– Car tech: beyond autonomous, self-driving cars, we continue to be on the cusp of bringing our preferred device, Android or iOS, as the interface. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have been ready for months. Automakers have been the hold-up, as they are leary of giving up valuable data and ceding the UX of key interfaces,. Things may finally happen now that Ford (with Toyota as a partner) launched SmartDeviceLink, an open-source platform that allows apps to work within Ford’s SYNC. That said, Ford will allow Auto and CarPlay on 2017 models — essentially hedging their bets. Amazon’s Alexa turned some heads for its Ford integration – you can start your car or order Amazon products on the way home. I’m pessimistic about their potential, however, as these two benefits aren’t solving a big enough problem.
– Implications to brands: mobile apps like Waze and Pandora will grow beyond early-adopters as they’re more seamlessly integrated. If you’re not already testing and/or including this as part of your mix, time to start.
– VR: I fear VR will become the new “this is the year of mobile” rallying cry. Everyone knows it’s going to be big but we’re not quite sure how to seize the marketing opportunity. Should brands create their own VR content or integrate into more traditional producers’ content? I recommend three categories to consider: gaming, utility, and entertainment. If you’re Sony, the implications for VR are clear, and they’re aggressively pursuing opportunities with PlayStation VR debuting this year. Other brands should consider how VR could provide utility for product demonstration or support. If the brand is based in entertainment, or can be woven into some other story, then this is the category to go after.
– Implications to brands: determine which category – utility or entertainment – to pursue. Start experimenting and testing using cardboard. It’s easy to do and will help provide a better sense of which VR strategy to go after.
– Connected Living: this year featured another impressive set of connected products. The Whirlpool Interactive Kitchen was impressive, and not that far from being a reality, because it solves problems and provides time saving services. I’m less bullish on one-offs like connected toothbrushes: I think we’re doing just fine with our offline brushes. The continued challenge in reaching a tipping point is the lack of a unified platform to manage our many connected devices. Apple’s HomeKit appeared to have potential, but there’s deep confusion about what it is and isn’t. What we really need is an independent third-party developer to create an intuitive product that works across all devices.
– Implications to brands: if you have products that are complemented by connected devices, and can create new usage occasions, learn options for their open API’s.
It will be interesting to see how these established trends shape the year ahead, and if they’ll still be hot at CES 2017.