Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: CES 2021: The Big Trends for Business

CES 2021 Innovation Awards: Winners and trends

Innovation takes many forms at CES 2021. Check out the products, companies and categories that have received the plaudits.

The all-digital CES 2021 won't be your average online event

Each year, CES runs an extensive programme of innovation awards, calling out a subset of the thousands of products on show for excellence in engineering, aesthetics and design, uniqueness, the innovation they bring to the consumer market, and more. 

There are two levels of recognition: 'Honorees' are products that score above the threshold for a given category, while 'Best of Innovation' is reserved for the highest-rated product(s) in each category (see the CES website for more details on the judging process and expert panel). 

As of 12 January at the 2021 show, 222 companies and 386 products had received recognition, of which 26 were Best of Innovation (BoI) award winners: 

Company

Product

Category

Advanced Micro Devices

AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Desktop Processors

Computer Hardware & Components

BioIntelliSense, Inc

BioButton™ medical grade device and data services  

Wearable Technologies

Brunswick Corporation

1st Mate Marine Safety & Security System

In-Vehicle Entertainment & Safety, Vehicle Intelligence & Transportation

E2IP Technologies

EES (Electromagnetic Engineered Surfaces)

Smart Cities

Epsy

Epsy

Health & Wellness, Software & Mobile Apps

Harman International Industries

Harman Kardon Radiance 2400

High-Performance Home Audio/Video

IBM

IBM & The Mayflower Autonomous Ship & The AI Captain

Vehicle Intelligence & Transportation

Imverse

Imverse Live3D rendering engine and volumetric holograms

Streaming

John Deere

John Deere X-Series Combine

Robotics

LG Electronics

LG InstaView ThinQ Refrigerator with Voice Recognition

Home Appliances

LG Electronics

LG 48-inch OLED 4K TV (Model OLED 48C1)

Gaming

M2S

VROR EYE Dr.

Health & Wellness

Moen Incorporated

U by Moen Smart Faucet 

Home Appliances

OrCam Technologies

OrCam Read

Accessibility

Origin Wireless

Origin Health - Remote Patient Monitoring

Software & Mobile Apps

ROLI

LUMI Keys 1

Computer Peripherals & Accessories

Samsung Electronics

Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G/Galaxy Note20 5G

Gaming, Mobile Devices & Accessories

Samsung Electronics

Galaxy Buds+ BTS Edition

Headphones & Personal Audio

Samsung Electronics

Samsung 110'' MicroLED Home Screen

Video Displays, Digital Imaging/Photography

Samsung Electronics

Smart TV Accessibility

Accessibility

Skydio

Skydio X2

Drones & Unmanned Systems

Sony Electronics

Spatial Reality Display

Computer Hardware & Components

The Chamberlain Group

MyQ Pet Portal

Smart Home

Vanguard Industries

MOFLIN | An AI Pet Robot with Emotional Capabilities

Robotics

Vaonis

Vespera

Digital Imaging/Photography

Waymo

The Fifth-Generation Waymo Driver

Vehicle Intelligence & Transportation

As usual, there's a diverse range of products on view, from the mainstream (AMD's Ryzen 5000 desktop processors, Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 smartphones, for example) to the highly specialised (E2IP Technologies' Electromagnetic Engineered Surfaces that reflect/redirect/block specific radiofrequency waves, John Deere's X-Series robotic combine harvester, for example). There's also typical CES fodder such as TVs from LG (OLED) and Samsung (microLED), LG's InstaView ThinQ Refrigerator with Voice Recognition and Moen Incorporated's Smart Faucet, as well as properly futuristic technology like Imverse's Live3D rendering engine and volumetric holograms. The latter uses voxel-based graphics rendering to capture a person's physical appearance, convert it to digital and create live 3D holograms viewable with VR/AR headsets. Use cases include remote collaboration, gaming, telehealth, online education and live entertainment.

Health and wellness have a predictably higher profile in the 2021 awards (see below), with prominent innovations being BioIntelliSense's BioButton, a wearable device that continuously measures temperature, heart rate and resting respiratory rate to look for signs of an early COVID-19 infection, and VROR EYE Dr., a VR-based eye health solution. And with care homes prominent in the battle against COVID-19, there will be interest in Origin Health Remote Patient Monitoring, a software/hardware solution that helps care staff manage their residents via Wi-Fi-connected monitors for motion, activity, breathing and sleep.

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An intriguing Best of Innovation award winner is IBM's Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), which in spring 2021, guided by its AI Captain, will cross the Atlantic in a modern-day recreation of the original Mayflower's Plymouth (Devon) to Plymouth (MA) voyage. Launched in September 2020 -- 400 years after the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers -- the MAS is scheduled to depart on 19 April.

And, of course, no CES would be complete without the wackier end of things, such as the MyQ Pet Portal, a smart door system for your pet with remote control, audio and video, and the ability to be triggered by a custom collar system.

Here are the CES awards (Honorees and Best of Innovation winners) arranged by category, as of 12 January:

ces-2021-innovation-awards-by-category.jpg

Data: CES / Chart: ZDNet

Health & Wellness currently leads the field in 2021, taking over from Smart Home in 2020. Also prominent are Computer Hardware & Components, Computer Peripherals & Accessories, Headphones & Personal Audio and Home Appliances. It's noticeable that heavily hyped categories in recent years, such as 3D Printing, Drones & Unmanned Systems, and Virtual & Augmented Reality, are not figuring highly in the awards ranking.

Which companies garnered the most innovation awards? As of 12 January, the leader is Samsung Electronics, followed by fellow Korean giant LG Electronics and (Samsung-owned) audio and automotive specialist Harman International. Other prominent big-name brands are Asus, MSI Computer, HP Inc, Philips, Netgear and Dell. And following last year's controversy over the Lora DiCarlo sex-tech device (award given and rescinded, then resinstated), the inclusion of Satisfyer, with two awards, is notable.

ces-2021-leading-companies.jpg

Data: CES / Chart: ZDNet

Given the wide variety of products, companies and products on show, award-winners will have very different levels of visibility after their moment in the CES spotlight. For example, the 2020 Best of Innovation awards included Samsung's Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, which returns 14.4 million Google hits at the time of writing, and the Valerann Smart Roads System, which returns 1,270.

Check back for updated figures as more awards (Honorees and Best of Innovation) are announced.

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