The directors who traveled to Las Vegas to attend NACD’s CES Experience were well prepared to walk onto the showroom floor on Tuesday. A lively panel moderated by Nichole Jordan, Grant Thornton’s national managing partner of markets, clients & industry, helped prepare participants on how to best to sift through the hype and sheer size of the annual technology extravaganza that this year features some 4,400 exhibitors sprawled over 11 venues. Said panelist Nora Denzel, a CES veteran who serves on the boards of Advanced Micro Devices, Ericsson, and Talend: “Look at how the ground is shifting.”

Small group tours of around 20 directors and guests each were
led by The Palmer Group, with CES Experience attendees separated into two groups
led by Shelly Palmer and Jared Palmer. Each group toured two massive halls of
the Las Vegas Convention Center, which one of several major venues for the trade
show and where some of the most impressive exhibits are on display. Tour groups
explored the north and central halls of the convention center, focusing primarily
on vehicle, audio, and video technologies.

Some observations from today’s CES tour follow.

Voice is now the
ubiquitous interface.
While Amazon’s Alexa and other voice-command
applications were built into nearly everything yet again this year, the systems
are always getting smarter. While touring an exhibit of the Kohler connected
bathroom exhibit, one director pointed out that he was interested in
understanding the use in geriatric care application, while another director
mentioned that he had already outfitted his mother’s home with the devices.
From controlling the temperature of your bathwater to using on-the-spot
translation technologies, voice command is here to stay—and improves with use.
Directors should ask their managers have a strategy to include the application,
even in ways that might not seem obvious.

Kohler displays the power and convenience of the connected home.
Photo credit: Jamie Mason

The 5G revolution is
getting closer.
Be aware: there aren’t many 5G devices that companies were
ready to display. However, Intel, Qualcomm, Dlink, and others demonstrated
future applications or actual hardware slated to be released later this year. Autonomous
vehicle technology displayed by automakers showed the promise of what may come
with minimal latency and a wealth of sensors. Ford, for instance, demonstrated an
intersection without stop lights
. The catch? Once 5G technology
connects to in-vehicle sensors, cars will theoretically be able to talk to one
another and make real-time traffic calculations. While the promise of what 5G
could do to transform cities is alluring, we’re not quite there yet. One
director asked Jared Palmer, engineering lead at The Palmer Group and one of
our tour guides, when he thinks we’ll see cities build the infrastructure for
this future. The answer? “Whenever we can pass an infrastructure bill.”

A Qualcomm spokesperson demonstrates the difference in speed between 4G and 5G wireless networks. Photo credit: Jamie Mason

Wearables make
providing health care data easy.
Would you be more likely to wear a heart
rate monitor on your morning run if you were able to wear it on a specialized
washable shirt? Could your skin chemistry change how a wearable medical device
is used? These are questions that companies such as 3M and Qus are helping
wearable medical technologies answer. CES exhibitors also showed off the “gamification”
of health care, including an application that identifies where teeth need the
most attention while brushing, as well as many devices to escape from

A spokesman from Qus explains the benefits of wearable athletic performance tracking.
Photo credit: Jamie Mason

Everyone loves flying
cars and robots.
As cities see changes in how people get around, companies
are exploring innovative, more varied solutions. One of the most jaw-dropping new
technologies at CES this year was Bell Flights’ flying
car concept
, which could be available from Uber as soon as 2020.
Meanwhile, one of Samsung’s many impressive displays included a family of
domestic robots. These exhibits showcase incremental improvements in day-to-day
life that have become commonplace at CES—and yet are no less awe-inspiring.
While in recent years CES has become less about paradigm-shifting mega-releases
of products, companies are moving so fast to create new versions of products
and release them that each year demonstrates something a bit better than
before. The same can be said for these Bell and Samsung products.

Bell’s spectacular flying car concept. Photo credit: Jamie Mason
Samsung’s friendly domestic robot. Photo credit: Jamie Mason

The mind truly reels walking amid competing exhibits, faces colored by neon display lights and the shine of new electronics. The only way to fully appreciate the size and possibilities represented at CES is to see it for yourself.

NACD will deliver more short videos on its social channels and look for coverage of NACD and Grant Thornton’s CES Experience in the March/April 2019 edition of NACD Directorship.