CES 2021: Our Top Six Takeaways From The First-Ever, All-Digital Show

01.29.2021 Articles
By Briagenn Adams, Content Manager

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021 was an event unlike any others in its 50-year-history. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, CES was fully virtual this year – but that didn’t stop companies of all kinds from showing up to show off their most inspirational innovations and influential insights. Not surprisingly, the state of the world over the past 12 months has “pushed the fast-forward button on tech adoption,” as observed by Consumer Technology Association President and CEO, Gary Shapiro. In particular, a few things that really took flight included the expansion of smart health solutions, robotic automation, 5G expansion, and intelligent transportation – just to name a few. It’s commonly known that diamonds are created under pressure, and apparently the same thing can be said for technology; when times get tough, innovative minds go to work and next-gen inventions are born.

Like in years past, BDS attended CES virtually to keep a finger on the pulse of all things related to the first-ever, all-digital show. In doing so, we compiled the following list of six main takeaways and need-to-knows from 2021’s Consumer Electronics Show. If you want to experience the action for yourself, there’s still time! The CES 2021 digital venue will remain open for registered attendees until February 15 so that you can engage with exhibitors, replay programming, and connect with fellow attendees. Now let’s get started.

1) Smart Health

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way that Americans and global citizens monitor, maintain, and ultimately aim to improve their health. As a result, digital health sales grew 73% to $632 million during 2020, and are predicted to grow another 24% to $824 million during 2021. Additionally, as people continue to shelter-in-place and avoid non-essential outings, it’s estimated that 5% of all doctor’s appointment worldwide in 2021 will be conducted via video chat. The market for telehealth virtual visit solutions will reach $8 billion over the next 11 months, and more than $33 billion worth of medical-grade home healthcare technology will be sold, up 20% from 2019. One specific solution that was on display at CES is BioButton, a silver dollar-sized “smart sticker” that has the ability to detect coronavirus symptoms to support safe return-to-work and school initiatives. The BioButton adheres to your upper chest with medical adhesive and uses sensors to continuously track your skin temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, activity level, and sleep quality.

2) Clean Tech

Not surprisingly, “clean tech” or “pandemic tech” was a key theme at CES 2021. In fact, witty journalists even re-named CES CPS, or the COVID-19 Protection Show for short! Some particularly incredible innovations included intelligent face masks from two different industry players – AirPop and Razer. AirPop face masks feature industry-leading filtration technology to eliminate 99.3% particle filtration and 99.9% bacterial filtration (BFE) to protect against pollution and pathogens alike. Razer’s Project Hazel masks, on the other hand, up the ante with a special charging case lined with a UV light interior which kills bacteria and viruses as the mask charges. Yes, charges. The mask also includes a built-in mic and amplifier combo to ensure your speech is never muffled. Speaking of UV light, that advancement is in a category of its own; everything from autonomous robots to handheld devices are racing to incorporate UV disinfection into their designs to keep customers safe and healthy. Likewise, touchless technologies are being incorporated into certain smart home features such as toilets, faucets, and doorbells.

3) 5G Expansion

One of the keynote speakers at CES was Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, who spoke on how Verizon is working with partners such as the NFL, the Smithsonian, and UPS to incorporate 5G technology in the entertainment, education, and drone delivery industries. However, expansion isn’t without its share of concerns. In particular, Deloitte predicts that up to a third of people around the world are still worried about radiation exposure due to 5G’s use of super high-frequency radio airwaves. Apparently, “the most common perception is that 5G causes cancer. The second fear is that 5G-emitted radiation weakens the immune system, enabling COVID-19 to spread.” Thankfully, there is zero supporting evidence. In fact, CNET published an article in July of 2020 to debunk “the baseless claim is that somehow the radio waves used to transmit 5G either caused the virus or weakens the immune system, making one more susceptible to COVID-19.” In order to further allay consumer fears, the telecom industry should clearly communicate how 5G works to ease public anxiety surrounding its eventual expansion.

4) Robotic Automation

In 2021, robotic automation is moving closer to widespread commercialization with real-use cases such as John Deere’s Series X tractor. The self-driving tractor is equipped with ActiveVision camera technology that helps farmers “see inside the combine’s grain tank and observe tailings so they can monitor the condition of harvested grain, right down to individual kernels.” Compared with previous models, the new machines can thresh, separate, and harvest up to 70% more wheat per hour – a good thing for minimizing downtime, increasing productivity, and supporting profitability. Another example of robotic automation advancement is the Bot Handy solution from Samsung, an AI-driven technology aimed at helping humans complete household tasks. According to the company, “Samsung Bot Handy will be able to tell the difference between the material composition of various objects, utilizing the appropriate amount of force to grab and move around household items and objects, working as your trusted partner to help with house chores like cleaning up messy rooms or sorting out the dishes after a meal.”

5) Smart Vehicles

Connected cars aren’t a new concept, and they have steadily increased in popularity every year; 2021 was no exception. From self-driving cars to flying Cadillacs and a head-up display from Panasonic that projects information onto the windshield for drivers, the show was chockablock full of intelligent ideas surrounding the future of personal travel. Indeed, as “smart cities” continue to expand in America, connected cars will undoubtedly play a role in that growth. To take things off-road, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) won a “Best of Innovation” award in the Vehicle Intelligence & Transportation category for its AI, cloud, and edge computing technologies that will enable its traverse of the Atlantic in 2021, sans captain or crew. According to CES, “the ship’s future is working in tandem with human oceanographers and other autonomous vessels, collecting critical environmental data that will help safeguard the future of the ocean.” Ideally, the MAS will help pave the way for the development of safer and more sustainable transportation models and supply chains.

6) Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

Global spending on AR/VR solutions reached $12 billion in 2020, and it’s expected to grow 50% YoY until 2024. The opportunity for AR/VR in education in particular has displayed strength over the past 12 months. As COVID-19 raged through American communities, school districts were forced to close their doors and adopt virtual learning strategies. As a result, students and teachers alike grew accustomed to learning and teaching through a screen – a “new normal” reality which opens the door to the adoption of future mixed reality innovations. Another advancement made possible by AR/VR are Mojo Vision’s Lens – a smart contact lens that you insert into your eye to fuse digital information onto the world around you, according to Gadget Flow. Winner of the “Last Gadget Standing” award at CES 2021, the Mojo Vision smart contact lens allows wearers to augment daily life by seeing step-by-step directions as they walk, read from notes while delivering a presentation, and consume information like weather forecasts and restaurant reviews without detection.

There’s no doubt about it – CES 2021 was one for the books. Although 2020 and the first month of the new year have been anything but certain, one thing’s for sure: technology will continue to advance, no matter what roadblocks are in its way. Did we miss any major innovations or product launch announcement in our curated list of the top six takeaways?! Let us know in the comments below, or on our social media channels. 2021 has just begun, and it’s already been a year of massive change – a new decade, the presidential inauguration, the manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the list goes on. At BDS, we’re more than ready to see what the next 11 months have in store. And remember – CES will come back in a BIG WAY next year. We’ll see you (fingers crossed) in person in Las Vegas from January 5-8, 2022!