Because of Covid-19, the year 2021 marked the first time that the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held virtually. For three days in January, about 70,000 people ‘attended’ this event online to see and hear what nearly 2,000 exhibitors had to present.
There were no traditional booths nor in-person interactions, no conference halls, hotels, dining out, live entertainment, nor anything quite like CES of past years where attendance neared 200,000 and there were over 4,000 exhibits.
What was the same was a focus on 25-30 key themes, new or improved products, and visions of what the near future might look like across all aspects of our work and personal lives.
Below are the top ten topics / categories which ranged from 350 up to 660 companies:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Smart Home and Appliances
- Digital Health
- Vehicle Tech
- Wellness Technologies
- Family and Lifestyle
- Smart Cities and Resistance
- Fitness and Wearables
While many are purely of interest to consumers, several do or soon will apply to the business and industrial markets.
Products in this category transcend many industries and applications, and allow for objects to ‘speak’ to each other in the home, in factories, in vehicles and elsewhere. The Internet of Things continues to connect everything around us, and before long might be as ubiquitous as electricity.
Often seeking investors, companies with prototypes, even not fully developed ones, are very popular since they represent the cutting edge of new ideas and innovative products. Many companies come back year after year having first introduced their concept at a previous CES.
AI, like IoT, has become one of the most popular areas in recent years, again due to the fact that it permeates nearly every industry and many businesses in ways that were not even imagined a decade ago. Machine learning and the humans who do the “training” present many opportunities but also ethical issues where decisions are made that rely on AI.
An example of how sensors and AI combine is illustrated in this category. Every part of the modern home is being influenced, from lighting to security, from refrigerators to ovens, to entertainment and sleeping.
A few well-known companies such as LG and Kohler introduced “intelligent” products for the kitchen and bathroom. LG showcased its Innovation Award winning voice-controlled refrigerator that could open the door hands-free, interact with Alexa to deal with food inventory, and illuminate the inside by tapping on the door. Kohler had its own voice-activated faucet that could dispense an exact quantity of water when asked to, and demonstrated a toilet that lifts or closes the lid and flushes via sophisticated sensors.
There were also a variety of smart pillows and mattresses intended to monitor, adjust, and improve how most people spend about a third of their time, i.e., sleeping or trying to sleep.
There were several revolutionary as well as evolutionary products for people to monitor their health – from heart rate and oxygen level monitors, to step trackers and sleep aids.
A time and money saving app from EyeQue named Vision Check 2 allows one to conduct an eye exam at home. Priced at $139, it is an easy-to-use tool that provides the information needed to then order eyeglasses online. It too, won an Innovation Award.
The auto companies are always a popular attraction at CES as they preview the latest or soon to be released ways that technology is being integrated to enhance the safety and pleasure of drivers and occupants alike.
Bosch introduced a digital key that can be used on a smartphone, claiming “no more lost keys!” In fact, no keys at all. This app would not only open and lock doors and start the engine, but also know your preferences for music stations, seat positioning, temperature, and other settings
The “key” could even be sent to another person’s phone to be used anywhere the car is located.
GM introduced the concept of “Exhibit Zero” which meant zero crashes, collisions or congestion. The company is moviting toward more electric vehicles and use of technology. They said that ‘Ultium’ batteries will be the plastform for all EVs. Even a new logo, a lower case “g” is designed to look like a gas pump handle.
SONO Motors, a German based car company plans to move from SUVs to SEVs, and have no showrooms (only online sales). They showed a prototype car covered completely in solar cells which had paint embedded into them.
A bi-directional charging unit in front will allow the exchange of solar and electric power – to charge devices such as laptops or smartphones, or even share with another car. Initial pricing is set at 25,000 Euros.
Not surprisingly, Mercedes Benz wowed the audience with its new “MBUX hyperscreen” which is actually 3 seamlessly integrated screens. Stretching across most of the dashboard, and using AI, both the driver and passenger get what they need to see when they need it, e.g. road and weather conditions ahead, or entertainment options from music to video.