What to Watch for: Fashion & Retail Innovation at CES 2019

If you’re like me, almost every year kicks off with a professional sojourn to Nevada. Like a sacred ritual, we tech enthusiasts descend upon Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show in hopes to glimpse the Future. And yes, I mean Future with a capital “F.”

As a journalist covering the intersection of fashion and technology, I try not to get sidetracked by the bright shiny objects—televisions that roll up like maps and toy robots that promise companionship. Instead, I focus on how these innovations will impact the fashion industry, from the clothes we’ll wear to the new ways we’ll shop and sell. Here’s what’s on my radar in terms of fashion and retail at CES 2019:

1. Connected Clothing

In addition to the usual suspects (smartwatches and fitness bands) expect a host of connected clothing and accessories. For example, Samsung is rumoured to be debuting a pair of connected sports shoes that will track distance and biometrics using sensors. 

When it comes to eyewear, be on the lookout for everything from augmented reality frames to digitally enhanced specs. Bonetech wants to transform your sunglasses into an auditory experience with their Bluetooth-enabled frames that double as headphones.

There will also be a smart wallet that does way more than just charge your phone. The Volterman Smart Wallet will alert you if you’ve left it behind, allow you to track it via GPS, and connect to your own global wifi hotspot, which might come in handy given the lagging internet speeds at CES.

If you’re on the lookout for more connected clothing than accessories, add Dresscoders to your list of must-visit booths.  This Italian startup designs high-tech haute couture fashion. They’ll be in Eureka Park in the Sands, Hall G, Booth 52955.

At first blush it may seem that “wearables” as a category takes up less space on the show floor than in previous years, but that’s only because the Sands is divided into more specific areas this time such as fitness technology, sports technology, and health and wellness. This means the  “Wearables” section itself is reserved for misfit companies peddling connected dog collars, massage chairs, and IoT trackers. Among these, I’m excited to check out OrCam, a camera for blind or partially sighted people. 

While the conversation on wearables may have died down, there’s still lots to be said about connected devices as they relate to health, which will be explored in detail in a talk on Powered Clothing delivered by Sarah Thomas, the VP of Product for Seismic.

If all the commotion has you cranky, visit the Sleep Tech area in the Sands—yes, Sleep Tech has its own area, too—where you can try everything from a body-sensing mattress to a pair of dream goggles.  

2. Retail Reimagined 

When designer Stella McCartney graced the cover of Wired Magazine for its January issue, it was a sure sign that #FashionTech would be more relevant than ever in the year to come. With traditional retail officially declared dead and gone, many brands are rethinking their approach and turning to technology. For more on this at CES, visit the High-Tech Retailing room in Tech East South Hall 3. Here you’ll discover exhibitors showing off innovations in retail. This includes proximity-based technologies like Simpello as well as augmented reality solution providers like Perfect Corp.  

While it doesn’t seem augmented retail will be a focal point this year, there will certainly be lots of time to explore its potential in the VR, AR & Gaming area, located in Tech East LVCC South Halls 1-2.

Its not jIt’s physical retail that’s changing, but the very idea of where and when shopping can happen. According to Business of Fashion, Vuzix will show off a pair of smart glasses that can talk to Amazon.com Inc.’s voice-activated digital assistant and display information to the wearer’s field of view. For an in-depth conversation on shopping as a virtual adventure, check out this talk happening bright and early January 9th.

In addition to exploring how digital technologies will impact shopping, CES 2019 will also showcase how robots and automation can shape the in-store experience. If you’re lucky (and willing to remove your shoes) you could have your foot scanned by Aetrex Technology. The company enables retailers to offer shoe shoppers a more personalized fit with their scanner/software package that collects data points from the foot and recommends orthotics accordingly.

From bare feet to fresh bread, there is no elegant transition. If South Hall 3 smells like baking dough that’s because there will be an automated breadbot on site to shake and bake things. Designed for supermarkets, Wilkinson Baking’s breadbot can mix, form, proof, bake, and cool up to ten loaves of bread an hour on its own. After all that wading through the Vegas crowds, I’ll be craving free samples.

For more on robots in retail, catch the talk at 10 AM January 9th in LVCC, North Hall, N253. I’m also looking forward to Maureen Conners’ panel on Building the Retail Ecosystem featuring panellists from Avery Dennison, Rubikloud, and Uniken. For the full agenda of speakers in the High-Tech Retailing Room, follow the link.

3. Home Automation 

The area I’m most excited to stroll through at CES this year is the Smart Home section. A robot that folds your clothes? Yes, please! Over the next five years, revenue from the smart home market is expected to show an annual growth rate of almost 17%, resulting in a market volume of $2,246 million USD by 2023. In Vegas, there will be no shortage of companies competing for visibility in this space. From connected ceiling fans to smart couches to that culinary gadget you never knew you neededCES is sure to present a Jetsons-like vision of the home of the future.

This year I’ll be tweeting live from the show floor, so be sure to follow me @AmandaCosco and @Electric_Runway for updates. For videos covering CES 2019, Subscribe to Electric Runway on YouTubeWhat are you watching for in terms of lifestyle tech at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show? Let me know in the comments.

Amanda Cosco
Amanda is a freelance journalist and consultant focused on the intersection of fashion and technology and the founder of Electric Runway.

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