100+ year history of manufacturing great products and there are many great minds in the Valley. UI, UX and electronics will always be packaged in physical products and that’s where we have a competitive advantage with the rest of the world. We know how to make things that work.

My remaining time at the show was spent touring smart home, health and wellness, baby safety products, drones and robotics. There was way too much to see in two short and grueling days.

It will be interesting to visit the North American Auto Show in Detroit this week. The trends and technologies on display in Las Vegas will continue to show up in production vehicles and show cars. It’s all good if we can find ways to make cars and homes safer, more fuel efficient and earth friendly.

It’s a wonderful time for designers and engineers! There is a world of opportunity to apply new technologies to societal and individual problems. The challenge will be to stay focused on problems and develop smart, sustainable (earth-friendly) products that improve the lives for people. In an ideal world, we will be focusing a portion of our creative capital on developing products for emerging and third country populations to provide the daily necessities of food, water, healthcare and a place to live. There are many examples of non-profits, companies and corporations doing the right things. We just need to look for ways to do more. Just a thought?

written by Maury Fredricks, co-CEO Fredricks Design, Inc. 2016

photo provided by Delphi 2016.


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