There’s more than meets the eye at CES 2020 – Panel perspective
Emma Stephens
16 January 2020

Rushing to and from panels at CES across Tech East, West, and South (read: up and down the Vegas strip) is no small feat. Over the course of four days we managed to cover a stunning 36 live and in person panel presentations, and were supported by remote News Desk writers from across the country who were livestreaming and collaborating with those with boots on the ground in Vegas. All in all, the team covered over 87 panels this year! Somewhere in the mad rush of the week we were even able to squeeze in a couple of Gary’s Book Club sessions, where President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (hosts of CES!) Gary Shapiro interviews authors from his list of must-read releases. Add in keynotes from the likes of Delta and Samsung (hello Ballie the robot!) and media days news conference content, and OMD’s 2020 CES cohort can definitively say we have taken in more CES data in the last week than teams ever have before.

What we saw at the News Desk was a convergence of private and public sector that does not always translate to the Tech show floors themselves – a meeting of the minds between public entities focused on the greater good and the most efficient path to progress, and private companies with bottom lines and big dreams for the next 10 years.

While the approach we saw in speaker presentations differed slightly from that of the show floors, we saw a number of themes naturally develop over the course of the week.

Developing Workplace: Robots Will Take the Parts of Your Job That Bore You

One of the biggest pieces of misinformation floating around the industry is that humans will soon be replaced with machines. When it comes to robots and the autonomous workforce we fear, there’s still one major thing they lack: empathy. The nuance of understanding the emotions of another human is extremely complex, and while sensors are being developed to read your mood and comfort levels based only on your facial expression and heat signature, we are far from the day where robots can read your mind. Artificial intelligence’s most popular application right now is still the optimization of programming and focuses most on menial tasks.

In service industries in particular, this opens us up for something Audrey Hendley (President of American Express Travel) referred to as “high tech meets high touch.” When the small stuff like recognizing and checking in a travel guest is taken care of by computers, it opens the door for a more personal human connection. The customer service representatives you encounter can spend less time running the machines they use and more time catering to you in a more personalized way based on what they already know about you.

Smart Health: Evolving Healthcare to Meet Individual Needs

Likely the most regulated industry of all those that appear at CES, the future of healthcare and the priorities we should focus on split pretty distinctively into two views. More niche companies, often showcasing their innovations on the Tech West floor, continue to take bites out of small problems that will not fix society, but can improve your quality of life. This year wearables showcased as part of the Digital Health Summit aimed to solved everything from bed wetting to chronic pain, and most did not require prescriptions. More and more, we are seeing consumers taking care into their own hands via apps and at-home tech remedies.

On the other hand, health care providers and those looking to support them are leaning a different direction. Freddy Abnousi, Head of Healthcare Research at Facebook, shared the wisdom: “Technology doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is outcomes.” While Facebook does not claim to have the knowledge required to expertly diagnose you, the Preventative Health feature is meant to guide users to think about their health as a lifelong journey, and not something to be dealt with only when sick. The software is simple, and lives as a tool within Facebook. Similarly, Jaquie Finn, Head of Digital Health for Cambridge Consultants, highlighted an alarming statistic from the UN: they estimate we will need to add 18 million healthcare workers by 2030 to meet demand. Groups like hers are focused on tech that simplifies the work being done in the doctor’s office, in order to provide the best care for the most people. There’s much work to be done in this space, and to her point, “there’s only so many wearables a person can wear” anyways.

5G and Edge Computing: The Fourth Industrial Revolution is Coming (Soon)

Time and time again, 5G came up as the last barrier between the tech waiting in the wings and the consumers who are dying to have it. Alicia Abella (VP at AT&T) got to the heart of it quickest: “5G is the first G born in the cloud.” For the first time, all the emerging tech is ready and waiting, and carriers are still working out exactly how best to roll out 5G and how much support it can reasonably lend to these new devices without straining bandwidth or battery usage in the tech. In the meantime, companies are experimenting with incorporating edge computing into the mix. Edge computing brings the computations and data storage closer to the device, to offload some of the work the device has to do, but also bridge the gap between your device and the cloud that you will need to share with others

So what does this mean for consumers? While private companies point fingers and say their newest developments just need 5G, there will likely be a mad dash to get tech online first and most affordably when the time comes. Whether this is in support of entertainment content, healthcare tools, autonomous driving, smart cities, you name it – the floodgates will be soon be open, and processes will likely change. Get ready for the streaming revolution, as we all adapt to what’s next.

Sports: Fandom of the Future

A lot of the new tech we saw at this year’s CES was meant to be straight up fun, and in no place do we see this come together quite as seamlessly as in the world of sports. Consumer facing tech is bigger than ever here, and we saw 5 primary ways it will change both live and streaming sports. First is that stadiums will become safer and easier to navigate, with biometric surveillance and real time updates on who is in the stadium and where. Secondly, fans taking part in live experiences will be able to be more fully engaged and tied in to what is happening on the field. Cameras and sensors on the athletes and throughout the stadium will allow fans to follow their favorite players more closely and feel like they are part of the game. It is also predicted that betting will grow, with the speed of 5G giving us the ability to place micro-bets at the drop of a hat. Fourth, live broadcasting capabilities will be available to even the smallest teams, with smaller technology packages becoming more popular. Last on our list but likely first to market, mobile apps will continue to deliver sports experience on the go with bigger than ever demand for bite size formats, highlights and content pre and post-game content. In many ways, watching the game will become its own sport.


What we saw this year with the News Desk team is just the start of what we think is going to be a great year in tech, and we look forward to tackling the ever-evolving consumer journey with clients all year long.

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