NEW BLOG: The inaugural Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia in Shanghai last week could have easily been mistaken for an auto show, with foreign automakers attracting the largest crowds and premium car brands making the majority of announcements.

Audi, Cadillac, Ford, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen all had a large presence to show off their latest connected car gadgetry to the obviously brand-conscious crowd.

VW CES ASIAAudi chairman Rupert Stadler delivered the pre-show keynote to a standing-room only crowd and talked about the huge impact the digital revolution was having on the automotive industry and the need for it to adapt quickly.

The company gave journalists the opportunity to go for an 8km test ride on the hectic streets of Shanghai in an Audi R8 e-tron controlled by its piloted-driver feature. It also announced partnerships with internet search and maps provider Baidu to boost its offering in China and Huawei to explore the future of the connected car.

Mercedes-Benz also said it was expanding its partnership with Baidu to give its car owners more personalised connected-vehicle services. Volkswagen unveiled self-parking technology, while Ford announced a pilot programme for reducing energy costs.

drone CES AsiaAt the conference a key theme was the Internet of Things (IoT), which some noted has moved from the hype phase to the accelerated development phase. Beyond cars, drones – not surprisingly – were the other major attraction at the three-day expo, which opened to the public on the last day.

Conference highlights
With connected home appliances that have sensors, companies can understand how a product is used by each individual customer in real time, said Wei Sun, IoT global strategic initiative leader at IBM Research. He pointed out that companies can create significant value by leveraging IoT to optimise their after-sales services.

They can monitor usage patterns and apply predictive maintenance and also optimise their call-centre interactions with the additional insight. These both can significantly reduce operational costs, Wei said.

Liang Jun, COO of smart terminals at LeTV, agreed, noting that the relationship between manufacturer and consumer has forever changed in this industry.

Liang said manufacturers across the world can now capture data on what customers demand and integrate user behaviour into their services. “This is why the internet is so disruptive. When it comes to suppliers, if they can’t build this into their operations, they won’t be able to sustain their business.”

That advice applies to more than product upgrades. Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s head of Asia, said more and more of the world today expects to be heard and become part of a conversation, which many companies are starting to understand and act upon.

He gave the example of T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, who claims that Twitter helps him become a better leader.

CES AsiaGary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the show organiser, noted that the Shanghai event was bigger than its first CES in the US in 1967 (although on reflection this is perhaps not as grand a claim as intended).

The expo had about 200 exhibitors from 16 countries covering about 10,000 net square metres in two halls. Organiser CEA claimed 20,000 attendees, including more than 1,200 media.