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CES 2022: Be There, Or Be There Online 

CES 2022 news at CES Unveiled from Gary Shapiro
CTA CEO Gary Shapiro at CES Unveiled at the Rainbow Room.

Today, technology is in everything, so CES, even when it’s post-pandemic smaller, remains a gargantuan global event covering nearly every industry and product under the sun, as long as there is a tech angle. Yes, there are still TVs, high-end audio components, and cameras, but the automotive section, which at one time only included after-market 12-volt products, is now more focused on the future of car technology and mobility. And there are also now new areas devoted to food tech, space, digital health, and even ephemeral items such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), advertising, and media.  New products and tech trends aside, CES is also focused increasingly on the issues around technology’s role – good and bad — in society.  These were just some of the takeaways about CES 2022, which will be held as a hybrid in-person and virtual show from January 5-8, 2022, that came out of the CTA’s CES Unveiled press conference last night. 

 “You’ve been to CES before, when it was all about the excitement and product demos,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs CES, “but CES is also other thing, a platform for discussions that drive our industry forward, and thoughtful talks on public police to blue sky ideas of what’s next in tech. That’s especially true now that we’re seeing technology and technology companies making headlines every day. There’s a focus on privacy, transparency, rules of the road, what government should do, environmental stewardship, which is so important. We’ll have policy leaders and newsmakers joining us on stage to discuss the big picture issues and offer their thoughts on how technology can help make us better as human beings.”

To that end, Jong-Hee (JH) Han, President of Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics, will give the first keynote on January 4th at 6:30pm Pacific, the evening before the show starts, on “The Age of Togetherness,” a new initiative at Samsung on combatting climate change. Han will demonstrate how connected and personalized technology can contribute to sustainability. Other overtly impact-oriented speakers include Material Impact founder and managing partner Carmichael Roberts, a venture capitalist who will share insights gleaned from managing one of the Gates Foundation’s biggest funds that invests in companies working on global challenges. The speaker list will be continually updated, but already slated are GM CEO Mary Barra, who will unveil the new Chevy Silverado electric truck, and Abbott President and CEO Robert Ford, whose CES 2022 keynote will be the first-ever at the show from a healthcare company. 

CES 2022 will be hybrid, as much an online show as an in-person Las Vegas event. The live show is much bigger than many people, even at the CTA, expected, with more than 1,600 exhibitors lined up already, 44 different categories, 134 countries, and 63 top retailers. While there are gaps in the international makeup of attendees, particularly from Asia, there so far registrants from 134 non-U.S. countries who plan to attend. Many of those countries will be represented in Eureka Park, the start-up area that will once again take place at Sands Expo. “The Netherlands is set to bring its largest-ever delegation with over 100 startups and Italy’s trade agency has contracted 44% more exhibit space in Eureka Park this year,” said Shapiro.

And two years of a pandemic have enabled the completion of several new infrastructure projects around the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), including more than 600,000 square feet in the new West Hall and a new underground people mover system that will shuttle people from some of the resorts to the West Hall. The West Hall alone is more than most convention centers in the U.S. have, so it’s a good place for the fast-growing automotive category and its massive booth set-ups, including this year self-driving trucks from TuSimple and GM’s new Chevy Silverado, which will be making its debut at the show. 

“We’re going to have over 200 exhibitors, an increase of more than 12 percent over CES 2020,” says CTA Director of Research Lesley Rohrbaugh of the increasingly big automotive tech section at CES 2022. Companies to watch include TuSimple, which will be showcasing its autonomous trucks, which could be delivering some smart TVs and refrigerators to you someday soon.  

“EVs will be a really big trend in the vehicle tech space,” says Rohrbaugh. “It’s part of what we think of as 21st-century logistics, which is all about supply chain and how to get products from the shipping yard to the store.” Companies to watch include VINFast, a Vietnamese car manufacturer that aims to one day be as much of a household name in the U.S. as Hyundai and Toyota, except it’s focused on selling electric vehicles with souped-up smart technology only. Also: TuSimple, a San Diego-based company that will be showcasing its autonomous and semi-autonomous trucks, which could be delivering some smart TVs and refrigerators to you someday soon. 

“EVs will be a really big trend in the vehicle tech space at CES,” says Rohrbaugh. “It’s part of what we think of as 21st-century logistics, which is all about supply chain and how to get products from the shipping yard to the store. That’s going to be a highlight within the automotive tech zone this year at the show.”

How do virtual objects such as NFTs fit into the consumer electronics realm? Well, if the NFTs concerned are items of digital art, then there’s plenty. LG earlier this year announced a partnership with digital NFT art gallery Blackdove for its DVLED Extreme Home Cinema displays, but it will soon be joined by companies such as the Netgear-owned Meural, which makes tabletop digital art frames, and will be showing a digital canvas specifically for NFT art at CES 2022. 

Digital health and wellness will be as big as ever, but the category isn’t just wearables anymore. “A lot of mental health products will be on display this year, but also digital therapeutics, which have certainly been on the rise,” says Rohrbaugh of predictive software products and technologies that help treat and monitor patients. “As we think more about technology in the place of, or in addition to, medical treatment, I think digital therapeutics will play a big part, and certainly be one of the key aspects in the digital health realm at CES.”

And what CES would be complete without robots? As we’ve reported here in Dealerscope, robots are not only proliferating at warehouses and fulfillment centers across the globe, but also in-store. “There’s been a lot of robot concierge activity and technologies emerging lately,” says Rohrbaugh, “not just in retail spaces, but also hotels. There’s going to be an ongoing interest in that area; think of a little robot on wheels that’s zooming around the store with a digital touchscreen or tablet attached that  serves as a customer service assistant, answering questions or giving you directions to various areas of the store.” Considering how hard it is to get a right answer or even find a human sales associate at the average big-box store these days – not to mention the labor shortage – concierge robots in retail stores are suddenly sounding like the new must-have product for retailers.

While CES 2022 won’t be as big as 2020, when 4,400-plus exhibitors was the high mark, it’s still surprisingly bigger than many, even those at the CTA, expected. 

“This is definitely not our biggest show in history by any measure, which is fine because we’re doing things that’ll make it look even less big,” said Shapiro, in reference to the larger spacing that is baked into the layout this year to accommodate greater social distancing. “We’ve widened up all the major aisles and distancing people, there’s a huge new building, and outdoor space, so it’s going to look and feel different and I want to set and level your expectations, but we’re attracting more serious people.” In terms of safety measures, the show will have a vaccine mandate, which will be validated by CLEAR for U.S. attendees and an as-yet-unnamed third-party for international visitors. Masks are still required in public venues in Las Vegas, so that will also be a requirement unless the mandate changes. And there will be a system of color-coded dot stickers that can be affixed to badges to express the level of social distance an attendee wants.

In addition to the CES 2022 announcements, the CTA unveiled the winners of the 2022 CES Innovation Awards. “These awards honor outstanding design and engineering and consumer technology products,” said CTA Executive Vice President Karen Chupka. “With more than 1,800 submitted for consideration, it was our biggest pool of participants ever—and these products represent the best in global innovation.”

For more details on CES 2022, make sure to read our in-depth interview with the CTA’s Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communication, Jean Foster