Highlights from CES 2023
Key themes and takeaways
CES is a big show; this year boasting over 100,000 attendees. It’s almost impossible to view the whole experience to any great depth, so you must choose your verticals and do a bit of a deep dive into them. What I’m describing in this blog is my experience and takeaways from attending CES 2023, although many of the themes wove like a red thread across exhibition halls, product launches and discussions in and out of the show space. I was able to identify five broad themes and tensions, all somehow underpinned by an omnipresent impact of data. This year, the vibe felt like a step away from the individuality of consumerism, and seemed to focus more on the collective goals of community needs.
Platforms and prizes: Becoming enablers.
Connectivity, possibility and co-development through partners was a big topic. Consumer goods and durables that have traditionally been end goals in and of themselves, such as cars, are now technology platforms for collaboration and opportunity. Think cars partnering with content creators and cellular technology for 5G connectivity, and home furnishing fit-outs becoming open source and a hub for IoT applications. It’s all about taking traditionally big investments and making them a platform vs. a badge.
Automotive made a big showing at this year’s CES, with electric vehicles (EVs) being the stars of the show. EVs aimed to reimagine the relationship between people and cars, ambitiously aiming to make vehicles into a sort of platform for collaboration, almost an IoT extension of one’s lifestyle. VinFast made a big showing with their newly minted line of EVs, but also with their touted collaborations with players such as T-Mobile. In addition to mobility, VinFast teased out a line of electric bikes as a brand extension and foray into the lifestyle and sustainability conversation, something that others were also quick to do. Even Bugatti, the luxury carmaker, launched a new EV coupled with a line of e-scooters.
Old and new economy: Big plans vs. big plays.
These were both on display. Dodge launched their new Dodge Charger EV automobile, a beautiful display of design and investment. Traditional economy players were there and toting the badges of innovation and the virtual economy. However, the talk of the halls were the smaller players, who are digitally native from inception. Banks have been talking about cloud migration for years, but the new economy started in the cloud, and they are the ones who got everyone excited.
The new categories include food tech, sports tech and digital assets. This year, we really saw the emergence of new categories underpinned with real purpose. It’s not about making living easier; it’s about making living better. For everyone.
TechAir demoed an excellent motorcycle armour solution with built-in airbags to help riders avoid critical injury. OneThird showed a line of avocado testing technology that reveals the level of ripeness in the fruit to avoid waste, something that’s being rolled out to other produce. Tramontina opened the curtains to a kitchen countertop solution that blends a convection oven with smart app technology that helps you cook the perfect meal by adjusting the heat and cook time of a pot based on recipes.
Technology and connectivity: Open source, global collaboration.
This theme is all about connections, partnerships and the ability to speak to one another. Closed platforms like Apple are not what’s driving excitement. In fact, Apple didn’t even make a showing. There’s far less interest in siloed technology than there is in open source: IoT kitchens, cell providers paving the way for 5G speeds, and the automotive revolution to truly take lifestyle on the road.
IoT 2.0 examples:
- Samsung took smart living to the next level with their SmartThings station, connecting disparate brands and devices across the universal Matter device protocol, dropping silos that brands like Apple continue to vehemently defend.
- LG’s multi-colour panel smart fridge and EcoFlow’s robot lawnmower, echoing the spirit of the Roomba but outdoors, brought us one step closer to automation and better living.
Change and utopia: Making it better or starting again.
Sustainability was practically omnipresent. You don’t talk about what you’re doing today unless you’re prepared to demonstrate that you’re not causing harm tomorrow. However, if we can’t fix the real world, there’s a whole lot out there to start again in the virtual world. AR/VR demo shops, robotics and automation to completely side-step physical barriers to doing better, holograms, and the new reality showed that we’re here to either change our world or build a new one. Or more likely, both.
Despite being called the Consumer Electronics Show, it should have been renamed “Community Electronics Show,” with sustainability finding a conversation across almost every vertical. For example, Samsung and Patagonia’s collaboration announcement to help reduce microplastics, agri-tech giants such as John Deere’s new EV-AI powered farming equipment aimed at reducing use of fertilizer, and stories about the replacement of resource-heavy promotional norms through better-built AR/VR tech dominated the conversations at this year’s show.
Better living through data: At the heart of it all.
There has been a shift around considerations for data privacy and security, given aggregate data-pools, the usage of data in AI, and the usage of data in health and biometrics. Underpinning all of this is a new superpower.
We got a glimpse into the “new data” – the new generation of health devices. Nearly everything on display was driven by and contributed to huge and ever-growing data pools. Health-tech and data took to new frontiers with no less than three manufacturers launching high-tech toilets, flush with data about the users' immediate status of health, health risks and recommendations for better living. Treasure Data, who partners with AWS, talked about the ability to tap into data from Amazon’s pool of 450 million users to model things like propensity to purchase simply based on aggregate behaviour, versus knowledge based on tracking and historical user information. We’re at a point where anonymity doesn’t prevent predictive analytics. And that’s both exciting and scary.
See you at CES 2024.