CES 2016

Behind The Scene At CES: The Glamor And Glitz Of Sensory Data

If you attended CES or read up on some of the technology announcements, you know that this year’s event showcased a mixture of the old and the new when it comes to technology and product. Everything from single-passenger drones and virtual reality headsets, to wearables, bendable TV screens, and smart appliances were on display.

While the show is focused on the consumer, we like to explore it from the perspective of business; examining the potential for enterprise impact. Viewed through this lens, the big opportunity from CES-endorsed technologies is not the actual product, but the data collected from the product. With an increasing number of products outfitted with sensors and cameras, manufacturers and business partners can use this data to personalize experiences for consumers, optimize product lines and drive their business decisions–unlocking enterprise-wide value.


Electric vehicles, autonomous driving smart cars, and driver assistance technologies were all on display. The sensor-laden vehicles not only provide health checks to the driver, but can also be used by the manufacturer to understand wear data for tires, predict time to failure for various instruments, and gauge driving patterns against other data such as time of day or weather. Personalized interactions between the auto manufacturer and vehicle owners can be driven based on customer behavior analytics, garnering further loyalty from the owner. For example, imagine if your car suggested song playlists based on your destination and mood. OEMs can use data to inform their global supply chain management and improve the way parts are made, or identify problems with vehicle lines before they occur by comparing data across vehicles according to their mileage, road time, or exposure to temperature or humidity. Crowd-sourced mapping applications could be powered by data gathered through sensors and cameras on the vehicle, versus relying on the driver’s mobile app.


Smart refrigerators and washing machines now have cameras and sensors to track temperature, humidity, and overall usage. The cameras take photos each time the refrigerator doors close and the photos are made available to the owner through a mobile app that can be accessed from the grocery store. More important however is the behavioral data provided to manufacturers and potential retail partners that can be used to personalize consumer messaging as well as inform the overall product feedback loop. While eCommerce sites and mobile apps can provide purchase data, smart appliances can further provide consumption data and deeper behavioral patterns. Retailers can provide meal suggestions based on available ingredients and offer to deliver items for purchase to complete the recipes. Food manufacturers can use the real-time consumption data to gather insights on how their products perform in various homes, especially when paired with complementary data such as weather, date, and household profile data.


Focused mainly on fitness, wearable devices advance this year by integrating more features (and becoming more fashionable). Along with more features comes more data, associated with tracked activities, multi-sport tracking, GPS, heart-rate, calories burned, sleep patterns, all while playing music and prescribing workout routines. Connected fitness provides wearable manufacturers, fitness companies, and content partners the opportunity to make meaningful use of real-time data across multiple aspects of the user’s life. Makers of fitness apparel and equipment can improve their products based on usage. Further insights can be gained by mashing up other data such as geography and demographic data like age, gender, and occupation. With consumer permission the data can be used by third parties such as insurance companies, employers, fitness professionals, and the public health system.

What’s Next?

Amidst the myriad of digital screens, shiny objects and flashy demos is the behind-the-scenes product, that to most of us has been invisible–the data. Enterprises should be prepping themselves for the meaningful insights that will power the way they do business.

Real-time data driven by sensors and cameras will help them decide what they make, how they operate, and transform the way they interact with their partners. It will allow them to react immediately to their customers’ desires, powered by behavioral insights that consider context and relevancy. Product manufacturing processes will benefit from improvements, efficiencies and updates informed by data. Ecosystems for partners such as retailers, media partners and content providers will be enabled by key data insights.

But collecting data is just part of the overall effort. The heavy lifting involves gaining insights from the data and then taking the appropriate action to create value—for businesses, this means monetizing the data.

One of my first experiences creating ROI from big data was a casino-based promotions application that issued entries into a weekly drawing based on a patron’s gaming activity. The application used a rules engine to evaluate millions of slot machine transactions per second in real-time, and applied complex rules based on certain events such as average bet amount, average bets per hour, duration of play, time of day and day of week. Using the application, marketers and casino operators could drive certain behaviors, such as grant bonus entries for a patron’s gaming activity on a typically slow period in the week.

In the above example, as with many instances seen in business today, the data is just one component of the overall solution. Additional solution requirements include a rules configurator, rules engine, data storage method, an application interface (consumer and business-facing), and most importantly, a compelling business idea.

Perhaps in future years, under flashy lights and massive exhibit displays, we will see products that are “seemingly” less glamorous such as rules engines and databases take center stage at CES.

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