CES 2021 event report: What's hot and useful in the enterprise

Virtual CES kicks off the conference season for 2021.
Written by Ray Wang, Contributor

This year's CES will be all virtual as with all pandemic events.  Last year they brought in more than 171,000 guests, 6500 press and media, and had almost 3 million net square feet of exhibits with 4419 exhibiting companies.  As one of the largest industry networking events and conferences, it will be massively different virtual. While we can expect more attendees, past virtual events have shown how burn out and the lack of networking leads to less screen time and minimal impact.

Given Microsoft's outsized presence as a technology partner for CES, the logins, the virtual event studio, and other technologies are taking advantage of the partnership. In fact, the Microsoft Studios houses four sound stages in Redmond that include the massive 60 foot by 40 foot sound stage to smaller 22 foot by 22 foot insert stages. There's some serious equipment there and two identical video control rooms with post production facilities and state of the art off-line editing. The production team is top notch so the broadcast quality and show flow will be pretty smooth.

CES 2021 Builds Off Of Evolving Technology Trends

The technology themes for this year seem to fall into a few buckets with AI, 5G,Internet of Things, and Extended reality technologies weaved into the narratives. With digital transformation accelerated five years in five months of the pandemic, major consumer trends and themes that cross into the enterprise for 2021 include healthcare, autonomous and electric vehicles, display technology advancements, smart buildings and connected devices, and eSports and virtual worlds.

A quick scan of the major announcements and sessions for this year's CES shows the seven major trends for the enterprise:

  1. Machine learning and AI advancements
  2. Healthcare via personal health, devices, and remote care
  3. Environmental themes emerging around sustainability, circular economy, and climate
  4. Electric and autonomous vehicle innovations
  5. Improvement in display technologies from material science, power consumption, and form factors
  6. More consumer and enterprise adoption of extended reality (MR, AR, VR)
  7. Advancements and ease of use with connected devices and digitization supporting smart homes, smart buildings, and connected devices.

Expect These Following Themes To Dominate The Conversation

Healthcare Everywhere And Digitized For A Pandemic And Beyond

The pandemic has accelerated a lot of telehealth innovations, home monitoring, virtual health, connected areas. Omron, Philips, and Verizon are putting a lot of announcements from new products to new service offerings.

  • Verizon -- 5G's impact on healthcare
  • Omron -- health monitoring, remote health heart
  • Philips -- connected health, telehealth, virtual health
  • We see virtual surgeries, telemedicine, and improved phlebotomy with AR

Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Capabilities Roll Forward

As many states and countries start the draconian shift to eliminate ICE internal combustion engines and gas cars, a lot of work is out there on electric and autonomous vehicles.

  • Intel has some big announcements on MobileEye AV
  • GM's talking about electrification with Mary Barra
  • Mercedes and Panasonic have new user experiences and infotainment systems
  • But here's the most interesting one, Magma and LG Chem are partnering up
  • Caterpillar will be showcasing how they are delivering on autonomous mining

Faster, Better, Cheaper, And More Flexible Displays Continue To Advance

It can't be a CES without innovations in Display technologies. The big manufacturers are all pushing towards 8K and that future, we still need broadcast for that, but it's getting good along with the flexible displays that were on the show floor last year.

  • Hisense will be talking more about their Laser TV's
  • Skyworth is still pushing out the AIOT story
  • TCL has made improvements in MiniLed
  • and LG and Samsung have their latest displays

Smart Buildings, IOT, and Connected Devices Get Easier To Connect And Use

Constellation's seeing a rash of new smart devices that bring the home, commercial buildings, and IOT closer and easier together.

  • Bosch is announcing a series of smart mobility, IoT, and devices
  • Schneider Electric has a smart home DX and XD light switches
  • LG's line of smart appliances
  • Kohler is sharing what their vision of kitchens and baths will look like in the smart home

Advancements In Gaming, eSports, And Extended Reality Have Enterprise Applications

Mixed reality and extended reality continue to take place. These applications are powering remote work, training, field service applications, and even new types of experiential sales environments.

  • Rendever has a very interesting solution for senior communities and VR
  • Lenovo will launch their new Think Reality AR glasses

The Bottom Line: Compressed Digital Transformation Dominates 2020 and 2021

At the dawn of 2021, all across the world, compressed digital transformation is accelerating cloud adoption, digital commerce, cyber security, automation and AI. These are key technologies for 2021 and the team will be keeping a close eye on the leaders in these spaces. CES showcases the innovations for 2021 in the consumer space. So far, nothing breakthrough, however, the rapid adoption in the consumer world always paves the way for enterprise adoption. Add massive security requirements, enterprise class scale, and an understanding of adoption paths, and these trends will pervasively emerge in the enterprise leader's priority list.

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