Nothing Matters at CES 2017 Without the Smartphone

Smartphones, ubiquitous and powerfully versatile, are what makes all the other technical wizardry at CES possible.
Nothing Matters at CES 2017 Without the Smartphone
Image credit: Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images
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Entrepreneur is on the ground at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Check back for highlights from the event as well as insights from thought leaders and innovators. 

I can’t remember the last time I sat down at my desk and actually typed something on my laptop. These days, most of my work is done on my smartphone or tablet. Productivity apps allow me to work faster and more efficiently while being 100 percent mobile. I’m getting more work done than ever before, with no downtime between meetings.

More and more executives are mobile-first these days. I may be an early adopter of the trend, but this is the way business is moving. In fact, with more than 2.5 billion smartphones in the world today, nothing really matters right now but the smartphone.

When I head down to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I’ll be spending the majority of my time in meetings at the Aria and Cosmopolitan with others in the ad tech and media industries. I’ll also be visiting the show floor as much as I can. While I’m there, there are a few trends I’m expecting to see, and another handful I’m hoping to see. They’re all centered around mobile, which I suspect will be dominating the event:

More innovations in augmented reality (AR).

AR is connected closely to mobile, as we saw in 2016 when Pokemon Go launched. The first true mobile AR game was a mere taste of the ways in which AR allows us to bridge the digital and analog worlds using the cameras on our smartphones. While short-lived, it also showed us how AR can truly captivate the public. I’d like to see more Pokemon Go-like experiments. Snapchat lenses and filters are another great example of how augmented reality is becoming mainstream. Our phones become a throughput for AR, and I hope to see more innovations like this, as well. Given the rumors about AR on the iPhone 7 and that Facebook has already dipped its toe in the pool, I think there may be some very interesting entries into the space at CES this year.

Virtual reality (VR) for the mass market.

In digital media, it’s a cliche we hear all the time: “Content is King, Distribution is Queen.” This is truer in the VR space than anywhere else in the industry. Today, both the king and the queen seem to be finding their way to the throne: there is more great VR content entering the market than ever, and distribution is improving daily. VR headsets can be found for less than $20, and coupled with – you guessed it – your smartphone - they are making high quality VR very accessible. VR can also be experienced in a mobile browser, lowering the barriers to distribution and opening up huge opportunities for experimentation. Startups are emerging to take advantage of the opportunities. Media companies are experimenting with VR within their apps. While it’s difficult for investors to bet on emerging trends like VR, with so much more access to this amazing technology, now may be the time. There should be some very cool stuff happening in VR at the show this year.

All forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Computers can automate much of the processes and tasks humans can do. This extends to content and advertising optimization -- and also to the physical world via the Internet of Things (IoT). This trend toward connected devices will drive AI to become more consumer-friendly and helpful. We’re already seeing this with products like Echo and Google Home. Siri was the first AI-based mobile personal assistant. She’s been mobile-first from day one, and she’s only getting smarter.

I also expect to see AI-driven chatbots, based on smartphone messaging platforms, growing in popularity. These messaging bots will be used by media companies to create more relevant content experiences in a more intimate way with smartphone audiences. Publishers will have access to more, and higher quality, data on what’s resonating to drive better experiences with videos and other content formats. At CES, I expect to see multiple tech startups aiming to help media companies and publishers capitalize on this trend.

I think 360 video and imagery will be prominent at CES. We’re already seeing more and more demand from advertisers for this technology, and this could be its breakthrough year. A close cousin to VR, this technology is much more accessible - you don’t need a headset. Through connecting with existing sensors on the smartphone, it bridges the digital and analog world in a very real way. With Facebook is already onboard as a point of distribution for this rich experience, I think this will be the year ad tech companies and publishers pick up on it.

I’m excited to see these new and emerging technologies on display in Las Vegas at CES. I’m equally excited to see launches of new handsets that are optimized for these innovations. But most of all, I’m looking forward to spending time meeting with thought leaders from the media and ad tech world, discussing how we can make these technologies work and improve daily life in a mobile-first world.