CES: A Love Affair

See below for genuine admiration and enthusiasm.

The key to happiness at CES is to eliminate any fucks you may have given about “business objectives” before you step off the plane. Doing it right means embracing the madness, not trying to impose rationality in a place where it doesn’t belong. Friends, join me as I walk you through all the things I loved at CES this year.

For those who haven’t been, CES is the largest electronics show in the country and the 2014 show just ended. It’s held each year in Las Vegas in the post-holiday-hangover part of early January when all your holiday-season sleepless nights are still fresh in your mind, certainly as a reminder to all of us with a deep passion for electronics that we can never, ever stop thinking about the holidays. Thought it was over? Actually, babe, you blinked and the cycle just started all over again.

The love/hate relationship that technology lovers have with CES cannot be overstated. It is vast, equal parts passion and loathing. For me though, I am an unabashed lover of CES. I may front sometimes to friends (“you guys, it was so overwhelming”) but actually there are few things more satisfying to me than aisles and aisles of possibility placed against a backdrop of bright lights and indulgence.

About a year ago, a few friends and I started Grand St. to create an outlet for our obsession with indie electronics. You see, the future for independent electronics couldn’t be better. At no point in history has it been possible to launch a consumer electronics product with three people and a pile of dreams, and that alone is worthy of our full-time devotion. We wanted to build the best place to find these products, and part of the job requires the annual pilgrimage to Vegas.

If all you care about is eyerolling the latest television announcements, you might as well stay home and live in the comments sections of various blogs. There’s too much to be excited about and if you let yourself drink the CES kool-aid even a little, I promise you it tastes great.

Reflecting back on last week, these were my four big takeaways from CES 2014 from an emerging technology lover and friend:

1. Continued convergence of fashion and technology.

I walked into one booth that looked like the inside of AllSaints, that edgy British clothing store. But they were selling headphones, and there wasn’t a single leather skirt in sight. It felt distinct though, and totally different from the normally harsh-white, well-lit showrooms on the floor.

Additionally, one of the most intriguing new products I saw was the Netatmo JUNE, a new bracelet that monitors sun exposure. Seeing this product that further reinforced my belief that fashion will win wearables. Anything you’re going to wear on your body, especially above the neck, has to fit personal style criteria as much as it fulfills usability and feature demands.

2. Software will win activity tracking.

I believe deeply in activity tracking and personal analytics, though I think the key to true mainstream adoption and success is going to come from great software that’s so insightful and crucial that users are compelled to stay on the program. That’s currently the issue that I see in the world of activity tracking: too many quitters. Engagement has never been hardware’s strong suit though, that always comes from the software.

3. Connected home products will continue to explode this year.

Finally! The dream of a connected home for the rest of us is coming true. With new products coming to market that have the triple-threat of great design, dead-simple use cases and affordable price points the connected home is no longer only available to the .01% and is quickly becoming a reality.

4. Consumer 3D Printing push continues.

Perhaps we will look back at the story arc of consumer 3D printing in a few years and wonder why it took as long as it did. How did we all live without these in our homes for so long! Consumer 3D printing growth has been an incremental path (the anti-Snapchat, if you will) but it’s incredibly impressive nonetheless. The floor-space alone this year was indicative to me that every company in the space is investing heavily in consumer initiatives and I look forward to seeing the results over the course of the year.

Bye for now Vegas…see you next year.