Did the consumer electronics show hit or miss the mark on emerging tech trends like electric vehicles and Web3?

Did the consumer electronics show hit or miss the mark on emerging tech trends like electric vehicles and Web3?

Did the consumer electronics show hit or miss the mark on emerging tech trends like electric vehicles and Web3?

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (aka CES) in Las Vegas was to technology what fashion shows are to fashion. A vision of the future: a mix of fantasy, cutting-edge, avant-garde and exclusivity. While the products are mostly beyond the reach of the masses, it is generally accepted that these concepts will iterate, innovate and evolve over the next few years into versions within reach that will become part of our everyday lifestyle.

This year has been a little different, whether it’s the first big mass gathering since the pandemic years, the changing zeitgeist with the looming uncertainty around our economic, environmental and social future or that sentiment growing that the 99% are pretty much done with the glitz, greed and glamor of the 1% and all their personal self-destructive pursuits. Something is changing and for me it is extremely important that we pay attention to these signals.

This year was less about far-future fantasy flash or totally obscure “what are they talking about tech” (aka vaporware) than previous years (although there’s still a decent amount of it). It was a little closer to the ground with products that looked like the masses could use today rather than in years to come. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a lack of wanting to dazzle – there was that. What stood out to me was that there was more of a nod to sustainability, energy efficiency, and real-world practical applications and use cases that are needed now in a “how to could we use this technology at scale”. In a way, it was less there and more right now, for you.

CES has traditionally focused on consumer gadgets, of which it had plenty. Many of these were home-based digital health and wellness exams and tests that will surely disrupt current jobs in this space. It has grown over the years to include much broader applications of emerging technologies such as automotive, transport, connectivity and energy storage, artificial intelligence (AI), Web3, health digital, etc. I felt like my worlds of moonshots, cities, mobility, future of work and Web3 were center stage and converging.

Despite all the chatter about sustainability and human health, I wanted to see more. Maybe that was the point. Technology is a tool and works best when it enables and unleashes human creativity to solve problems, innovate, and reduce friction in our culture and daily lives. When we create things people love and make our lives easier, happier, and the world around us better, we all win.

There were glimpses of the incredible emerging technologies that I am fortunate to be a part of that are trying to solve these thorny global issues, with breakthrough technology (space, robotics, energy capture and storage, regenerative printing of biodiversity ). These must be promising to be marketed and scaled if they are to quickly repair and restore our amazing blue and green spacecraft. Some of the areas that stood out for me are not surprising because they are my passions: mobility, energy storage, AI and Web3.

The CES is undoubtedly “the” show for emerging mobility more than any other auto show. The converging global trends of electrification, connectivity and automation were strong and covered almost every floor of the show, inside and out. Far less ‘gh rah’ from the past and more serious commercial vehicle use case applications were a welcome tale. I say emerging mobility because unlike typical auto shows, this show went way beyond personal cars. In fact, those who persisted with this narrative, regardless of the technological gadgets and “fairy dust” additions, seemed “done”, dated and quite flat and boring compared to the innovations of their neighbors in the other side of the hall.

Multimodal electric vehicles (EVs) of all types everywhere. I have met and discussed with the manufacturers of next generation e-bikes and e-scooters, e-unicycles, utility cargo e-bikes, delivery robots, small and large multi-passenger e-buses, e-delivery vans , electric trucks , e-boats, e-ships, even mining, construction and agricultural e-tractors and so on. It was all electric and it was only bolstered by an overwhelming amount of battery manufacturers, battery technologies, charging stations, micro-grids, two-way charging, docks and pods of all types. It was as if we were past emergence and well into the here and now.

EVs with their little EV buddies. It was interesting to note that several EV displays have gone to great lengths to co-locate an e-scooter or e-bike (in various forms) either next to the passenger car, on the roof, on the flatbed or folded in the trunk. They were schooling it a bit or nodding at the opportunity to provide first mile or recreational e-bike access to trails etc. and always ready to pay. Maybe a bit of both.

Automated vehicles (AV) are far from over. In fact, the story on the show was about commercial vehicles and fleets and their supporting ecosystems – the sensor (surprised there are so many Lidar companies), software and hardware stacks, mapping, tele-operation and connectivity and not so much on personal cars although there was some in-vehicle connectivity. This was another welcome change. Not only was it great to reconnect with my peers in the field of AV technology, but it was vindication to see that the majority of AVs on display were for moving people and things on land, at sea and in the air and various mass support services. As the personal AV fantasy draws in the Jetsons and the utopia/dystopia of Futurama (I’m leaning into that), adults are gearing up for a massive scale-up of commercial AV deployment fleets across the planet. Hope governments understand what this means for them and how they can guide this to their advantage (stay tuned for an upcoming article on this)

The new frontier. Web3, generative AI and metaverse spaces were definitely trending and in their emerging phase which for me is the most interesting. I’ll be curious to see how it manifests as it evolves. Not much this year on digital assets (aka NFT – I really think we need to bury that term) or but a lot of practical applications of blockchain, smart contracts and tokens across the various verticals of our economy – mobility, games, entertainment, health care, etc. Lots of good conversations with peers in the space focused on the build phases with general agreement around the urgent need for better UX/UI integration tools, education, keeping the metaverse open to avoid the real (and potentially unavoidable) control by the walled Web2 titans of garden technology. Lots of chatter and excitement/concern about the future of work opportunities and threats with the various generative AI tools including ChatGPT and others. Great for sharing with peers on how best to prepare for Web3/AI work opportunities, grow, and create personal value (more on that soon).

Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to continuing the conversations while building the future. Let’s go!

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