We may only be weeks into 2020, but the first CES event of the new decade is already done and dusted. This year’s expo brought to light the fluctuating power dynamic in the tech industry. While some brands grow in power, implementing infrastructure that will change the way we all live. Others are putting power back in the hands of the consumer, giving them a greater choice on issues like privacy and environmental impact.
Here we dive deeper into these power shifts using a handful of recurring themes that garnered a lot of attention.
Toyota shocked with their announcement of plans to start building Woven City, a prototype city of the future located at the base of Mount Fuji. The “living laboratory” will enable full-time residents and researchers to develop technologies like in-home robotics and personal mobility in a real-world environment.
Buildings, infrastructure and vehicles will be interconnected and powered by a city-wide operating system run on clean energy generated from hydrogen fuel cells. The hope is for Woven City to be fully sustainable, with houses made entirely from wood to minimise their carbon footprint and fully autonomous, zero-emission vehicles.
While in Woven City, you might have a bin that empties itself, this project aims to fry some bigger fish. It’s all about discovering ways we can reduce our environmental impact and reverse the effects of climate change. Identifying an improved way of living and making mobility available to all.
This development demonstrates perfectly the growing power of brands, as Toyota encroaches on what was once solely the responsibility of the state. We can see the balance of power between private and public entities is changing.
For instance, there are companies now that boast assets worth more than $50 billion, allowing them to wield more power and influence than many sovereign states. Does this mean we’ll soon see Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook planning their own smart cities too?
The public is becoming more aware of the vast data economy and growing more concerned with how their information is being collected and used as a result. These factors turned privacy and surveillance into important talking points at CES 2020.
Some tech giants even opted to shelve flashy gadgets and used the show as a platform to promote their user privacy protection strategies instead. Among them was Facebook, which is still trying to regain trust after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The social media leader spoke about rolling out its revamped Privacy Checkup feature. The update makes it easier to change your privacy settings. The new main screen guides you through several settings, including who can find you on Facebook and whether your profile is viewable from search engines. You’re also able to edit your WhatsApp and Instagram preferences from this central privacy hub.
Despite having good intentions, a recent survey by PwC found that 92% of consumers feel companies still need to be more proactive when protecting user data. Although this doesn’t seem to stop us continuing to entrust our online lives to them. This is something we may become even more wary of as these companies start tapping into our built environments too.
The future of transportation
Worries about our contribution to rising CO2 levels have played a big part in the surge in popularity of electric vehicles (EVs). But greater investment in charging points and improved battery life have also helped make them a more appealing and cost-effective alternative.
EVs took centre stage at CES, with many manufacturers revealing new concepts. There was an electric ice cream van from Nissan, but it was Sony’s Vision-S that came as the biggest surprise.
The vehicle has three core focuses: entertainment, adaptability and safety. Features include “personalised cabin”, which automatically tailors the in-car experience to the occupant’s preferences on temperature, routes and more. As well as driving assistance, which uses sensors to provide advanced cruise control, self-parking and auto-lane change functionalities.
Steve Koenig, VP of Research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), described the next ten years as the “electric decade for vehicles”. We reckon he’s definitely onto something, as consumers continue to make more and more sustainable choices.
The health and wellness trend has been bubbling away for some time now, tapping in nicely to our growing desire of self-optimisation. Sex is almost the final wellness frontier to explore the various health benefits technology can bring, but that all changed at CES 2020.
Sex tech start-ups took this opportunity to educate customers through conversations about how their products improve women’s health and couple’s intimacy. For instance, there’s been a lot of talk about the role sex gadgets play in helping women work their pelvic floor muscles back to health after birth or alleviating incontinence. As these devices advance, use more sensors and come accompanied by apps for in-depth data analysis, they could provide information on the efficacy of these exercises.
Pelvic pain after birth lasts anywhere between three to eight months, longer in some cases. Therefore, education and technological progress in the sex tech industry will be hugely important for the future of female wellness.
2020 was the first year sex tech was permitted on the show floor. This “it’ll be on show when we allow it to be on show” mentality highlights a powerplay from CES organisers themselves. And they did it again this year with the banning of cannabis tech companies. Who knows, maybe cannabis tech will be the sex tech of CES 2021?
CES 2020 showcased technology solutions that will change the way we live our lives and help solve significant challenges we’ll face over the next decade.
Whether it’s the future of transportation or health and wellbeing, technology will be more connected than ever before in the years to come. This will hopefully have a profoundly positive effect on consumers and the environment, although this will be largely dependent on which entities develop these technologies and their motives.
Either way, we’re intrigued to see how the innovations we’ve talked about, along with others shown at CES 2020, develop and whether a connected world really can create a better life for all.