Exec Spin: Imagining the Future After a Week at CES
Friday, January 31, 2020
Posted by: Abbey Kwiat
Jacob Babcock, CEO and Founder of NuCurrent, Inc.
As the largest electronics show in the world, CES serves up global tech trends for the upcoming year and beyond. If you follow the consumer press, you’ll find everything from the ridiculous (Charmin’s toilet paper robot) to the life-saving (Withing’s smartwatch that detects atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea). And you’ll find many, many, many things in between.
For those of us in the industry, it’s an important time to meet with customers and partners. Between meetings, I typically take side trips through the exhibit halls, looking at trends and technologies and imagining how they might impact my business, my customers and even my family and friends.
It is simultaneously exhausting and enlightening. After four days of nearly-non-stop activity, I collected my thoughts on things that stood out, and that I’ve continued to think about after returning home to Chicago.
You’re going to spend less time with your phone
Today, mobile phones are the center of our digital interactions. But a few years from now, we’ll look back and ask ourselves: “Did we really hold those devices in our hands throughout the day? Did we really spend that much time staring at a screen?”
By the end of the ‘20s, mobile phones will be replaced by more integrated and user-friendly devices, such as earbuds, AR glasses, and body-worn electronics. They will serve as our interface to the digital world. We’re not there yet, but with advances in natural voice interfaces, artificial intelligence, intuitive feature development and convenient, efficient device powering, you’ll be spending less and less time with your phone.
Specialized wearables are on the rise
The wearable industry took off in the late 2000s with the emergence of FitBit and a few other general activity trackers. The innovation within these platforms was incremental, and ultimately that market gave way to smartwatches with more sophisticated features, functionality, and integrations. What’s really interesting to see in this space, however, is the specialization of wearables and their corresponding subscription models. Companies like Ava (fertility tracking) and Whoop (advanced fitness recovery) sell subscription services to help you achieve your goals, and the wearable device is included as part of the subscription plan. In this new twist, the data (and behavioral change) is the end, and the wearable device is simply the means. As this model matures, you’ll see more wearable companies that take focused, specialized approaches to capturing data and supporting user goals.
In the cordless kitchen, the chicken AND and the egg need to come first
One of the exciting initiatives at CES that NuCurrent supports as members of the Wireless Power Consortium is the Ki Cordless Kitchen. This initiative aims to bring completely cordless cooking to the kitchen via induction cooktops and appliances capable of receiving power wirelessly, from a 25-Watt juicer to a 1600-Watt rice cooker, and everything else in between.
When you see a demonstration of the cordless kitchen, you want to have it. The problem is that it’s challenging to bring all the parts of an ecosystem together. What good is an induction cooktop that is capable of transferring power wirelessly if there aren't any appliances that can receive it? Who’s going to make a wirelessly powered appliance if there aren’t any cooktops capable of powering them? And while technology development is one key piece of enabling this future, the integration of various stakeholders is just as critical. The cordless kitchen initiative has multiple stakeholders: Induction cooktop companies, counter-top companies, kitchen appliance companies, semiconductor companies, technology development companies, electronics manufacturers, and standards organizations. This ecosystem needs to come together through standards and technology development, along with an aligned product roadmap, so that consumers can reap all of the benefits.
Jacob Babcock is CEO and Founder of NuCurrent, Inc., a venture-backed wireless power company based in Chicago. Fortune 1000 companies rely on NuCurrent’s deep expertise, leadership and proprietary technology to create their next breakthrough products. The company is active with all major industry standards bodies, and its technology is featured in multiple devices with leading companies in the auto, consumer electronics, industrial and medical segments. The company is a global leader in wireless power innovation and was recognized as the “Most Innovative Company in Illinois (2019)” by Crain’s Business Journal.
Jacob’s other experiences include: North American legal counsel for cleverbridge, Inc., a leading e-commerce provider for digital distribution; technology attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP, a 900-person global law firm; and high school teacher and football coach in St. Louis as part of Teach For America.
Jacob is a named inventor on over 30 patents, has a JD from Northwestern University School of Law, a BA from Indiana University, and lives in Chicago with his wife, two daughters and dog where he risks life and limb cheering for the Packers and Brewers.