Media have swarmed Las Vegas for CES 2023 as companies, ranging from tech startups to powerhouses, prepare to take the wraps off their latest innovations this week.
Key themes across the multiple show floors for the annual confab, many of which Sourcing Journal has covered heavily in recent years, were presented at a press briefing Tuesday evening by Consumer Technology Association (CTA) vice president of research Steve Koenig.
The picks for this year’s trends to watch come ahead of CES’s official Thursday start.
Fashion and retail executives may want to take note of the latest tech spanning transportation, the metaverse, enterprise business strategies in logistics among other disciplines, sustainability and gaming.
“We know that technology is addressing increasingly the world’s greatest challenges and certainly technology has a lot of answers for those challenges,” Koenig said.
Here, a look at the major trends expected to dominate this year’s CES.
Re-working business as usual
New enterprise tech will continue to make the lives of those handling backend operations easier. The tumult of the past few years with supply chain disruptions provides a good example on that front.
“Interestingly enough, not too long ago, we didn’t talk a lot about supply chain. And, nowadays, we talk a lot about supply chain and the reasons are obvious,” Koenig said.
Supply chains will remain vulnerable, he went on to say, further stressing the need for tech upgrades.
Going further into the supply chain, warehousing and distribution are likely to see a boost from tech to help solve companies’ labor shortage issues.
“I think that 20 years ago, technology was the nice-to-have when it comes to business or commercial enterprise,” Koenig said. “Today, I think humans are the nice-to-have. The simple truth is we can’t hire enough workers.”
That will bear out in more automation in warehouses, he said, including “human-machine partnerships.”
The metaverse is real
The metaverse, while still in its early days, is increasingly becoming a part of companies’ business strategies.
“Now, of course any dialogue these days around metaverse is very likely to be met with skepticism and that’s okay because we’ve seen no shortage of marketing spin and then also we probably have debates with our friends and colleagues on what is metaverse and debates about definition,” Koenig said. “And so I do think it’s true that metaverse as a term is still a speculative one…. But make no mistake, this is a real trend just as the internet was a real trend in the early 1990s, even though a lot of us didn’t know what it was.”
Koenig said the metaverse will give way to more “elevated online” experiences that will be immersive, in addition to driving the rise of “metaverse-as-a-service.” That is, new technologies that will help companies enter the metaverse.
E-commerce’s continued growth and the march toward an evolving menu of delivery services is causing a transportation nightmare at the local level.
Tech will increasingly address those transportation and mobility changes and this year’s CES show floors will speak to that, Koenig said.
Vehicle electrification continues to grow up through evolving battery solutions, whether that be related to improved chemistry and design or charging infrastructure.
At the same time, while much of the conversation in more recent years has focused on self-driving vehicles, Koenig said, the focus is increasingly on moving past the passenger and on to commercial trucks.
The American Trucking Association estimates the country will be short 160,000 truck drivers by 2030.
“How are we going to close that gap?” Koenig said. “Technology has the answer. So self-driving trucks, very important for delivering the last step in the line.”
New technologies are also keeping up with ramping conversations around sustainability, Koenig said.
That runs the gamut from innovation when it comes to products around clean air, alternative power and agriculture. The conversation touches just about every aspect of daily life.
“We know there’s a rising dialogue around sustainability and ESG in all kinds of different places, all across the economy, every kind of sector. Everyone’s talking about this,” Koenig said.
The steady march toward gamifying a myriad of everyday activities continues.
“Of course we know gaming is very important to the industry, but it’s also important to culture,” Koenig said.
He cited new research from the CTA, which found the average U.S. gamer now spends 24 hours a week playing games. That’s up from 16 hours in 2019.
“Increasingly, it’s about connection and socialization,” Koenig pointed out. “So what I’m saying is, the game is really a construct or a medium for socialization.”
Loyalty programs and rewards points continue to gamify service industries. That’s particularly the case when it comes to on-demand delivery, ridesharing and other such services, all of which surged during the pandemic. Companies are only likely to continue to iterate on those offerings.
“Consumer behavior is more about services today, services being very important…. I think once we get through this economic downturn, we’ll start to see that services sector start to grow again,” Koenig said.