CES 2015: Trends and the Supply Chain Challenge

CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show, has been the launch pad of mass market tech staples of the past—such as the CD Player (1981), Microsoft Xbox (2001) and Blu-ray Disc (2003). So what came out of the four-day Las Vegas Conference this year? Here are some of our major takeaways and of course, how it relates to supply chain. 
Major Trends

3D Printing is Bigger than Ever

This year, presenters showed machines that printed on new materials like resin and circuit boards. One of them is Voltera, a circuit board printer that won the TechCrunch Disrupt battlefield. Still, these printers, ranging from $3,000-$10,000, might be out of the price range of most hobbyist consumers.

Auto Tech is In

It was a big year in auto tech, which showed off some of the most dazzling displays at the conference. Tesla wowed crowds with its hotly anticipated Model X, Mercedes introduced a model for a futuristic self-driving car, and other auto companies announced increased integration with apps such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Wearable Medical Devices

CES seemed to confirm what many in the industry already know: the future of medical device innovation is in wearables. Ampstrip, a sticker-like health monitor, topped many lists for the best overall startup. Another innovative—if not a bit outlandish—device was a belt that expands with your stomach when you have too much to eat. Of course, we’re all still waiting for Apple to debut its own health-feature loaded AppleWatch in the coming months.

The Supply Chain Problem

For DIY inventors creating some of the most novel products at CES, like an iPhone case that thermally prints instant photos, or a device that monitors oral health through your breath, there was one big problem: they weren’t quite ready for mass production yet.

In many cases, the inventors still needed to raise enough capital to execute on their ideassome through traditional investment channels, others by turning to crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But the real test of success for these innovators is not the idea, the prototype, or even the fundraising. Small companies attempting to quickly bring new products to market will need to navigate the complex landscape of suppliers, outsourced manufacturers, distribution, and retail channels. In other words, it’s not just the idea but the execution. Something that supply chain professionals know all too well. Time will tell which of the many brilliant inventors at CES will learn to build a sturdy supply chain while keeping their innovative edge. 

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