Sponsor: 365 Retail Markets
In January, I had the opportunity to attend one of the world's best playgrounds for a technology fan like myself. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been a technology tradition since 1967 and has never been open to the public -- industry only. Speakers such as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Cisco CEO John Chambers, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, amongst others, share their visions of the future with 150,000 gamers, fanboys, geeks, freaks and tech industry types from all over the world.
CES is also often used by all of the big boys of technology (other than Apple and Microsoft) to launch new products to the public. It is the show of choice for new product rollouts; over 20,000 were released at CES in 2013. Some greats like the VCR, the Commodore 64, the Xbox and even Tetris made their debuts at CES over the years. There has also been the fair share of awful products like Microsoft Bob (remember the talking dog?) and the iPotty, a kids training potty with an iPad stand attached.
The first thing a spectator will notice about CES is the effect it has on on Las Vegas, the host city. Hotels are more expensive, restaurants are packed, Taxis take a lifetime and the bars are out of control. (Not out of control like the NAMA OneShow, no one parties as hard as Vending.)
With that many visitors, the city slows down. Getting to and from the show is done at a turtle's pace -- thank god for your electronics or you would be bored stiff. The monorail took me an hour and a half just to get to the convention center on day one.
Once you arrive, however, you immediately know it was worth the minor inconveniences. The excitement and mass of the show leave you in awe. The show floor is over 1.5 million square feet, and every inch of space is used up, it even spills over into the Venetian and LVH convention areas. Even the outside parking areas are used for everything from food trucks feeding the masses to a BMW Electric Vehicle test dive area.
Vending was represented in a couple of interesting ways. Engadget, a Web magazine devoted to consumer electronics, used an ISIS-enabled vending machine to distribute t-shirts by tweeting your favorite gadget of 2013 using their hashtags. CES reportedly also used Social Media Vending to distribute t-shirts, although I never found it.
There are too many cool things to fit them all in this piece, so I will share some of the highlights of things to come in 2014.
Some of the coolest products were the new 4k televisions. The clarity was unbelievable. The curve was also everywhere you turned (pun intended). Curved surface televisions have me dreaming of a panorama home theatre in my future.
As you would expect from the hype around Google Glass, there were many displays showcasing wearable technology. Imagine what the effect of wearable computing would have on your organization: a route driver being able to see a planogram while looking at the machine or micromarket, ensuring compliance, or a technician having access to any manual or instructional video to assist in repairing equipment. The applications for business are endless.
Oculus Rift, a virtual reality technology, works like virtual reality ski goggles. The goggles have amazing graphics and positional tracking to change your gaming experience forever. Oculus Rift is working with gaming companies to match the hardware with new games -- immersing you in the 3D action.
Nearly all auto companies were showing off an enhanced dashboard of some kind. Mercedes Benz, Audi, BMW and Ford (to name a few) displayed the level of engagement we can expect in the future. Apps of all kinds are headed to your car. One cool example was from Delphi Connect. This app collects all kinds of data from your car and reports it back to you on your smartphone. This seems to be a no-brainer for route planning and management.
Internet of Things
Cisco is calling this movement the "Internet of Everything" -- one example of its recent interest in the vending-mircomarket space. Imagine every device connected to your phone, to one another or being able to customize and combine a variety of different features. The value of this was demonstrated with Google recently buying connected thermostat and household device maker Nest for $3.2 billion in cash. Connected crock pots, basketballs, tennis rackets, sprinklers, blinds, dishwashers and refrigerators -- get ready for every device to become smarter and measurable.
Makerbot continues to impress in this field. Soon, you will be printing replacement parts on demand from your warehouses. This is one of the most interesting and growing fields with too many applications to mention, but how cool is the idea of custom printed chocolates?
This was my most favorite part. The low cost of hardware and the advancement of the smartphone have really been applied in health monitoring technology. Many applications to track your health have evolved from the typical step counter-sleep monitor. Personal oxygen monitors, blood pressure monitors and general health and wellness apps are a part of the Internet of Everything. Be sure to keep an eye on this exciting segment of the market. Muse, iHealth and Moxy are worth taking a look at.
So how does this all relate back to kiosks and micromarkets? The answer is pretty simple: As consumers' expectation levels evolve with their phones, televisions, thermostats, household appliances, etc., their expectations for the rest of their daily lives evolve.
Micromarkets are expected to not only mirror advanced technologies, but also lead in many cases. A kiosk and point-of-sale software are just not enough for today's savvy customer. They require interaction, new features and useful functions they already have from every other device.
I suggest anyone that who has the opportunity to go to CES make time to attend. For a few days, you get to experience the future all around you. CES 2015 will be held Jan. 6-9, again in Las Vegas.
About Joseph Hessling: Joe Hessling is the founder and chief executive of 365 Retail Markets, a foodservice technology company based in Troy, MI. Since founding 365, the company has experienced tremendous growth under his leadership and has become the industry leader in micromarket technology.
About 365 Retail Markets: 365 Retail Markets, an expanding self-checkout technology company based in Troy, MI, offers the best in class platform for vending, foodservice, and hospitality. Its proprietary 365SmartShop is a turnkey unmanned micromarket that allows customers to increase sales, improve the customer experience, and increase profits, while decreasing operating costs. 365 Retail Markets has been pioneering innovation in the vending industry for over five years and continues to revolutionize the market with superior technology and ultimate flexibility in customization and branding. Visit 365retailmarkets.com.
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