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The Two Sides of Anticipatory Tech

A recap of the CES SuperSession titled “IoT: Moving Into An Anticipatory Tech World."

By Anthony Savona

As touch and voice control become the norm, tech companies are looking for the next big thing in terms of how people interact with their technology. Several companies are betting on anticipatory tech, which uses an array of sensors and data sharing to really learn how its users live, and works to make life easier and safer. However, when massive data collection is involved, there is the need for caution.

A panel of experts discuss anticipatory technology at CES 2020.
Experts discuss anticipatory technology at CES 2020.

All of these points were covered in a SuperSession at CES called “IoT: Moving Into An Anticipatory Tech World,” which was hosted by Brian Cooley, editor-at-large, CNET, and Lindsey Turrentine, senior vice president, content strategy, CBS Interactive Tech Sites. Representing companies working in anticipatory tech were Doug Clinton, co-founder and managing partner, Loup Ventures; Michele Turner, senior director–product management, smart home ecosystem, Google Nest; and Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO, Affectiva. Rounding out the panel was Cindy Cohn, executive director, Electronic Frontier Foundation, who Cooley joked was there to “pour cold water” on the ideas, but she provided a salient counterpoint and caveat for the dangers of how the data could be misused.

For starters, Cooley and Turrentine explained that, although it looks like it at first, anticipatory tech is different from automation. Anticipatory is not a preprogrammed set based on geotagging or other indicators like that, but instead uses data and sensors to learn and know what you want before you ask.

The potential for this tech to help is undeniable. Some of the possible benefits, according to Turner, are safety and security and energy and sustainability—all by letting you know exactly what is happening at home and reacting accordingly.

Health and wellbeing play big into the anticipatory future, according to Kaliouby, whose company is working on understanding emotions by analyzing facial expressions and voice. “[Anticipatory tech] can act as biomarkers for depression, it can help autistic kids by understanding non-verbal communication … it has a lot of potential,” she said.

Of course, with so much information being collected, it is important to know who has access to it and how it will be used. “You want to make sure this tech serves you, and is not two-faced that is collecting data on you,” said Cohn. “My role is to make sure that when you go online, your rights go with you. When go in your house, your rights should go, too.”

The panel agreed on the importance of communicating to customers and giving them easy ways to opt-in and opt-out of different parts of the services. “We have a lot of lawyers figuring out how we best communicate to consumers,” said Turner. “Every new product we come out with, we are vetting for privacy.”

“These technologies are powerful,” added Cohn. “They can serve us. They can destroy us. We do need some law—some accountability.”

The end consensus is that the anticipatory tech future can bring new understanding between humans and technology, but, as Cohn concluded, that we “make sure, as we move into the brave new world, that it is serving you and not two-faced—only single-faced.”

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