I had the oddest experience last week. Shortly after logging on from a lovely holiday break, my body began to crave Emergen-C, Advil, and hand sanitizer all at one time. My back and feet began to ache, as well. Then it hit me. Ah, yes, it’s early January, and for better or worse my body has developed a condition that I like to call CESitis. Whether you were in Las Vegas or participating from home like I was, only those who have experienced the world’s largest tech trade show will truly understand what I was going through.
With an estimated 100,000 attendees and 3,000 companies exhibiting, last week presented a sense of normalcy for CES not experienced since 2020. With the ability to zoom in and out of keynotes, exhibitors offering virtual demonstrations, and consuming all of the tremendous coverage from our friends in the media, the show has continued to evolve to reach those unable to make the annual trip.
So, with sugar free Red Bulls (please don’t judge me) and tea at my side, I was ready to experience the show for the first time in years simply as someone who loves to learn about the newest innovations and trends that will shape our future. For those unable to attend or just now waking up from their post-CES slumber (the best kind of slumber, IMO), here are my top five virtual takeaways from the show:
Takeaway One: Mobility: Mobility Tech Dominates Headlines.
CES is one of the most important weeks in the year for the mobility industry, and 2023 was no different with nearly 20% of the exhibitor space being occupied by the industry. With road safety a top priority, a growing number of startups and established players highlighted the latest ADAS and autonomous solutions. However, I was most intrigued by an aftermarket solution from Bosch, which has ride-hailing driver safety in mind with an interior and exterior camera, as well as a wireless SOS button should they discreetly need assistance. While I know some may be skeptical of Big Brother, having video, location and timestamp evidence will certainly come in handy during accidents and disputes.
Along with safety, vehicle electrification is at the forefront of any industry discussion. And while there was plenty of news around EVs and charging infrastructure (more in the next section), I am excited to learn more about ZF’s heat belt, an energy efficient way of keeping passengers warm on a cold winter’s day while potentially increasing your EV range. As someone who’s based in Metro Detroit and has seen the impact a cold day can have even on my iPhone’s battery life, it’s technology like this that will ease consumer fears and help with broader EV adoption.
Takeaway Two: Sustainability: Planes, Tractors and Automobiles.
Following Climate Week and COP27, CES presented another opportunity to further discuss the status of existing and new innovations that may help reduce global warming, with transportation and aviation taking center stage.
In the air, Delta announced its new Sustainable Skies Lab, a first-of-its-kind airline innovation lab to accelerate research, design and testing for a more sustainable future of air travel. A welcomed approach that goes beyond throwing money at the problem, this program combines shared talent resources, a partner accelerator program, and operational concept testing.
On the road, Stellantis unveiled the 2024 Ram Revolution Battery-electric Vehicle Concept, the brand’s first entry into the electric truck space, which will include 800-volt DC fast charging that can add up to 100 miles of range in approximately 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to build a branded, high-powered electric vehicle charging network across North America by 2027, and Goodyear released a demonstration tire made of 70% sustainable-material content, a significant milestone as the company works toward a tire made 100% from sustainable materials by 2030.
And in what has become an annual occurrence, John Deere again grabbed headlines with its latest innovations in farming. ExactShot is a new product that will help farmers be economically and environmentally sustainable by using sensors to register when each individual seed is in the process of going into the soil. As this occurs, a robot will spray only the amount of fertilizer needed directly onto the seed. In one use case, ExactShot could save over 93 million gallons of starter fertilizer annually and prevent wasted fertilizer from encouraging weed growth or increasing the risk of field runoff into waterways.
Takeaway Three: Inclusivity: Beauty without Limits.
Amongst all the different industries, products, and prototypes debuting at CES, I can’t say I expected beauty tech to stand out to me. But as my colleagues filled me in on what our L’Oréal client was debuting, I went from intrigued to inspired.
As part of its mission to advance an inclusive vision of beauty, L’Oréal debuted prototype HAPTA, a handheld, ultra-precise smart makeup applicator built for an estimated 50 million people around the world with limited fine motor skills. Originally created to stabilize and level utensils to give people with limited hand and arm mobility the ability to eat with confidence, HAPTA will be tested as a potential technology that aims to provide a full range of motion to apply color cosmetics. The key to HAPTA is its combination of built-in smart motion controls plus customizable attachments that give the user a full range of motion, increased ease of use for difficult-to-open packaging, and precision application that is otherwise hard to achieve.
Takeaway Four: Healthy Living: Mental and Physical Well-Being.
The smart fitness tracking category has been around for a long time, but with its primary focus on physical health, I was curious to see if anyone has invested in better supporting mental health. The short answer is yes, as many top brands in the category have some built-in features, but they’re certainly secondary.
I was excited to discover NOWATCH, a health innovation company and creator of the “awareable” category, premiere its screenless watch that provides real-time feedback about movement, sleep and stress, alongside recovery tools to restore balance and help users to live more fully in the “now.” Even better than just monitoring your mental health, NOWATCH can actually predict when an issue may arise and will proactively suggest activities to help de-stress.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge client Abbott, which earned three CES Innovation Awards for its life-changing technologies that are advancing the health tech industry and improving the lives of people worldwide. The three innovations include:
Takeaway Five: Accessibility: Hear, Hear for Clearer Sounds.
With the FDA’s approval of over-the-counter hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing impairment last August, new hearable products and concepts were on full display. Being a newer market segment, there are several unknowns leading the way, including Eargo and Nuheara.
Of course, the show also prominently featured the latest and greatest developments in headphone, speaker and soundbar technology. Our Philips Sound client was active at this year’s show, unveiling a new range of premium and sports audio products under the Philips, Philips Sports, and Philips Fidelio brands.
While I’m still relatively healthy (knock on wood) and was able to enjoy the finer things in life, such as sitting in a chair, I know there are things I missed by “attending” from home. A lot of hard work goes into running a successful CES program, and it’s always a treat to see the final payoff in-person. However, it was still time well-spent and an experience I recommend for those unable to make it to Las Vegas in 2024.
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