Best Buy at CES: Watching Trends, Eyeing Tech’s Future

CES 2016 kicks off Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, with more than 170,000 people coming from around the world to see the latest and greatest in consumer electronics — from TVs and smart home devices to 3-D printing and autonomous cars.

Best Buy will be there, as it is every year, to meet with tech manufacturers and check out the coolest new products about to hit the market. We also have a team of people who will be scouring CES 2016 to find the emerging technology that‘s still years away from landing on our shelves.

Patrick McIntyre — Best Buy’s vice president for innovation and strategy — will be leading the company’s efforts to find that emerging technology at the show. Here’s his take on CES and what it means for Best Buy and its customers.

 

What’s the significance of CES for Best Buy?

It’s a great place for us to talk to product manufacturers — both established brands and startups — and see what new advances in technology they’re developing. We then figure out how to translate it for our customer. Our customers are passionate about new technology and want help taking full advantage of what they already own or get some guidance on what to think about buying next. We understand our customers and are focused on offering them the kind of expert advice they deserve so they can be confident as they learn about and enjoy the best technology available. Being at CES helps us do just that.

What do you expect to be the hottest product categories at this year’s show?

TVs are always a big deal at CES, and this year there’s a lot of buzz about high dynamic range (HDR) technology, which enhances color and contrast. Connected home and virtual reality will stay hot, building on the innovation and excitement from the past couple of years. Drones will continue to fly high, as well. And I think you’ll hear a lot about cars, because automakers have been using CES for a number of years as a venue to talk about in-car technology, and this year will be no different. There will even be discussions, and possibly demonstrations, of self-driving vehicles.

Is there anything you and your team are particularly excited to see?

Most of our work right now is focused on early stage technology — we’re trying to understand what’s disruptive and innovative. A lot of that technology tends to be in “connected” devices, that is, devices that are connected to the Internet and one another. It can be anything from a fork to a flower pot — it’s taking mundane stuff in our lives and making it connected to the web. And we’re starting to see more artificial intelligence being rolled into these products. Now your stuff isn’t just connected, but it’s actually intelligent in that it will proactively try to do something for you instead of just waiting for you to do something with it.

Do you expect to discover any new products that Best Buy can sell?

There isn’t much at CES that we haven’t already seen or that we don’t have some degree of awareness of, just because of our unique role in consumer electronics. Best Buy’s headquarters is kind of our own little version of CES on a rolling basis because we have vendors coming in all the time to share their latest innovations. But what we don’t see a lot of at headquarters is that early stage technology, mostly because it’s not ready for consumers. So CES gives us a chance to see that stuff. Our goal is to figure out what could be commercialized and help to make that happen faster.

So, where will your team find those products at CES?

We’ll spend a lot of time in Eureka Park, an area specifically designated for startups. The reality is that not all of the technology we will see at CES will become available to the consumer, but the best of it will stay, proliferate and show up in other products and technologies that will make it to our stores and website. We hope to get a really strong pulse on what technology is going to show up in 18 to 24 months.

 

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