The Consumer Technology Association didn’t break with tradition and explored the technology trends that will shape our economy, job growth, and everyday lives in 2021 and beyond...
CES 2021, the 51st edition of the event, is all-digital for the first time. The experience is different, but the stream of keynotes, sessions, demonstrations, and new products releases is unchanged. The Consumer Technology Association didn’t break with tradition and explored the technology trends that will shape our economy, job growth, and everyday lives in 2021 and beyond.
“The health crisis, and the resulting economic downturn, brought no shortages of challenges for consumers, for businesses, for governments alike,” said Steve Koenig, vice president of research for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). But, “when the economy is at its worst, innovation is at its best. As a global community, we witnessed how technology innovation rushed in to provide a myriad of solutions across the economy and to save lives.”
In their presentation and a follow-up Q&A session at CES 2021, Steve Koenig and Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of research for CTA, shared their projections and analysis on innovation and emerging technology trends to watch throughout 2021.
Here is a collection of interesting figures, remarks, and perspectives on technology areas such as digital health, robotics, transportation, 5G connectivity, smart homes, and smart cities.
Health monitoring on the rise
Digital health has been a strategic health priority over the past years, and the Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated many pre-existing trends such as “the desire for consumers to take hold of their own day-to-day health,” said Rohrbaugh. Connected health monitoring devices help track a number of vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, hydration. Many are FDA-approved, and the pandemic has put a new focus on monitoring health beyond just fitness activities. In the U.S. only, the total shipment revenue reached $632 million in 2020, up 73% over 2019, and CTA expects it will reach about $845 million in 2021, up 34% over 2020.
Digital therapeutics, a relatively new branch of digital health with an estimated $11.8 billion global potential by 2027, uses software-based interventions to enhance clinician decision making, optimize the dose and delivery of other forms of medical treatments through patient monitoring or active standalone intervention. For instance, Epsy, a CES 2021 Award Honoree, is a patient app that simplifies managing epilepsy by creating a data rich diary to track seizures, medication compliance and triggers.
Wearables, not just for wrists
Most of us are familiar with smartwatches, but the next generation of wearables is not limited to wearing on the wrist. Such devices include smart rings, smart glasses, chest straps, smart belts, and clothing clip-ons. For instance, the Oura Ring, developed by Finnish startup Oura Health, tracks physical activities, provides daily scores on sleep and measures body temperatures and respiratory rate. Similarly, Colorado-based BioIntelliSense has introduced the BioButton for 90-days of continuous wireless temperature and vital signs monitoring. The coin-sized disposable medical device has been used for Covid-19 symptom monitoring of patients at home, high-risk individuals, and frontline healthcare professionals.
In the context of Covid-19, wearing a face mask has become usual and ubiquitous, and Rohrbaugh outlined the introduction of smart masks. xHale, a CES 2021 Award Honoree, is a two-way breathing mask. It helps with the exterior air intake and stale air expulsion in the range of 0.5 to 2 L / breaths, and is synchronized with the user’s breathing frequency. Equipped with quiet fans connected to pressure sensors and a strong and reusable filter, the air you breathe in and out is purified.
Touchless = riskless
The Covid-19 pandemic has created an increased need for alternatives to routine daily practices to reduce the spread of the virus. At CES 2021, CTA has identified transformative human machine interfaces, including voice-recognition and touchless user interface technologies, in the smart home space. “Over this past year, a lot of folks around the world have been putting a lot of concentration in remodeling their home and installing smart home products that will enhance their everyday lifestyles,” commented Rohrbaugh, citing Kohler’s Bathroom Faucet with embedded sensors that offers hands-free activation and decreases the potential spread of bacteria and germs.
Robots to the rescue
From airports to hospitals, from factories to our homes: robots are everywhere, and innovation is massive.
As the pandemic severed, robots have aided the health industry with ways to help with triage, but also to reduce both the burden and possible infection exposure rates in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, noted Rohrbaugh.
Robots have also been deployed within the hygiene space either to emit UV light to disinfect large spaces or to clean common areas in a more efficient and time saving manner.
Similarly, since the beginning of the pandemic, more autonomous delivery systems such as drones, robots, or self-driving vehicles have been deployed for a variety of use cases such as delivering crucial products from food to medical supplies. Amazon launched its Scout Delivery robot to deliver goods, while UPS and CVS have teamed up to use Matternets M2 drones for medicine delivery.
Robots are also entering our homes either to help with practical chores or with mental health issues. Presenting its home robot strategy at CES 2021, Samsung introduced the Handy robot that gets plates from the sink to the dishwasher and the Jet Bot 90 AI+ robot vacuum cleaner that uses AI-powered object recognition to identify and classify objects in its path, and decides how close to get to them.
Pet robots are also adopted to combat anxiety. A CES 2021 Award Honoree, Moflin is an AI pet that is claimed to develop over time its own personality like living animals. It also adapts to people’s way of interacting. Reportedly.
A long-time favorite topic at CES, televisions have grown from large to super-large to ultra-large. As Koenig explained, 4K HDR TVs are now table stakes. So what’s next? “I think we will see more 8K displays from brands like Hisense, LG, and Samsung.”
OLED also continues to gain momentum in the US, but also in the European and Asian markets. “More competitors are starting to push in, and that’s a good thing for consumers” as it leads to price reduction.
Televisions are not only getting bigger and more realistic looking. With voice, touchless technologies and AI’s ability to learn viewing patterns, televisions are getting smarter and learning from what we are doing to serve up content to us.
Audio streaming is here to say
The future for audio is bright, said Koenig. In the US, audio streaming is set to represent this year a $10 billion industry, i.e., a double-digit growth over the double-digit growth in 2020. On the hardware development side, this means AI sound processing, noise canceling and amplification technologies, super-long battery life, etc.
“This is definitely the year for AR,” said Koenig.
Global spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) is set to accelerate out of the pandemic, growing from just over $12.0 billion this year to $72.8 billion in 2024, according to IDC. The five-year compound annual growth rate for AR/VR spending will be 54.0%.
“Our research tells us that people endorse VR and like these experiences, but the other side of the coin is that they are cut off,” said Koenig. “Instead of more wireless VR headsets, we are starting to see some wearables that we can wear most of the time.”
At CES 2021, Vuzix has presented a new pair of microLED smart glasses while Lenovo has introduced its new ThinkReality A3 AR glasses that can be used for assisted workflows and immersive training.
5G = more jobs
“By the middle of the decade, we can reasonably expect to see 5G up and running all around the globe,” said Koenig. About 135 commercial 5G networks are now deployed and cover about a billion people around the world.
5G is a huge economic opportunity. A recent Qualcomm, IHS Markit 2020 5G Economy Study predicts a 10.8% net increase in global 5G investment and R&D over the next 15 years, compared to the 2019 forecast. More surprisingly, there will be an increase in 5G-related jobs to 22.8 million by 2035, up 22.3 million. “Why I think we’ll see more jobs directly attributed to 5G is that these networks are going to grow in scope, but also in capability.”
3GPP Release 17 is pushed back to 2022, where it was scheduled for this year. “That’s my only kind of disappointment,” said Koenig, “because Release 17 builds upon what we have today, enhance mobile broadband, and starts to have provisions for industrial IoT applications, massive and critical IoT applications.”
Truck electrificationWith General Motors rallying European and Asian automakers with a zero emission strategy, Koenig sees electrification as a clear road head. One sector more than others is of “critical importance”, at least in the United States, for the electric vehicle market: trucks. “A truck is the number one selling vehicle in America, and that’s been the case for years. The electric truck market is a huge swing factor in the success of the electric vehicle market, and that just opens up so many different interesting opportunities.”
One major example is GM’s revival of the Hummer in an all-electric form. Dubbed as a ‘super truck’ with 1000 horsepower, it can speed up from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds.
“Hydrogen, yes, in the coming years, we will start to see a few more applications, maybe more in public transport instead of very large battery systems,” said Koenig.
But, “that’s still a distant opportunity.” Remember: The main focus is electrification.
Cleaner buildings, smarter cities
Smart cities promise to solve cost challenges, foster economic growth, and encourage sustainability around the world. Rohrbaugh said she anticipates to see more networked sensors, which include proximity, air pollution and temperature sensors, and safety cameras. Smart kiosks and data dashboard will also provide public access to health information, navigation assistance to different facilities in real time.
In-door air quality is a main concern, and buildings are more and more incorporating smart air filtration systems, high efficiency HVAC systems, UV sanitizing lights, robotics and automatic cleaning protocols.
At CES 2021, TDK Corp. unveiled the TCE-11101 SmartEnviro sensor, a 5 mm x 5 mm x 1 mm ultra-low power MEMS gas sensor platform for direct and accurate detection of CO2 indoors.
Social distancing is also on people’s minds. Smart buildings have installed sensors that measure occupancy and spatial intelligence platforms for employees to check which areas are at capacity before they leave their desks.
This article was first published on EE Times Europe