The 2018 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and its impact on boards was the subject of a January 31 meeting of the NACD’s Northern California Chapter. We met at the offices of WilmerHale in Palo Alto. We heard primarily from Maureen Conners, Fashion Incubator San Francisco board director and former director of Deckers Brands (NYSE: DECK); Erin Essenmacher, NACD chief programming officer and founder of the NACD Technology Symposium and the NACD CES® Experience; John Hotta, Kaiser Permanente board advisor and former Microsoft executive; and Sandra Lopez, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Sports Group.
Panelists gushed their enthusiasm over CES. We learned about the potential strategic impact of some of these innovations and global technologies—artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, self-driving cars, blockchain, robots, and drones—and hear the highlights of the NACD CES® Experience. A director’s perspective on CES was unique in my experience. Adding significantly was a break-out exercise and peer-to-peer exchange that helped attendees articulate the implications of accelerating technological developments.
Key CES Takeaways:
- “Insights from a Director-centric Tour of the World’s largest tech show” found through a search on the NACD Board Leaders’ blog) was a handout. CES Tour Reveals Trends and Innovations That Will Reshape Business
- Of 4,229 firms exhibiting at CES, 1,551 were Chinese. Yes, there was the 2019 Byton electric vehicle with its huge dashboard screen. However, the clip I was more interested in was a battery-powered smart spoon, allowing people with Parkinson’s to feed themselves by automatically adjusting to their shakes. They also had a strong showing in supercomputers. Made in China is now “created in China.” Innovation is a global sport.
- Artificial intelligence, blockchain and augmented reality will change everything.
- Robotics are coming on strong, including a wearable headband from the Harvard Innovation Lab that measures level of focus. I’m on the list. It looks better than smacking students with yardstick or pointer. Of course, Honda‘s booth had their adorable robots capable of expressing empathy.
- Voice-activated devices will be everywhere. Just my opinion, but Google’s assistant can answer far more of my questions than Amazon’s Alexa. I’m sure it won’t be long before most boardrooms are equipped with AI devices that can quickly answer many fact-based questions that may arise during meetings.
- Not really a key takeaway from our discussion of CES, but there is the Levis Google jacket (so why am I still wearing a blazer?).
- What was my biggest takeaway? I’m now starting to use a lot more dictation while I write these blog posts. I’ve been keeping myself in the 20th century while using 21st century technology.
We are living in an increasingly connected world. Think continents of data. Artificial intelligence will help us mine that data and make sense of it. However, as algorithms are developed, they must be based on ethical decisions. Should your car be programmed to avoid killing a dozen people by throwing you off the cliff?
No time to program? Use Intel’s self-learning neuromorphic chips. Processing power becomes cheap to the point that additional increments are almost free.
One of the problems for directors and companies is that consumer behavior changes quicker than business models. Keep up with employee expectations or lose them.
- Immersive media will be a real disrupter, erasing physical distance. Couldn’t get Super Bowl tickets? Soon you may be able to buy an even more premium experience. With virtual seating, you might switch between the quarterback’s perspective to that of a lineman.
- Volumetric VR allows breaking down play into different perspective. We watched a film clip from hero’s perspective, vs from horse’s perspective.
- Upcoming cyber forums were also discussed.
- Business focus will be on customer experience, building community and coopetition.
- Younger employees want to talk with their computers, not input data by typing. (I began that on my Mac while writing this post and it worked but I’m sure will be better in the future.)
- Much of learning and work will be gamified.
Notes from CES Peer Exchange
- What one product trend or technology will have the single biggest impact on you personally? Autonomous vehicles and customization. I’m betting on AI.
- What skills do board members need? How to mentor the CEO, expand horizons and curiosity. Knowledge of block chain. Not inbred and insular.
- What is the best board structure for dealing with this new innovation era? Public boards are behind. Consider the board’s profile. Learning up. Term limits. What’s most relevant for specific companies. Diversity is crucial.
- What changes an investment or talent is needed to compete in future? Employees are looking to get skills in three months not 30 years. Expertise is found in teams and they will increasingly be “gig” teems. Employees will seek experiences that will help them to be competitive on the next team. Consumer experiences change our expectations in the workplace.
- What insights from CES will we share with the board? We need to align incentives better with the future we want. We need to spend less time on financials and more time on strategy. Innovative capability should be high on the list of director criteria. Consider use of a technical advisory board.
Clips from CES
Also of Interest: Essential Eight Technologies Directors Should Know
Not long ago, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, or blockchain were largely futuristic concerns, particularly for board members. Now, these and other emerging technologies are responsible for the wave of disruption that’s rippling across every industry and company around the world.
PwC evaluated 150 new technologies and boiled them down to eight, which they believe will have the greatest global impact across industries.