This week marks the first time in two years that the Consumer Technology Association is holding its annual CES event in person in Las Vegas. And while the organization had initially planned to stage its usual full-blown shindig, the relentless spread of Omicron put a damper on the event, prompting Meta, T-Mobile, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others to retreat to virtual-only participation.
CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro nonetheless announced in a LinkedIn post that the show will go on with safety precautions in place.
“Thousands of businesses are relying on us,” he wrote. “CES is an essential business event and can make or break a year for small and midsize companies. I’ve heard from many of these companies, urging us to move forward with an in-person show.”
CES regular Mark Pappas, SVP, innovation at CMI Media Group, noted he would not be attending in person this year — but said he believed health-tech enthusiasts could get their fix from afar.
“We thought the health track was really exploding in 2020 and 2021,” Pappas said. “This year, health continues to have a prominent role.”
Pappas expects last year’s focus on health-tech to endure, with wearables and COVID-inspired smart masks set to attract much attention. Indeed, in tandem with a rise in decentralized clinical trials in the past few years, smart devices have expanded the number of vitals measurable at home. By way of example, Pappas pointed to smart scales, which can now conduct full body scans.
“A lot of these wearables and devices that measure vitals continue to evolve and add more features,” he added.
This year’s CES should also see a surge in the volume of technology designed to bolster personal wellness and mindfulness. The work-from-home sphere seems to be of increasing interest to health technologists, who have devised any number of products that improve life for people indefinitely working from afar.
That includes everything from new types of air filtration systems to full-blown futuristic mobile home offices. LG’s Omnipod is an electric vehicle that could essentially serve as a mobile home office; the company describes it as an “on-the-road extension of one’s personal living space.”
“Companies are creating lots of things to make the at-home working experience much more enjoyable and bearable,” Pappas said. “Major tech companies are pivoting towards making remote work as comfortable as possible – and capitalizing on it.”
The hybrid nature of CES 2022 could provide a blueprint for post-pandemic events: half-virtual, with plenty of rapid testing for in-person attendees. Shapiro noted in his statement that “for innovation, for our industry and for our nation, it’s critical we learn how to live our lives as we work to minimize risks, even if we cannot eliminate them.”
While Pappas is optimistic that the virtual aspect of CES will prove worthwhile, he pointed to one aspect of the event that cannot be replicated virtually: the serendipitous in-person interactions that lead to new discoveries and ideas.
“One of the best parts of CES is wandering the show floor, which is obnoxiously large — we’re talking multiple city blocks — and finding these random startup companies that you’d never in a million years find otherwise,” Pappas said. “That’s something that’s going to be sorely missed.”