The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), normally held in Las Vegas, went virtual this year. The just-concluded annual technology trade show is one of the biggest forums for startups and entrepreneurs to network, to see what their big competitors have been working on, and of course to showcase their newest products. Inc. gathered some key takeaways from attendees about the trends that will shape the tech industry in 2021.
1. Focus on the home.
The industry's focus right now is on the home, says Brad Satz, CEO of technology accessory company Handl New York. These at-home tech innovations range from kitchen gadgets that make your life easier to at-home health solutions.
Many companies at CES showed off new home products equipped with artificial intelligence technology, including Samsung's Handy, which uses A.I. to put away dishes, and LG's disinfecting robot. Virtual reality integration also was a trend, whether for simulating school and work environments or bringing concerts into your home, notes Erielle Tolentino, the digital marketing manager at Hatch Duo, a product design company.
Phoebe Yu, VP of marketing at EyeQue, a self-administered eye test company, also saw the at-home focus prevalent at CES, specifically regarding health. "Anything that you can kind of test in the ease of your home at your convenience is really booming," she says. "People are more willing to take an active role, out of necessity and enthusiasm."
2. Environmental concerns.
Practically every major company has plans to become carbon neutral in the near future, notes Craig Meador, president of the American Printing House (APH) for the Blind, which creates tech solutions for visually impaired consumers.
Whether through hydrogen fuel cell technology or the traditional solar and wind solutions, everyone is realizing that the bigger the demand for A.I. and 5G, the bigger the impact on the climate, Meador says. "When you are dropping service centers and server farms--a lot of the time in rural America--it takes up a large footprint, so you need to know how to do it smarter."
Meador suggests that small businesses can think and act more sustainably by starting with inventory and raw materials management. During the pandemic, his team conducted a risk analysis of its materials and found that 60 percent came from the same distant regions. Now he and APH are working on sourcing materials closer to home. "The carbon footprint ties back to diversifying where your products' materials and components are coming from," he says.
3. More convenience through voice commands.
Hank Adams, founder and CEO of Rise Garden, says that Apple's Siri drastically changed his mother's ability to text on her smartphone. But that's hardly the limit of the applications for intelligent voice assistants, he says: Voice A.I. also played a huge role in developing his internet of things-enabled hydroponic indoor gardens.
When initially designing his company, Adams planned for Rise Garden products to be controlled through an app rather than being fully automated. After more consideration, he found voice activation provides greater convenience. "If I can just issue a command to set my light levels to 20 percent, it makes life so much easier for consumers. It can also give immediate feedback, and you can say, what are my water levels?" he says.
Adams predicts that voice-controlled A.I. will keep getting smarter and more capable of handling nuanced commands since A.I. is becoming easier to implement. That will help grow a manner of applications, Tolentino adds. "Voice command features are going to be super helpful, not only for safety in medical offices, but also in all of hometech in terms of overall helping with chores and things around your workspace," she says.