I just escaped two full-on days at CES2020. Despite my FOMO (fear of missing out), there will be much I missed or that I only noticed for the first time this year, but I wanted to share a few themes that I’ve taken away from CES this year in case you weren’t able to make it.

The last wire? 

Is the end of the charging wire really insight? While inductive wireless charging technologies are commonplace now, I was interested by the growth in remote charging of devices from distances as far as a meter away by RF. Freeing our devices, whether phones, sensors or robots from specific charging locations has exciting potential to significantly change how we design systems and use products.

Moving Screens

TVs are always a big part of CES and this year was no different. One of the developments this year was an explosion of different ways that screens were being manipulated to give different usage flexibilities. From LG’s sliding screen doors and rolling up TVs to TVs that change orientation with your phone so you can view content up large in either landscape or portrait. And of course the well documented folding phone screens. 

New Blood

For me, some of the most exciting exhibits were from companies who we don’t traditionally associate with CES or this type of technology. Colgate and Coty both provided fresh ideas. For example, while there were many, many powered and smart toothbrushes, Colgate’s Smart Burst is the first time that the consumer logic really clicked for me. Not only does it track where I’m brushing but it measures whether I have plaque and (without needing a smartphone) helps me to keep brushing until I’ve removed it. A clear and compelling benefit. P&G’s Labs in their second year gets a special mention for being one of the busiest and most diverse exhibits I saw. Yet perhaps most impressive was Delta’s future travelling experience.

Industrial Exoskeletons

Also at the Delta exhibit was Satorias robotics with the most RoboCop-like demonstration of a powered exoskeleton to enhance Delta’s Baggage handling team. But they weren’t the only ones. Honda ventures, Samsung and others showed such systems – in some cases, they were clever unpowered systems that provided physical support for workers in critical roles. 

Food Delivery 

I was excited by the range of new concepts being explored for Home delivery of food. Both Osram and Haussmann showed different types of units that would allow supermarkets or third parties to deliver chilled and frozen groceries locally. As with many areas of the show, the big question is if the right business model can be found that balances the needs of local communities with those of the individual retailers – I can’t wait to see how this plays out!

Agritech

A relatively new category for CES seems to be indoor Agriculture. While John Deere’s impressive stand again showed what was possible with smart technologies outdoors there were also many solutions for indoor agriculture – whether intensive farming like Cube, Osram’s Fluence or indoor kitchen solutions like GE/Haier’s aeroponics. Given the twin challenges of global sustainability and health, this is an area I hope we continue to see grow at CES (no pun. Intended)!

Unconnected Connectivity

Despite (or rather because of) all the technology assembled at CES thirstily drinking bandwidth a frustration of many I spoke with was the very poor wifi and 3G/LTE connectivity. It resulted in several failed demos and missed meetings. While it is understandable, I see it as a cautionary tale. With the exponential growth of devices demanding ‘always’ on connectivity, and most rely on the promise of a future 5G network that won’t be ubiquitous I feel we have much work to do to ensure our expectations don’t outstrip the capabilities of our infrastructure. (And/or) It also has important implications for how we, therefore, design future systems and experiences.

Neon…

If you’ve not heard about this concept from a Samsung based start-up then it is worth diving in. I found the concept of life-like 'virtual humans’ or a ‘ digital species’ is equal parts fascinating and petrifying (think Matrix). I can see huge benefits in creating future experiences of all sorts – and as with 'deep fakes’ the technology raises huge moral questions that we need time to get to grips with. Fortunately, the demonstrations were far from perfect but I’d gamble that the technology will move quickly – will we be clear how to govern these potential powerful technologies by next year. I’m not sure... but I can’t want to find out – see you at CES2021!

As always CES was a fantastic event. If you would like to discuss more about innovation and technology contact us today!