In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Shawn G. DuBravac, CFA, Chief Economist & Director of Research, Consumer Electronics Association.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) unites 2,000 companies, representing the full supply chain within the consumer technology industry.
CEA offers unparalleled market research, trends data and insight into this rapidly changing sector. The CEA owns and produces, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the largest technology trade show in the world. Now at 1.85 million square feet, CES 2013 will be the largest show in CEA history and the largest annual trade show of any kind in the United States.
— Shawn DuBravac, Chief Economist & Director of Research, Consumer Electronics Association
What’s hot for travelers at this year’s Consumer Electronics show?
Mobile continues to be hot. As director of research for CEA and a frequent flyer myself, I can weigh in on the growth trends in mobile tech both from a data and a personal perspective.
In 2012, the consumer electronics industry showed a growth rate of about 6%. But to put that in perspective, without tablets and smartphones, the industry would have shown a decline. That said, one of the hottest trends at this year’s CES is undoubtedly mobile tech: phones, tablets, apps and the accessories that support the ecosystem around mobile devices.
Smartphone ownership has exceeded 50% in the U.S. and tablets are on a similar accelerated growth trajectory. At the start of 2012 we reported that 1 in 5 consumers owned a tablet. Right now, at the end of 2012, ownership is about 1 in 3, and we expect that to grow again to 1 in 2 by early 2013.
Based on this explosive trend in smartphone and tablet adoption, it’s no surprise that International CES has evolved from a home entertainment tech show to one that also encompasses the hottest trends in mobile tech.
Last year CES was the launching pad for dozens of new mobile phones and hundreds of mobile devices. We are now beginning to realize what a smartphone is capable of.
What does all this smartphone power amount to for users?
The most interesting consequence is that smartphones are moving beyond communications devices. When we initially used cell phones it was strictly for voice communications. Email and texting then surpassed voice as the preferred communications mode for cell phone users. And now, we are seeing other uses of smartphones surpass time spent using these devices as solely communications devices.
What are some of the more interesting non-communications uses you are seeing?
Interesting and unintended uses for smartphones and tablets abound. There are apps for everything from vehicle diagnostics, to IP addressable home security cameras, health and fitness tools and remote controlled bots.
For travelers, there’s Uber and other apps for hailing a taxi here and abroad. The Apple iOS 6 Passbook app stores your boarding pass on your mobile device and new NFC-enabled phones can not only take payments on the fly, the platform promises super cool conveniences, like allowing travelers to bypass front desk check-in to get room assignments via their phone.
What are the top 3 or 4 must have apps for travelers – and what’s on your phone?
It really depends on what you are trying to do. The beauty of smartphones today is you and I could have the same phone, but because of our ability to uniquely customize our mobile devices with state-of-the-art apps, your phone and mine could offer a completely different user interface and capabilities based on our personal needs.
The apps that I use most while traveling on business are:
- Tripit – to turn my flight, hotel and car rental confirmation emails into simple mobile travel itineraries
- Expensify – keeps track of my expenses in different currencies
- Airline and Hotel Reward Program Apps – in my case it’s United 1K and Starwood Preferred Guest – and AwardWallet to keep track of my reward programs; and
- Since there’s a lot of down time while traveling, I use reading apps, like Pulse, to keep me up-to-date on news and interests.
What are some new apps and tech that will make life easier for families on the go?
We are seeing many interesting apps that can be leveraged by families who travel:
- Baby monitors that can be accessed via smartphone, which is terrific if you’re traveling. You can set up the baby monitor anywhere in your home and stay connected with your family while you are away.
- WiFi enabled outlets – enables users to control outlets from outside the home. Imagine you use services like Slingbox that allow you to remotely watch content in your home from anywhere in the world. If you have to reset your Slingbox for some reason you can do that remotely using WiFi-enabled outlets. You can also manage your energy usage while you are away from home.
- Imagine IP addressable everything! Curtains and door locks that you can check on and close remotely. Dog and cat feeders that can be monitored remotely with built in cameras.
- IP addressable cameras make a lot more sense when you’re not home. We’re starting to see a variety of prototypes with cameras built in that can be controlled by phone. So, say you’re concerned that you left the faucet on. You can take control of your robot-like device and point its camera to the faucet to see if it is on and then turn it off with your smartphone.
Do you think we are at a point where manufactures are looking at mobile versions of their products before the home?
In some ways, yes. I think they are coming at the same time — tablets and smartphones have become the viewfinder into our digital lives and so manufacturers are designing their products accordingly.