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  • Writer's pictureWalter Dornstedt


Updated: Jun 16, 2021

The nineties are hot, that is no headline news. Also not a new trend. What is new and refreshing though: the realization of how good the music actually is that was made in the nineties. It came to me in full fury when I listened to Charles & Eddie. "Cause our house is not a home, without your love ... I feel alone." Very sweet, certainly, but it also felt like coming home. And at the same time it made clear what is painfully lacking in this time of Smart Home, iOT and digital transformation: we are dragging a myriad of connected devices into our homes and our lives, but we, as an industry, have not yet succeeded in getting the consumer to feel at home in this new world.

Those who make their way through the Casino of the Venetian Resort, possibly with a detour over the San Marco square, will eventually reach the Sands Expo. You then actually walk on sacred ground, because where now the Venetian gleams on the strip once stood the famous Sands Hotel. The Sands was the home of Frank Sinatra and his Rat-Pack, the driver of many a scabrous party night, drenched in champagne, movie stars and politicians. I mention no names. In 1996 the Sands was demolished, but the trend of the Vegas lifestyle was set and, in the next thirty years, was embodied in decadent and costly Palaces such as Wynn, Mandalay Bay and Bellagio. (I once read that such a hotel is written off in 5 years and then can be felled safely through the breaker, unless the concept is still fresh enough to keep the profit, the ebitda up to standard). Vegas, despite the fact that it has lost its sharp edges and the strip is now mostly populated by families who meander from the Pirate show of Treasure Island to M & M World, is still the zenith of neoliberalism. The city where dreams become reality, where reality surpasses any imagination, and where the world of appearance is real. In fact, where reality has turned into Hyper Reality, and where the Mega LED billboards are not communicating a message but only displaying their own larger-than-life magnitude, signifying an era of pure, meaningless simulation.

No better place than the Sands Expo for an ambitious Smart Home, iOT or Digital Health start-up or scale-up to embark on a journey to conquer the world. The CTA (organizer of the CES) has done well to give this new, promising, explosively branching ICT-category its own domain. In previous years, these New Tech companies had been scattered all over the strip, from dark conference rooms in the MGM to sumptuous suites in the Aria. Such a fragmented accommodation no longer suits an emerging industry that, according to Forbes and Statista, will generate 30 billion connected devices and $ 356 billion in a few years’ time. This scale and this potential must be taken seriously. The question remains, however, what is the necessity of all this digital cross-linking? Does it make us better and happier human beings? If something is possible, must we then also to do it – or even allow for it to happen?

Google and Amazon steal the show in Las Vegas. Directly and through their integration partners. The launch of 5G telephones, folding and roll-out screens and the obligatory product refreshes of TVs and other CE-tech actually only play a supporting role in the background. Thousands of brands and companies follow in the slipstream of the digital platforms. Opportunists and prospectors, but also renowned names who do not want to miss the boat. However, the offer is so large, and the underlying communication protocols are still so unstable and incomplete that it is difficult to see the forest through the trees. We are, opposed to what the marketers want us to believe, still far removed from a fully functioning Smart Home. What should that be? A seamless, comfortable interlinking of life-enhancing services (and, to an increasingly lesser extent, of products that are owned) that, in a safe way, support your existence indoors and on the road. And thereby removing the impression that they are violating your integrity. A manufacturer who starts the new year with a clean slate and good intentions does well to take the pulse of the Zeitgeist.

The trendsetters and policy innovators have placed meaning, sustainability, in short, 'purpose' at the heart of the desired entrepreneurial drive. Which is a good thing. And the consumer now follows that commitment in ever larger numbers, provided the available proposition is credible and affordable. The critical, informed consumer will only allow something in his home if it makes sense, if it works and also if it does not 'detonate' in the interior. The consumer of tomorrow will only embrace innovation if Smart Home products are connected without problems, invisibly, responsibly and in all human sincerity. Allowing a transparent and fair ecosystem in human context, not running breathlessly behind a hype and opening your door to even more tech gadgets. The shelf in a store is not made of rubber - and a tidy house is neat, I once learned from the late Hans Breukhoven, retail pioneer and teacher. The same hygiene applies to the explosion of new tech being offered on-line and in brick and mortar : common sense touches the boundaries of our attention span. In short, a house full of smart devices does not yet make for a Happy Home.

Still, we all crave that feeling of coming home, of belonging somewhere, and of being at home. When Tech can help us achieve that state of being, our life story, as a species, may turn a different corner. That story needs to be told. For Smart Home sales to reach epic proportions and fulfil its promises, this story needs to be passionate, logical and understandable. At the beginning of this new year, I solemnly promise to contribute to telling this story. A story full of classic characters, dramatic scenery, exciting plot-turns and moral dilemmas. I am devoting myself to this story - without reservations and serving the purpose of credible acceptance. To conclude in the words of the unsurpassed duo Charles & Eddie: "Would I lie to you?"

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