It’s no big surprise that most marketers have come to embrace social as an increasingly crucial channel in our proverbial toolkit. The proliferation of social APIs like Facebook OpenGraph have armed brands with the ability to infuse a social layer across their preexisting web properties. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas introduced us to social integration as a growing necessity in the design of products, not just the web.
Whereas previous years’ presenters touted impressive product specs in all their glory, this year marked a championing of product lifestyle benefits over hardware, namely the ability to better connect consumers with their devices and with each other. This is only a natural evolution – as digital sharing becomes an increasingly essential force in the way we interact, a successful product is one that delivers on those consumer needs. Mashable’s Peter Pachal said it best: “It’s not so much a trend as a reality: consumer electronics must go social to stay relevant.”
Much like any nascent trend, one can only expect some of these social product integration efforts to take off and others to crash and burn. Here are the social winners and losers of CES 2012:
The automaker introduced its “Mbrace2″ system, which connects cloud-based apps and smartphones to its vehicles. Motorists can now stay completely connected while on the road through apps for Facebook, Yelp and Google Local Search. Imagine being able to check-in from the road through your car’s navigation system, sharing your estimated arrival time, receiving real-time notifications about friends nearby, or being notified of nearby locations friends have “liked” on Facebook. For those of us weary of the safety risks, fear not. The apps have been optimized to ensure road safety and anything requiring text interaction is disabled if the car is in motion. Robert Policano, Mercedes’ Product Manager for Telematics Services, claims the service is no more distracting than a standard in-car navigation system or radio.
TV got a huge makeover at CES 2012, with manufacturers showing off 3D capabilities, voice and gesture control, and fancy new display technologies. Most impressive, however, are the slew of new internet-enabled app platforms cropping up, and the social integration that comes along with them. “Smart TVs,” as they’re now being called, come pre-loaded with apps for games, social networking, and online video.
Samsung’s “Family Story” is one such innovative application being implemented on their television sets. With the ability to store content in the cloud, users can now share personal photos, videos and profiles with other Samsung TV owners around the globe. The app conveniently connects TV owners, with new photo uploads automatically made available to users you’ve allowed into your private TV network. Cloud-based sharing is nothing new – consumers have been able to do this for years through their computers. However, Samsung is taking third party apps completely out of the picture by seamlessly integrating the option into their own platform. Sharing is now literally built into your television.
Desperate to fight the growing threat of photo-sharing mobile applications like Instagramand Hipstamatic, Kodak unveiled two cameras featuring the ability to upload your photos to Facebook. The Easyshare Wireless Camera M750 allows users who install the accompanying app on their Android, Apple, or BlackBerry devices to wirelessly send pictures to Facebook, the Kodak Gallery, and via email. The second Facebook-enabled device is the Playfull Dual Camera, which features a share button for easy, one-touch uploading.
Kodak also hyped two of its Facebook applications, which are founded on the assumption that Facebook users have a shared desire to print the photos they upload onto the platform. My Kodak Moments and Kodak Photo Collage Print allow users to create and print premium photo books and collages using their Facebook photos.Though the intent to provide utility and inspire sharing is an appreciated effort, this may be too little, too late for Kodak. Riding the Facebook wave isn’t always enough, and we’d be eager to see more social innovation from the beloved camera manufacturer.
All in all, the products speak for themselves: now more than ever, social media has become an impactful force in the design of consumer electronics. As more and more manufacturers (automotive, television, and beyond) integrate web connectivity in their devices, greater attention is being directed towards the services offered through these products. This is evidenced by the recent collection of tech/media marriages making their debut: Xbox and News Corp, DirecTV and Miso, FX and GetGlue, Netflix and Facebook…and the list goes on. We foresee a continued need for media and tech companies to partner in order to deliver on this digital convergence in the future.