Each January, over 170,000 consumer electronic technologists flock to the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas to experience the announcements of the latest trends and technologies that will be rolling out in the year ahead.
Every year, that is, except this year.
Due to COVID-19, the 2021 CES was restructured into an entirely digital event with hundreds of product pitches packed into three full days of keynotes, panel discussions, and press briefings, which we perused to identify key trends that could impact thinking within accounting firms and for their clients.
Below we list six key trends and some representative products that highlighted this year’s virtual CES.
Consumer electronics manufacturers specifically addressed COVID-19 concerns, developing products both for personal safety and for sanitizing commercial environments.
Robots such as the LG CLOi and Ubtech Adibot utilize UV lighting operating on a “Roomba-like” platform to quickly disinfect a hotel room, gym, or classroom.
Personal UV sanitation devices were featured, such as the Targus UV-C LED light that could disinfect your keyboard and smartphone at the touch of a button.
The unobtrusive face mask also received the CES treatment with vendors integrating a variety of technologies, including wearable air purifiers (LG PuriCare), earbuds with sound control (MaskFone), and air quality sensors that would notify you via an app when to change the filter (AirPop Smart Mask)
While 5G digital cellular service roll-outs are significantly increasing bandwidth and lowering latency for consumers, multiple vendors touted that its transformative capabilities to innovate industries were “beyond revolutionary.” They believed this would be especially true in commercial environments where private 5G products are accelerating the development of connected processes in manufacturing, retail, autonomous vehicles/delivery, and EDGE computing.
While most consumers have roughly five devices connected to the Internet today (phone, computer, TV, doorbell, car, etc.), 5G solutions are expected to make that number jump to between forty and sixty within the next ten years.
Robotics are impacting every industry, such as personal delivery via air (Wing drones) and personalized shopping (via self-driving Starship delivery carts). These robots are already being utilized on college campuses for “contactless” food delivery.
Consumer-grade robots have also made a significant jump in capabilities. Samsung’s JetBot 90 AI+ floor vacuum integrates high precision LiDAR radar (found in autonomous cars) with 3D object recognition to clean floors, avoid problems, and integrate a camera that can be accessed through your smartphone so you can see what is going on in your house. Samsung also displayed their BotHandy robot, which has an articulating arm that can set the dinner table, pour you a drink, and put the dishes in the dishwasher afterward.
Companion robots such as the CareClever Cutii and Bot Care from Samsung are being marketing to seniors that may be particularly vulnerable during the pandemic. These robots learn their owner’s daily routine, provide reminders (i.e. appointments, medication time), as well as help to make video calls to family members and emergency services.
COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of cloud technologies for most organizations as they pivoted to having remote employees and customers that suddenly needed to interact virtually.
Multiple panelists identified competitive advantages in connectivity, collaboration, scalability, disaster recovery, and security that cloud solutions provided over legacy solutions.
A “State of the Cloud” report done by Flexera in April 2020 found 59% of global enterprises are already exceeding their cloud adoption plans.
Companies had significantly different remote work experiences with those not already cloud-enabled seeing decreases in productivity and wanting to return to the office.
Those that had remote work programs and were cloud-enabled saw the exact opposite and plan to continue remote usage.
COVID-19 forced over 100,000 of Dell’s traditionally office-bound personnel to work remotely over a weekend. Management identified that working from home was not about work/life balance, but an integrated “homebody” experience that combined immersive and non-immersive work projects, personal computing needs (shopping, bill paying), and entertainment/exercise needs interspersed throughout the day.
Along with upgrades to the Latitude 9420 to optimize video calls, Dell touted a 34-inch curved monitor designed specifically for video conferencing and optimized for Microsoft Teams collaboration.
On the topic of remote displays, Lenovo featured their Think-Reality A3 Virtual Smart Glasses, which allows the user to “see” up to five other displays at 1080p definition when connected to their laptop. This appeared to be a significant jump along the lines of Microsoft’s HoloLens smart-glasses.
Microsoft President Brad Smith highlighted the critical awareness and focus that all companies must have on information security as one of the key challenges they will face in the future.
The scope and breadth of the recent Solar Winds attack was unlike any seen before; it was a mass indiscriminate global assault on the information technology supply chain and impacted the medical infrastructure, hospitals, first responders, and medical supply providers.
Companies must build safeguards around their (and their partners’) data and infrastructure while increasingly addressing privacy and information bias within artificial intelligence.
While this year’s CES was effective at creating a digital experience that allowed for the safe exposure to hundreds of leading experts and technologies, the virtual format punctuated the differences in energy and expanded awareness generated when physically immersed amongst thousands of vendors and technology explorers.
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