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CES Underscores Connectivity And Complexity As Key Growth Drivers

TWICE: In many ways last month’s International CES was a watershed show for the industry. What were some of the biggest takeaways for you?

Chuck Stewart, Asurion Retail Solutions: The market is continuing to support the proliferation of connected home and networking devices. As adoption continues in the market, it increases the complexity of usage for consumers as there are many different platforms, operating systems and standards that will need to work to make the connected-home vision a reality.

However, interoperability issues will emerge and create pain points for consumers. Successfully troubleshooting these pain points in the connected home will be critical in reducing returns for retailers and ensuring shoppers are getting the most out of their technology.

Extended-service providers who manage the retailer relationship with the consumer “post sale” are in a unique position to support retailers by extending their services offerings beyond break-fix-replace. Retailers who are able to successfully provide a differentiated support/ESC [extended-service contract] service to their shoppers will reduce returns and drive greater repeat purchases from their shoppers.

Sean Stapleton, Warrantech: The consumer appetite for connected products is gaining momentum at an astounding pace. Manufacturers are clearly listening to consumers and are focusing their efforts on smart products, which are able to communicate and synchronize in ways never before imagined.

With this enhanced communication functionality being developed for devices, we believe that consumers will demand a unified platform that can seamlessly monitor, control and report back to the consumer on the status of their connected equipment.

The next logical step will be a protection solution that is able to provide coverage for each connected device. In order to provide a comprehensive single solution, providers of protection plans will need to be able to provide protection for connected products ranging from smart appliances, televisions, mobile devices and even automobiles.

Dawn Morris, Bankers Warranty Group: CES proved to be a place of phenomena yet again. One of our favorite and most influential takeaways is the significance of the “Internet of Things.” Consumers want convenience and ease of use, and the idea of connecting all of life’s technology and electronics creates that sense of accessibility.

Coming off of CES, ConnectProtect, our new service contract, represents a way for these devices to be covered under a bundle program.

Ty Shay, SquareTrade: 2015 CES was a return to the kind of excitement we saw five-plus years ago. It seemed like attendance was up and interest in new products and technology categories very high.

We felt that categories like wearables, mobility and next-generation smart TV dominated the show. The innovation in these categories ties nicely into the way we at SquareTrade think about the warranty and services business.

Jeff Unterreiner, Assurant Solutions: Based on the sheer number of connected products, solutions and vendors at CES, the connected-living market is growing more quickly than consumers can handle. There’s a mad dash by a variety of companies to claim control of the consumer’s home, car and even wrist. Yet we still don’t have a standard platform or operating system for all of these products. That makes it hard on consumers to even understand their options, let alone make a commitment to a truly connected life. We’re getting closer, but as an industry we still have a long way to go.

Sean Hicks, New Leaf Service Contracts: For the 20 years I’ve attended the show this year seemed to be the most different to me. Years ago we saw new CE innovation and were really excited about what was to come. This year it seems cellphone and tablet accessories have taken over.

Funny to see more appliance manufactures at the show talking about their new connected appliances. This trend is gaining momentum as part of the overall convergence of technology in the home. And people looking to create solutions that would connect all things Internet no matter the brand, seems real interesting.

Wearables are coming of age; the old-fashioned pedometer is no more. Shirts that keep up with your heart rate and blood pressure is something I’d never envisioned just a few years ago.

My overall biggest takeaway was convergence. Figuring out how to make all things Internet-connected work together, and to control it in an easy to set up and use fashion, is the way of the future. Starting your oven on your way home to cook the roast you put in it earlier; turning on the lights and heat/ air according to the schedule of when people come home; or recording the television shows you need, and doing all of this from your cell phone/tablet using a single interface, is very very cool stuff.

Kevin Callahan, AIG: Products providing telematics that remotely monitor products as well as provide data analyt ics were more prominent than at prior CES shows. But aside from this area, we did not see any new breakthrough technological advances in core product categories.

Jennifer Monasterio, Mack Worldwide Warranty: International CES seems to be growing by leaps and bounds each year, with this year having a record number of start-up exhibiting companies. This means growth within the consumer electronics industry, with new and exciting products being offered. Growth also means increasing opportunities for the warranty industry to offer new products and services never seen before.

Justin Thomas, The Warranty Group: The exposure of the show and advancement of technology is both exciting and daunting. It leaves a lot of ideas and opportunities in the balance. How will folks interact with all of the new technology? How will they truly use and leverage concepts like “connected living,” and what are their needs and wants surrounding those concepts?

These are the questions we’re all trying to answer. For us, that means regularly partnering with our clients to refine our approach from a product and service perspective. At The Warranty Group, we continually evaluate and evolve our programs to keep pace with both technology advancements and consumer expectations. We believe that is the key to long-term sustainability and success.