CES 2017: What we thought

CES 2017: What we thought

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the planet’s premier tech events. Countless gadgets have been revealed at CES since its launch in 1967, from the CD in the 1980s and the DVD in the 1990s to the Xbox in 2001 and the first Android tablets in 2010.

In recent years, it’s become a hugely important event on the mobility calendar. CES 2017, which took place in Las Vegas from January 5-8, had the largest automotive industry presence to date, as the car transforms into the connected device par excellence.

InMotion was in attendance, and here our new managing director Sebastian Peck gives his thoughts on the show.

The overarching theme of the show was …

The connected device, which is becoming increasingly smarter, and can be controlled more effortlessly through voice and gestures. Your house, your car, your clothing, your dog – everything will be connected to the internet and generate data for predictive analytics so you never come home to an empty fridge or get involved in a car crash. That, at least, is the promise.

Electrification, autonomous driving, vehicle connectivity and AI-powered human-machine interfaces are key technological trends for the automotive industry.

Companies like Nvidia, Amazon, Google and Apple have entered this ecosystem, positioning themselves to capture value from the technological innovations that are reshaping the industry and its business models.

OEMs are also fully embracing these new technologies, and are busy investing across all stages, and forming strategic alliances with tech companies. Proactively shaping this new supply chain is imperative to remain at the cutting edge of future mobility.

Accordingly, investment activity across all stages is at an all-time high – the creation of InMotion Ventures could not have been more timely.

There is some confusion around the term ‘mobility’ …

We need to differentiate between mobility as a service – how to get from A to B in the most convenient manner, using one or several modes of transport – and mobility as a catch-all phrase for the technological innovations that underpin the next generation of automobiles: electric powertrains, autonomous driving, connectivity, and the AI-powered HMI.

Mobility as a service took a little bit of a back seat at CES. Lyft and Uber were fighting over customers outside the convention center but did not have a presence on the exhibition floor.

Among the exhibitors were some smaller companies like Vulog, a French provider of a plug-and-play platform for free-floating car sharing, and startups like Hero, but, in general, the exhibition firmly focused on the aforementioned auto tech verticals, with the bulk of the space being taken up by OEMs and their suppliers.

This is probably a reflection of the greater uncertainty surrounding the viability of various mobility service models, and how consumer attitudes towards them will evolve.

No shortage of highlights, but don’t always believe the hype …

The Faraday FF91 presentation was notable for its hyperbole – and an awkward moment when the car refused to park itself on stage. Any car that accelerates from 0-60 mph in 2.39 seconds is an impressive feat of engineering.

The Blade, Divergent’s 3D printed car, is spectacular and rightly got a lot of attention. The hype around 3D printing has somewhat subsided, but the Blade showcases the continued relevance of the technology, especially for small series.

The company of the moment is probably Nvidia. The CEO’s keynote was very strong. Their vision for the AI-powered co-pilot is very compelling, and they are set to become a very powerful player in the OEM supplier ecosystem. A remarkable journey for a company that started out as a manufacturer of graphic processors for video games.

Generally, it’s important not to believe the hype generated by shows like CES. Instead, stay guarded and understand how the market landscape and consumer expectations are changing. For OEMs there is a bright future ahead if they proactively reshape the supply chain, focus on their core strength of providing a great consumer experience, and invest in their own and third party mobility offerings.

CES’ 50th anniversary event took place in Las Vegas from January 5-8, 2017

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Sam Clifton
Associate
Venture Capital

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