Trends We Are Expecting to See in 2011 and Beyond

Connected products:
One popular theme among the products displayed at the Show was the ability to be connected, whether to the Internet, other products, or a consumer’s smartphone. There were numerous products at CES that were designed to be part of a network, with the goal of delivering more useful, efficient, and compelling customer experiences. The television is one product that’s undergoing a major transformation, with virtually every TV manufacturer at CES displaying their web-connected televisions. These products have the ability to stream content and access applications such as Netflix, Pandora, and games.

“It’s evident that the TV is soon going to be the central command in the household,” noted George Guffey, User Experience Director at PDT. “Consumers will no longer be using the TV just to watch their favorite shows, but to check the weather, stream music – we even saw a TV that could tell you what you weigh.”

The living room isn’t the only room that’s becoming more connected; the kitchen is also being overhauled to be “smarter” for consumers. Appliances in the near future will be able to take stock of the food in the kitchen, present meal suggestions based on those ingredients, and even guide consumers through the cooking process.

LG is taking the idea of connected appliances to an even higher level with their Smart Grid concept, in which all electric appliances from the dishwasher to the washing machine are connected to each other and able to be controlled from a single location (your PC, smartphone, tablet, or TV). Electric usage of these appliances can be controlled to be as efficient as possible, and LG’s Smart Access Monitors will help troubleshoot any problems with the appliances and either fix them remotely or dispatch a technician to the home.

A new meaning of “green”:
Eco-friendly certainly isn’t a new product trend, but manufacturers are shifting the meaning of “green” to focus more on energy-efficiency than in the past. “There was a definite effort among the exhibitors at CES to provide software or technology that helps consumers be more energy efficient,” explained Gil Cavada, Senior Designer at PDT.

As mentioned, appliance manufacturers such as LG and Samsung are offering solutions that help consumers determine the best time to run their appliances. Panasonic’s version goes so far as to include solar panels, home fuel cells, an electric vehicle (EV) charging station and energy storage units. “Green is also about keeping more green in your pocket by offering products that consume less energy or enable usage during off-peak times, translating to more money in your pocket. Saving the environment doesn’t seem to sell as well as saving money,” said Cavada.

In addition to being more energy efficient, consumer electronics manufacturers are shifting their focus to products that have more longevity and can be serviced instead of being replaced completely. “Right now, cell phones need to be replaced every few years, causing an immense amount of waste,” said Cavada. “However, with the vast amount of apps that are now available, your cell phone can remain up to date much longer than before. Manufacturers are realizing this and are starting to offer products that can be serviced to last longer than they do currently.”

All about me:
Products that allow consumers to personalize their electronics were another huge trend at CES. Items such as specially designed headphones, colorful cases, and soft goods like clothing and accessories all had a strong presence at the show.

“Consumers want to be able to personalize their electronics, making them just as much a part of their individual style as the shoes they wear or bag they carry,” explained Guffey. “This is opening up a whole new opportunity for companies outside of the traditional technology industry. For example, not only can you buy an Ed Hardy t-shirt, but you can now buy an Ed Hardy case for your iPod, and Ed Hardy headphones to match.”

Beyond the physical products that are now available to help consumers personalize their electronics, software itself is making products more personalized as well. There are countless apps available to personalize not only smartphones but other devices as well.

“This trend of personalization works hand in hand with the trend of more serviceable products, as the more a consumer invests in a product to make it their own, the less likely they are to treat it as disposable,” Guffey pointed out.

Continued focus on digital health:
The digital health movement continues to move forward with products that marry cutting edge technologies with the growing need for medical devices that help consumers manage their health more actively and dynamically. Medical devices are becoming more and more like consumer electronics devices, with many wearable, mobile medical products already or soon to be on the market. Examples include smartphones that double as heart rate monitors and watches that have GPS locators to help keep track of elderly loved ones. There were also numerous therapeutic and diagnostic devices, medication monitoring equipment, and robotic prosthetics on display.

“We envision the future of healthcare to be connected, and we’re certainly seeing a movement in that direction at CES,” Cavada noted. “However, in order for this to happen, secure networks need to be built among healthcare professionals, patients, and other vendors such as pharmacies. Then, the possibilities will be virtually endless in terms of advancements in medical devices.” Transparency in the medical industry will likely be an uphill battle, but it is one that will have to be overcome in order to enable people and institutions to connect and evolve technologies that allow patients to make better health decisions and ultimately reduce health care costs.

About PDT
Product Development Technologies, Inc. (PDT) is a global, full-service product development firm with over 120 employees in eight offices worldwide. Team members have expertise in a wide range of product development disciplines, including strategy, design research, industrial design, user interface development, electrical and mechanical engineering, software development, laser scanning, and tooling. PDT’s award winning product designs have been recognized by BusinessWeek, the Industrial Designers Society of America, Design Journal, The Consumer Electronics Association, Inc. Magazine, Chicago Athenaeum of Architecture and Design, and Parametric Technologies Corporation.