Looking Back at CES 2020: A Connected Future with More Privacy Options

Published Jan 22, 2020

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Personal Security Joins Smart Homes on the Show Floor

As outrageous as this month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 in Las Vegas was – sleep training systems and robots that deliver toilet paper – the real takeaways were very much down to earth.  The products and product categories that were pervasive reflected the increasing use of smart technologies for homes and growing concerns over how personal data is being collected, stored and used.

Smart Homes

Before CES, we gathered insights from consumers who said they are comfortable using new technology and many indicated that they use smart home technologies for security and entertainment purposes. The good news for manufacturers – at CES, the connected home was pervasive. It was part of presentations, conversations, and demonstrations.

It was interesting to see that most major consumer product brands outside of the technology space – think consumer packaged goods – also had big presences at CES. As smart home technology advances, we should expect to see greater intersections of everyday consumer products and technology as part of smart homes. For instance, Colgate’s Plaqless Pro, a toothbrush that tells in real-time how clean teeth are and consumer tested by Toluna, won the CES Innovation Award. A less practical application was a robot that put toothpaste on toothbrushes – it seems everyone wants to make our lives more entertaining.

Privacy Takes Center Stage

In our pre-CES research referenced above, we revealed concerns about privacy, although the degree of concern varied by age. In general, people aged 18-34 were more comfortable with their personal data being used to target advertisements for them while people aged 55 and over did not want the intrusion. The influential AARP presented at CES and made the point that people over age 50 are plenty tech-savvy, but they are more cautious – mainly about their privacy and security.

The battle that consistently wages on whether to use power for good or for evil spilled over into connectivity. There are greater opportunities for personal data to be used to make our lives more convenient just as there are great opportunities for our personal data to be used in ways we didn’t intend. Consumers and regulators are forcing the consumer tech industry to address these concerns, with good cause.

The EU enacted sweeping privacy reforms recently and California is set to make similar changes this year. Both sets of laws place limits on how consumer data is stored, shared and protected. All consumer-facing industries are paying attention to be compliant and avoid legal liabilities.

Privacy was a feature of almost every single new product or was a product in and of itself. For instance, Google demonstrated its new function that allows the deletion of personal information it might have recorded with the “Hey Google delete everything I said to you this week” function. Additionally, wearables that record exercise increasingly require firm ‘opt-ins’ to share data.

It will be interesting to watch what these trends mean for actual technology sales in the coming year. If CES is any indication, consumers will continue to want smart home and personal technology products. What’s new is that they will also be looking for privacy and security to be built in and opt-in choices to be honored.

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