January 21, 2020

Reflections from CES: It’s Not Just about Gadgets Anymore

The year’s biggest consumer technology show wrapped in Las Vegas earlier this month, and just like the best digital products are always evolving, so is CES. What used to be a show about gadgets has evolved into a show about ideas and user experiences – not just cool stuff.

While the origins of CES lie in the cutting-edge products, we’re in a software-driven world now, and much of what’s exciting about CES now is the software and data. It’s software that is powering the biggest trends we saw at the show this year, from AI and VR to robotics and transportation technology.

With this comes a much stronger focus on the need and use cases behind the technology. For example, CES used to feature the all-too-familiar wall of televisions, of all shapes and sizes, showcasing the newest in tv technology and resolutions. This year, television and entertainment technology is about how well it blends into your home – the experience, not the product. It’s not about showing off your 75” flat screen anymore; it’s about how well you can hide your screens in your house – whether it’s by rolling them up or having them convert to mirrors or framed art.

This trend toward user experiences was pervasive across CES. Take robotics: Where you once went to a booth to pet a robot puppy, now robotics has transformed to a small ball that follows you around, managing your smart devices, your fitness goals and more. Robotics is much more than just cool technology now. It has transitioned to making our lives better and more convenient, which has always been the goal but has not really been a reality until now.

Or consider airline exhibits: Delta and others once showcased new airplane technology. Now they’re tackling the transportation and travel experience as a whole. Delta’s CEO discussed what the future of travel looks like, and it includes a baggage service that takes your bag from the plane to the hotel without having to stop at baggage claim; on-air entertainment you can coordinate before you leave your house; and security that verifies your identity with a simple eye scan. It’s about how we can utilize software to power an integrated travel experience – not just specific, one-off technology like a more powerful engine or better tvs on the backs of seats.

Similarly, “auto technology” has exploded into a whole mobility ecosystem. What was once an exhibit space about the future of cars is now about the future of transportation and accessibility as a whole, from Uber helicopters to drones to smart cities. And fitness and wellness technology has really moved toward a much stronger focus on actual health – not just staying active but measuring precise data and giving health prognostications.

As we continue to embrace digital products and the software that is driving new technology, I’m excited to see what trends will emerge at next year’s CES.