Unbridled Innovation – Welcome to CES 2020


By Philip Spagnoli Stoten, SCOOP

For some, the holiday season is about decorating trees, buying gifts and listening to endless tunes like Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”. But for some it’s all about the final heads down frantic rush to get ready for that celebration of innovation that is CES. Close to 200,000 people will descend on Las Vegas at the start of the new year to see the amazing innovations on show. For me the highlight is always Eureka Park. Not the most impressive booths, but the newest, brightest and shiniest ideas from some of the most amazing innovators.

It used to be that CES was just consumer electronics companies promoting the biggest TVs, the smallest phone, or the fastest microchip, but now it’s so much more. CES has become one of the most important shows on the planet, setting the agenda for almost every industry. It’s a key automotive event, with regular keynotes from the big players like Ford, Mercedes, Audi and this year Daimler. It’s also where the newest trends are discussed. It’s a healthcare show, with medical technology that is changing the way patients are served by practitioners. Last year, everyone was very excited about 5G and what it will enable, this year it will doubtless be top of mind again. To see just how diverse the topics are, explore the announced keynotes, from Daimler, Delta Air Lines, NBCUniversal, Samsung and Quibi. And there will be more to come.

CES has also started to gain traction with the manufacturing sector. The world’s largest EMS companies now exhibit in invitation-only suites and many of the tier one automotive suppliers like Bosch, Valeo and Continental vie for attention during the two days of press conference held prior to the exhibition doors opening to the public. 3D Printing has become a staple feature of CES, and what looked like a solution looking for a problem, is now becoming a key tool for every innovator as they create both prototype and production parts.

If you need evidence that innovation is alive and well, look no further than this week’s announcement of the Forbes 30 under 30 lists. Check out the manufacturing category for another amazing cohort of twenty-somethings that will be the movers and shakers of our industry in the future. I was in San Francisco this week, so I took the opportunity to stop in and have lunch with 2018 30 under 30 alumni, Fictiv founder and CEO, and judge of this year’s list, Dave Evans.

Dave told me just how impressed he was with the innovators that made the list as well as those that were shortlisted for review. “They are a truly impressive group and, as someone who geeks out on hardware, it’s great to see so many companies creating new products and solution that will have a positive impact on the world”. Dave added, “I know how honored I felt two years ago when I made the list, so huge congratulations to all those on this year’s list, enjoy the spotlight, you deserve it!”

Enabling and democratizing innovation was top of mind when Dave Evans, with his brother Nate, created Fictiv around six years ago. They have built an online platform that allows innovators, engineers, buyers and supply chain managers to upload custom mechanical files, get prices and order online. It provides access to a large global network of vetted manufacturing partners, DfM on-the-fly and a wealth of technical knowledge, all supported by real people with real experience. Since then Fictiv has grown to more than 150 people in the US and China and has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital.

I spent the week in San Francisco, meeting some impressive startups. Fictiv was one, another was Bright Machines. I’d already met Brian Matthews, their CTO, at Productronica in Munich and was keen to get a look under the hood of their software-driven microfactories and get more closely acquainted with their Equipment-as-a-Service model. Earlier this year, Bright Machines was listed in the Forbes AI 50, an annual ranking of America’s most promising artificial intelligence companies. Brian Matthews described their strategy well when he spoke to EMSNOW’s Eric Miscoll on the SCOOPstudio. I was delighted to be on camera with Brian myself, as a guest on The EMS (Eric Miscoll Show) Series 3, episode 1, where I could dig a little deeper and gain additional insight from fellow panelist François Monette of Cogiscan.

What excites me about these companies is that they are not just innovative in terms of hardware and software, but also in terms of their disruptive business model. Fictiv with Manufacturing-as-a-Service and Bright Machines with their Equipment-as-a-Service offering, where redundant robots can be sent home when they are no longer needed.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, 2020 is going to be a pivotal year for the industry, with disruption coming from all directions. These innovative businesses and entrepreneurs will help us create new technologies, new solution, new ways of doing business and a new future for the manufacturing industry.

Viva innovations, viva Las Vegas, and viva CES…

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