More than 1,900 exhibitors from around the world and more than 100 hours of conferences. These are the figures from the first virtual CES in history due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the largest and most influential consumer electronics fair in the world .
Since 1967, it has featured inventions such as CDs, high-definition television or 3D printers. This year CES has taken place between January 11 and 14. There have been no major announcements, but the technological trends that will predominate in the coming months have been confirmed: from digital health to 5G through drones, robotics and smart cities.
Steve Koenig, vice president of research at CTA ( the association of technology companies of the USA, which organizes CES), considers that 2020 has been a really difficult year due to the health crisis and the economic recession.
“We have witnessed how technological innovation has contributed to providing solutions to the economy and even saving lives,” he says. For him, “when the economy is at its worst is when we tend to see innovation at its best.” And the pandemic “has shown it.”
The alert situation generated by the coronavirus has caused an acceleration of trends such as e-commerce, telemedicine or the visualization of streaming video .
A report by McKinsey & Company published in 2020 indicates that online orders increased the same in eight weeks as previously in 10 years, that virtual medical appointments increased 10 times in 15 days and that it took Disney + only five months get five million subscribers compared to the years it took competing companies.
The global pandemic has accelerated technological innovation, especially in the field of health. “For example, consumers want to monitor our own health, whether it is tracking our daily activities using a smart watch or fitness bracelet or managing our food or water intake through an app on the phone,” says Lesley Rorhbaugh, Research Director. of the CTA.
Digital health “has already become part of our daily lives.” If in 2019 the revenue from shipments of devices that monitor health reached 365 million dollars in the US, the CTA expects this year to reach 845 million and in 2024, 1,246 million.
Among these devices, there are some that monitor heart rate, blood pressure or temperature. The wearables no longer just worn on the wrist. While rings like Oura monitor sleep, exercise and body temperature , garments like Nuubo monitor the heart.
Added to this is the potential of artificial intelligence to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Machines have already begun to beat humans in predicting risk of cancer or Alzheimer’s. Multiple companies have tried to take advantage of this technology during the pandemic.
For example, the Valencian company Quibim has created a neural network that determines the affectation of an infected person from medical images and Cambridge scientists intend to create algorithms capable of detecting by speech, coughing and breathing if a person is infected.
When the pandemic struck last year, there were multiple organizations that were on a path of digital transformation, according to Koenig: “Many had to migrate to the cloud to access worker data and even to support customers and third parties.”
In April 2020, six out of 10 international companies expected cloud usage to exceed their forecasts due to COVID-19, according to a report by software company Flexera. For most of these companies, the main challenges are security and how to manage spending in the cloud.
The CTA expects cloud migration and digital transformation to accelerate in 2021 in all sectors: from sports to judicial to education. “Good thing we’ve had digital tools to keep students in front of their teachers for the past few months,” Koenig says.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics will also gain momentum. 43% of tech company leaders say artificial intelligence and machine learning matter now much more than they thought due to the pandemic, according to a report by Algorithmia.
Robots, which are a classic at trade shows like CES, have proven especially useful during the pandemic. There are hospitals in which they measure the temperature of patients, carry medicines, disinfect spaces or carry out triage tasks.
Both autonomous robots and drones can also be used to deliver packages in hard-to-reach places or in rural towns. Rorhbaugh says these machines “will continue to play a critical role in supporting the most underserved communities.”
Users gradually get used to these technologies. More than a quarter of Americans are now more favorable to autonomous delivery systems than before the pandemic, according to a study by the CTA.
In addition, more and more companies include these technologies in their day to day. Gartner predicts that global revenues related to robotic process automation software will reach nearly $ 2 billion by 2021, an increase of 19.5% over 2020.
For a couple of years, different countries such as Spain, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Italy or the United States have begun to deploy 5G networks. This technology promises higher speed and lower latency – the response time it takes for a device to execute an order from the moment the signal is sent to it.
There are currently 135 commercial 5G networks around the world, according to the CTA. But the deployment has not been uniform. While much of Asia, Europe or America already have this technology, most countries in Africa have not even invested in it.
Koenig expects 5G to be working around the world by the middle of this decade. The situation generated by the coronavirus has raised expectations, according to a Qualcomm study published in November.
Over the next 15 years a 10.8% increase in global investment in 5G and R&D is expected compared to pre-pandemic forecasts. Research also indicates that in 2035 there will be some 22.8 million jobs related to this technology.
The implementation of 5G networks can serve as a turning point for smart cities. Different cities around the world already have connected sensors that track air quality, noise levels, temperature or even pedestrian activity.
Between 2019 and 2025, the number of global IoT connections will double to nearly 25 billion, according to the GSMA, the association of telecommunications operators. Rorhbaugh indicates that smart kiosks are another development within smart cities “that can provide public alerts, access to health information, assistance for navigation to different facilities …”. All in real-time dashboards.
The aforementioned sensors have also reached buildings. Some like Deloitte’s The Edge in Amsterdam or The Crystal in London use them to achieve greater efficiency and energy savings.
“Smart buildings have sensors that measure occupancy and shared spaces and also spatial intelligence platforms where employees can use a dashboard to see which areas have capacity before they even leave their desk,” Rorhbaugh concludes.