“If you ignore China, you ignore growth,” said John Koetsier at Ad Tech NY last year. A few months later at CES 2017, industry analysts are unanimous: the most interesting (and wowing) new products all come from one place - China.
Long gone is the time of counterfeiting and imitating; Chinese innovators are taking risks and Made in China technologies were out front in "what’s new” at this year’s show.
Here are five takeaways on Chinese tech and how it will impact marketing in China, Asia, and the Western world.
Technology gets human, and humans get robotized
From Hanson Robotics’ Einstein educational robot to AvatarMind’s iPal, the best emotive and predictive robotics of CES came from China. These robots can play games, converse in natural language, sing songs and even monitor home security. More AI-empowered ‘companions’ are to be marketed in China early this year and most will have commercial applications for information in shopping malls or even hospitals.
Culturally, Chinese adoption of robotics has been faster and it will influence usage overseas. Rooboo announced the global launch of its tabletop PuddingBeanQ robot, designed for child education. The voice-activated robot can tell stories, teach children about music and help learn a second language. This trend could really take off in a world where parents would rather have their children talk to a robot that is under control than to a stranger on the web.
Wearables’ biggest market
Chinese consumers love wearables. With 9.54 million sold in the first three months of 2016, China became the biggest market for wearables. This was very much felt at CES 2017 with more than 1,300 exhibitors alone from China, by far the largest country representation. Notable products included interactive smartwatch Mobvoi and heath tech wearable VivaInk.
While wearable sales haven’t beaten market expectations yet, the aging population in developed areas of China could become the global hub for wearables and a whole new genre of active aging and health conscious technology.
The amount of data collected through wearables in China will soon become a gold mine for marketers.
Chinese car manufacturers didn’t show much at CES this year, but Crystal-Optech introduced a new head-up display system that stood out. The technology projects maps, GPS or mobile phone content on the car’s windshield so drivers can keep their eyes on the road while staying connected.
Not exactly from China, but close enough, the first connected scooter, Noodoe, came from Kymco in Taiwan. It’s been quite some time since you can connect your smartphone to your car, and naturally, this trend is expanding to the two-wheeled market – that is, incidentally, enormous in Asia.
As for connected cars, smart scooters will be able to interact with their surroundings, from digital screens to proximity networks and smart cities.
Drones in the air… and underwater
Drones are not new, but not passé yet. This year at CES, Chinese companies introduced foldable, flying and marine selfie sticks.
Hover Camera Passport and ElanView captured our attention with their drones that handle in the air shooting super-sharp video and high-res images. Both can be manually steered through a smartphone app. Passport’s auto-follow setting lets it recognize the face and body of the user and follow him around, shooting pictures all the while.
As exciting, but trickier at use, is the PowerRay, which does it hovering underwater. It’s a sleek, sci-fi looking thing that can dive as deep as 98 feet, while remaining connected to the surface through an electronic tether. The owner steers it with a smartphone or tablet, or with a set of VR goggles.
Mobile reigns supreme
There’s a lot of buzz around VR, AR and AI, but brands should not lose sight of the fact that they are all powered by smartphones.
China actually passed the U.S. in mobile revenue last October. With Chinese mobile users expected to grow to 600 million by 2017, mobile ubiquity is marketing’s real opportunity. That is probably why Nokia announced at CES that they will be launching their new Android phone, the HMD, in China exclusively this year. And why Chinese companies are investing so much in telecom infrastructures around the world today. Sitting third in the global mobile sales race, behind Samsung and Apple, is… Huawei. Huawei is competing in price, utility, design and has already opted to integrate Alexa into their smartphones for Western markets – which may accelerate sales and adoption, and ultimately better serve the connected consumers.
Mauricio Sabogal is global CEO of Kinetic.
See more from The Drums coverage at CES 2017.