February 6, 2023

Our take on this year’s CES trends

Dennis Cant
7 Communications
Vice President

To try to describe January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas with a word or two, one might use overwhelming.

Innovation hub, technology incubator or even sustainability platform could also apply, but with nearly 2.2MM sq. ft. of exhibit space to roam spread across three massive venues, 3,200+ exhibitors vying for maximum attention, and 115,000 attendees queuing to be among the first to encounter a rumoured breakthrough, CES is a challenge to absorb. With a few extra weeks of processing time since we posted these 7 CES highlights, we have extracted some noticeable and noteworthy trends that we think will impact many lives, some sooner than you might expect.

First off, CES’s purpose is to showcase innovation—some that is intriguing and potentially game-changing with others being puzzling or clearly attempts to gauge reaction without the idea being fully formed. One useful theme we deciphered was that regardless of the hyped success of an idea, technology is best used as a tool to complement life, not reinvent it.

Energetic scene capturing a bustling crowd of people in motion, navigating through an electronic vendors show in Las Vegas.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares summed the thought up succinctly: “Be tech-minded, but driven to serve human needs.” From our view, solutions that will have the greatest impact sought to resolve an existing consumer pain point, or augment a current process, without being complicated or over-designed.

A great illustration of technology combining with engineering to address such an opportunity is Swiss-based Screwo’s electric wheelchair, which can climb 30 stairs per minute. Sure, many buildings today are fully accessible, but some older buildings are not, or their accessibility features are awkward to navigate for those using a wheelchair. Many times, the simplest point of entry to a commercial building is a main staircase in the centre foyer vs. an out-of-the-way elevator that’s often slow and small. What if you’re in a wheelchair, entering that building for a meeting with colleagues on the second or third floor and you’re able take the stairs along with them instead of routing yourself to a separate access point? At worst, that type of thinking rectifies something many of us take for granted every day while at best it could be seen as liberating.

A person in a motorized wheelchair navigating down a set of stairs, demonstrating assistive mobility technology in action.

Another example is VEStellalab’s Watchmile, a parking lot navigation system that guides drivers to available spots via a user’s smartphone coupled with AI and IoT sensors. Who couldn’t benefit from reduced frustration and even a few saved minutes by being seamlessly guided to that always tough-to-find open parking spot? And one can easily see the integration of this technology with autonomous vehicles as a feature of a larger smart city network that seamlessly guides users with its access to layers of such information. We just hope Watchmile works better than the lighting system used in parkades today that get your hopes up when you see a green light only to find that spot is actually occupied once you’re there.

VEStellalab-branded vehicle equipped with sensors, displayed next to a display on a phone showing a navigation app guiding users to available parking spaces.

A second theme from CES is that digital is best blended with physical to create better experiences for users. Technology shouldn’t try to stand alone to resolve an issue itself, real or imagined, but instead integrate IRL for outcomes that leverage the best of both. Take BMW’s i Vision Dee concept car (Dee stands for Digital emotional experience).

Yes, its 240 colour-changing e-ink body panels that can be customized with the swipe of an app are amazing (though totally impractical for today’s mass production or repair capabilities), but a real-world application is how BMW’s i Vision Dee interface allows drivers to select one of four levels of digital content for display on the windshield. It’s a simple approach that gives users the control to match their tech fluency with their preferred driving experience, ranging from a basic setup that features only the necessary driving-relevant details all the way to augmented reality projections and even the ability to enter a virtual world. The latter only seem possible in fully autonomous situations but illustrate how a real-life task can be made better digitally and still allow the user to select their level of interaction. If the result is a more immersive and rewarding experience, count us in.

Futuristic digital rendering of the interior of BMW's i Vision Dee concept car, featuring an individual reaching for a button, activating a display on the windshield.

Another trend, electrification, also abounded at CES. Not surprisingly, that included EVs in various forms from OEMs you’ve heard of – BMW, Dodge, Mercedes-Benz, Polestar, Ram, Volkswagen, and Volvo – and a few new ones – Afeela, Holon, Lightyear, and VinFast, among others. Electric motorcycles were also prominent with two-wheel e-options shown by Davinci Motor, Verge Motorcycles, and Yadea, the latter making its CES debut this year though it's the world’s largest manufacturer of two-wheeled electric vehicles. Electrification included micromobility with e-scooters from Bugatti and OKAI, a fat-tire e-bike from Cyrusher and an electric moonBike. It extended to the water as well with Brunswick’s Mercury Marine showing its new electric outboard motor, Avator 7.5e while also debuting a new boat brand, Veer, designed specifically for electrical propulsion. There were also electric hydrofoil boats from Candela Yachts and Navier. All forms of electric transportation were well covered at CES.

Image 1: Electric snowbike set against a snowy mountainous landscape. Image 2: Bugatti e-scooter parked on a city sidewalk. Image 3: Holon electric bus parked on a city street.

A monumental threshold in mobility has been crossed because of electrification, but the amps at CES didn’t stop there. Renewable energy sources and green energy storage systems also figured prominently with examples demonstrating that those technologies are scaling for use in everyday life. In addition to its portable solar panels and battery-based power stations already on the market, Jackery displayed Air-W, a two-rotor wind power generation unit that can produce up to 200W of power almost anywhere the wind is blowing. It’s noteworthy because it weighs less than 5 kg and can be packed up and easily transported.

Individual reclined in a beach chair, with a laptop connected to a two-rotor wind power generation unit

As more stuff electrifies, grid capacity and energy storage need to increase to accommodate that additional load. As a result, many companies are entering the home energy storage category with some, like Lunna, offering a system that either adds energy storage capacity to your home or is portable so it can be packed with you. Bluetti, a Canadian company specializing in clean energy storage, debuted its home power backup system that’s like Tesla’s Powerwall, but is easier to install in any home; it also integrates with solar input and can power a home for days should the grid fail.

Bluetti clean energy storage unit parked on sidewalk.

Even TVs are impacted by improved battery tech as Displace presented a completely wireless 55-inch 4K OLED TV that is vacuum-mounted to a wall or window and can last a month on a single charge. Up to four Displace displays can be grouped two by two for a 110-inch big-screen experience. Many electric innovation and small-scale energy storage/generation products shown at CES are already in market or will be shortly, further illustrating that the world’s transition to electrical power is well underway.  

A television that is displaying various tv applications on screen and is wirelessly attached to a window displaying a cityscape in the background.

There’s much more to say about CES 2023 than we’ve been able to include in this blog.

Connect with us anytime to share your thoughts on CES, or should you be in need of a collection of innovative ideas for your current or future business, we have many insights and ideas that could help.