CES 2021: What Did We Learn?

This year’s CES has come to a close, and it was a show full of new ideas, innovations, and industry-wide conversations that will shape technology for years to come. It was also the first fully digital conference, and those who put the expo together should be commended for the show’s near-flawless presentation. While nothing beats being out on the show floor and talking to others in-person, this year’s CES went off without a hitch—no small feat for an event of this size.

With that being said, let’s take a more in-depth look at what this year’s CES had to offer from its exhibitors.

New Innovations & Ideas

Verizon had the honor of this year’s opening keynote, and they delivered a message that perfectly encapsulated this year’s conference trend: addressing how they were meeting the moment before sharing their vision for the future. Verizon focused on 5G service and how it will shape the future of communication, including the advancement of telemedicine and tele-education. While 5G may not provide them a direct opportunity for new branding, it is a considerable extension of their existing brand to be the industry leader in this regard.

Over a dozen companies also held press conferences designed to show off new products and services. Some of the most notable presentations included LG Electronics and GM, who both had new innovations on display. LG Electronics debuted their new “rollable” phones, which seem to use the same technology as their rollable TVs; they continue to be the pioneers of this technology, which is a huge boon for their brand. GM, on the other hand, publicly rolled out their new company branding while also showing everyone their new electric vision for the future of the automotive industry. This is a massive shift for their brand, and they presented it confidently. GM, as well as the Vehicle Innovations sessions, also highlighted self-driving cars as a rapidly approaching reality for both the automotive and technology industries. GM even announced their partnership with Cruise, an autonomous rideshare service, that’s currently in the startup phase. It will be interesting to see how other automotive brands react to these changes.

Industry-Wide Conversations

No matter what, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was always going to be a topic of discussion at CES; after all, it’s the reason that the conference was being held digitally in the first place. And while almost every keynote, press conference, and discussion session mentioned the virus, a few made it their sole focus. Most notably, Walmart, Microsoft, and Lenovo made the pandemic one of their main talking points. By talking about how they were adapting to the pandemic, they were able to describe how they would move forward and innovate with technology like hands-free payment, digital storefronts, and increased safety measures.

The other major conversation happening at CES this year involved racial equality (in response to 2020’s widescale unrest over the summer) and accessibility to opportunities for all people. Again, Walmart used a majority of their speaking time to highlight their responses and the changes they are making in reaction to these events.

These discussions offered an alternative to the spectacle of new technology by focusing on the responsibility that the technology industry must respond to the problems facing society. It was heartening to see so many brands rise to meet the moment and address difficult topics, positioning themselves as more responsible and conscious brands in the process.

Final Thoughts

Though the thousands of virtual attendants would probably have preferred to be walking the show floor, this year’s CES was still a success in our estimation. There was a perfect balance of innovation and important discussions, giving us an in-depth look at where the technology industry is—as well as where it’s heading.

As the Brand Authority, we were proud to take part in these presentations and discussions and thrilled to see how so many brands are expanding and remaking themselves in an increasingly digital world. Hopefully, we can all be together next year to do it all again in person.