Five of the best retail innovations at CES

Date : 10 January 2017

We highlight the key trends and  top retail-relevant innovations we spotted at the world’s leading consumer electronics show.

While a broad range of technologies are covered as part of the event, many of them have direct relevance for the food and grocery industry including the connected home, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, health and wellness trackers and automated transportation. Five key themes dominated the event.

The top technology trends to watch

  1. Amazon and its voice-assistant Alexa had a strong presence at the show, with Alexa being integrated across a range of devices from refrigerators to cars. Hub devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home will be central to the era of faceless computing.
  2. The role of voice and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in improving consumers’ interaction with devices to a more natural state and allowing devices to make small decisions on their behalf; incremental changes over recent years have led us to a position of parity in terms voice fluidity which will open up significant advancements over the next few years as devices move away from Graphical User Interfaces (GUI).
  3. Automated and autonomous vehicles have evolved significantly with self-driving cars and drones being the stars of the show. Smart automation networks are a key area to watch particularly as vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure capabilities are developed further.
  4. The importance of 5G Network development and what this means for advanced data analytics, connecting devices (and further innovation in the connected home), enabling Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), and the concept of 'always on' connectivity. The future is one of higher speeds and intelligent systems connecting diverse objects.
  5. The move from general wellness tracking to advanced medical diagnostics in the home that puts healthcare front and centre of consumers' minds. Wearables have moved beyond the wrist, and general activity devices will evolve into specific use-case scenarios.

Top five retail-focused innovations 

As usual there were many new products launched at the event from TV screens, new mobile phones, connected vehicles and computer chips. However, the event is evolving and is becoming more relevant for non-tech companies; L’Oréal, Pernod Ricard and Carnival Cruises were three companies which were featured prominently, along with Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba. Here’s five of my favourite picks from the show.

  1. Mercedes-Benz’s ‘Vision Van’ for delivery, equipped with rooftop drones, robotic racking system and a modular loading concept.
  2. Samsung’s Smart Hub refrigerator, embedded with Amazon’s Alexa, enabling voice-based ordering from several grocery ecommerce operators.
  3. L’Oréal’s Smart Hairbrush, the Kerastase Hair Coach powered by Withings, featuring advanced sensors and signal analysis algorithms to score the quality of hair and monitor the effects of different hair care routines.
  4. Genican, a device which is installed directly in a recycle bin or garbage can which enables users to add items to an online shopping list via barcode scanning and voice recognition, including integration with Amazon’s Dash program for automated delivery or regularly purchased items.
  5. Alipay’s (from Alibaba) Virtual Reality (VR) payment system which enables users with virtual reality goggles to purchase directly from a virtual shopping model through looking and nodding at a product.

Source: IGD Research

An opportunity to identify inspirational innovation

The appeal of this event has broadened considerably over recent years and is attracting an increasing number of companies from beyond the traditional technology sector. As many grocery retailers and suppliers have invested in developing labs and start-up incubators, and start to evolve to be more technology-led, we expect to see an increasing contribution from the CPG community moving forward. This will include showcasing their innovations, seeking out inspiration and looking to see how disruptive technologies can be leveraged to support their business models and future growth.

Click here to see our new insight report, Top 20 Innovations of 2016.

Stewart Samuel, Program Director, IGD Canada
Based in Canada, Stewart heads up all of IGD's research and coverage across North America. Contact Stewart at [email protected] for further insight on the region, including key trends, retailer strategies and what else caught our eye at CES.
Twitter: @Stewart_IGD