CES 2021: Three trends business pros and CIOs should watch very closely

Most of the innovations at CES 2021 aren't on display. It's the hidden, enterprise tech that powers all those smart consumer gadgets that is the real star of the show.
Written by Bill Detwiler, Contributor

With over 150,000 attendees annually, CES is the year's biggest show in tech. And ZDNet and TechRepublic are always on scene in Las Vegas to cover all the news and product announcements. This year however, things are different. In response to the COVID pandemic, CES 2021 is All Digital. Instead of in-person meetings and hands-on displays, it's video conferences and virtual experiences.

What hasn't changed however, is that CES is as much a showcase for the latest business technology as it is for new consumer electronics. Enterprise technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence (AI)analytics, IoT, and 5G underpin all those gadgets and smart devices.

Whether you're a CIO, IT worker, developer, or business professional, we all need to understand how these technologies are being used in consumer products and how they will affect our companies, communities, and careers.

So as always, ZDNet and TechRepublic will have CES covered from all the angles that matter to businesses and professionals.

At CES 2021, there are three big trends that tech pros and CIOs should pay attention to:

1. Health, wellness, and workplace safety

As COVID vaccinations ramp up across the globe, office buildings and public-gathering spaces will reopen, travel will increase, and "normal" life will return. But it will be a new normal marked by more hybrid working environments, increased reliance on e-commerce and delivery-based services, growth in the use of physical and mental health monitoring devices, and lots of new tech to help people safely come together in person. Enterprise IT has, is and will play an essential role in the development, deployment, and support of these technologies...many of which will be on display at CES.

2. Tech that bridges our personal and work lives.

This goes beyond the mere use of consumer technology in the enterprise, what we often call "the consumerization of IT." As more people's homes have become their workplaces, tech manufactures are increasingly designing devices to facilitate a seamless transition between work and play, and they are actively marketing this functionality to both consumers and to business IT decision makers. Given the privacy, security, and connectivity considerations around this type of tech, IT leaders should monitor this trend very closely, and CES is the perfect place to see a lot of the tech workers will be using in their home offices.

3. 5G

Yes, it was on my list last year and no, 5G won't replace the current 4G infrastructure anytime soon. But, its high bandwidth and low latency, especially when combined with edge computing, can provide near real-time connectivity for SCADA systems, IoT devices, drones, and autonomous cars. 5G can also support more devices per square mile than 4G, which is handy with the rapid proliferation of network-connected devices. In short, 5G will enable many of the technological advances we'll see this decade.

All ZDNet's CES 2021 coverage

For more of the best from CES 2021, follow ZDNet's special report, CES 2021: The Big Trends for Business, where we've brought together all the coverage of the latest products and trends throughout the show and afterward.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.


Editorial standards