A lot of people, but especially techies, look forward each year to the annual CES tech convention now in its 53rd year. Wall Street Journal reporters write, “The tech circus known as CES is a time to reflect on all that you didn’t get during the holidays. An air-conditioned baseball cap? A TV that rotates vertically for smartphone video? A single, reusable box for all of your Amazon purchases? These are the first answers to tomorrow’s questions, large and small.” The star of this year’s show, according to Gary Shapiro (@GaryShapiro), CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, is artificial intelligence (AI) He stated, “AI will be the star of the show at CES — it’s truly one of the key ‘ingredient technologies’ over the next decade. The AI & Robotics category has 15% more exhibitors than CES 2019. AI solutions will impact a variety of marketplaces, including smart cities, sports tech, vehicle tech, digital health, robotics and beyond.” Staff members at Inside Radio observed another interesting trend. They wrote, “Consumer packaged goods giants are getting in on the action this year with digital diapers, toilet paper robots, and showerheads equipped with smart speakers.”
The rise CPG at CES
Noting the increase of CPG companies Jeff Minsky, a digital media pioneer, wrote, “What I find amazing this year is that the spotlight is not really on the traditional players — such as LG, Samsung, Sony, and other traditional consumer electronics companies — but, instead, on consumer packaged goods companies such as Impossible Foods, L’Oreal, Neutrogena, and Procter & Gamble. If you would have told me five years ago that one of the highlights of CES would be a mini-robot that brings you Charmin toilet paper when you are, ummm, in a sticky situation, I would have rolled my eyes.” Minksy went on to discuss how the CPG industry has begun embracing AI. He wrote:
“Neutrogena has relaunched its Skin360 app, which can analyze more 2,000 facial attributes and then, through AI, offer up skin tips, such as where to apply moisturizer or makeup. L’Oreal unveiled Perso, an AI-powered device that streamlines a four-step process to deliver on-the-spot skincare. It uses your smartphone camera, married with your geo-location data, to assess local environmental conditions that can impact your skin. Add in your personal concerns and the device will marry that data and provide a personal blend of product dispensed in a single dose at the top of the device. And Whirlpool has partnered with its social cooking site, Yummly, on a smart thermometer that communicates with your Whirlpool oven to adjust the temperature based on the internal temperature of your protein. The thermometer will also connect with the recipe on your Yummly app, know what step you are on in the recipe, preheat accordingly, and adjust the temperature up or down depending on the needs of that particular recipe.”
Minsky added, “In a pre-CES presentation, Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Mark Pritchard stated simply, ‘To us, CES stands for Consumer Experience Show.’ I believe that is clearly one significant way that CES is evolving overall.”
Connectivity is still king
The IoT is poised to become a defining trait of the Digital Age and this was clearly on display at the CES. Jared Council (@JaredCouncil) and John McCormick reported, “The now familiar phrase ‘Internet of Things’ is taking on a new meaning, according to Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the Consumer Technology Association trade group. … ‘We’re increasingly confronted with an entirely new IoT — and that is the intelligence of things,’ said Mr. Koenig. … ‘This new IoT bears testimony that artificial intelligence is permeating every facet of our commerce and our culture,’ he added.” Minsky added, “I agree with the Consumer Tech Association’s trends preview, which said that one of the biggest trends is that IoT is no longer the ‘Internet of Things,’ but is now the ‘Intelligence of Things.’ Devices, from TVs to cars and from mirrors to microwaves, are not only web-connected, they’re also acting as passive controls.”
After looking at the broad array of connected devices displayed at CES, Dave Evans (@makrdave), co-founder and CEO of Fictiv, wrote, “We can expect our relationship with technology to become more seamless, more intuitive, more natural and conversational, and totally immersive.” He added, “2020 will be the year we start to take connectivity to the next level, and by the end of the decade, I fully expect us to take it for granted in the same way we take electricity for granted. It’s reliable, and it’s always there when we need it. There are numerous enablers that are helping to make seamless connectivity table stakes, but probably the most talked about right now are 5G and Wi-Fi 6 which promise to deliver zero latency, along with unprecedented speeds and bandwidth. These are all game changers for smart cars, smart cities, and indeed, smart manufacturing.”
Best of show
For the past seven years, the editors at Engadget have judged the best of show products in fifteen different categories. Those categories are:
Best accessibility tech. Nominees included technologies to help people with hearing problems, dyslexia, and Parkinson’s Disease.
Best startup. This year’s nominees created technology to help people with dyslexia, an affordable home lab, a water recycling system, and DYI electronic drum kit.
Bests digital health and fitness product. Nominees included a smartwatch identify sleep apnea, a toothbrush that detects plaque buildup, a smart bathmat, and a sex toy.
Best wearable. Nominees included a pair of smartwatches, wireless earbuds, and a hearing aid.
Best transportation technology. Nominees included a smart city, an autonomous vehicle, a two-way EV charge station, and a LiDAR system.
Best home theater product. Nominees included a sound bar, a streaming system, and a unit that adjusts television pictures for in-room lighting.
Best connected home product. Nominees included a smart picture frame, a smart water faucet, a garbage disposal system, and a smart grill.
Best phone or mobile device. Nominees included three phones and a tablet.
Best TV product. Nominees included an 8K television, and two OLED TVs.
Best gaming product. Nominees included a GPU, a gaming controller cradle for smartphones, and a gaming chair.
Most unexpected product. Nominees included a system that generates artificial human avatars, a mobile video system, a concept car, and a robot that controls smart home devices.
Best sports tech. Nominees included wireless earbuds, a 360-degree camera, and a rowing machine.
Best PC or tablet. Two laptops and a foldable tablet were this year’s finalists.
Best robot or drone. Nominees included a companion robot, a home security sentry drone, a versatile camera drone, and a drone with 50 minutes of flying time.
Best sustainability product. Nominees included the garbage disposal and water recycling systems mentioned above, a system that generates drinking water from humidity, and a pork substitute product discussed below.
If you are wondering why the product showcase shortened its name from Consumer Electronics Show to CES, look no further than the very unelectronic world of food. The makers of the Impossible Burger used the CES to announce two new pork-substitute products Impossible Sausage breakfast patties and Impossible Pork. The name change probably played a role in getting more CPG brands to participate as well. Evans noted, “CES is much more than a technology showcase. It serves to set the scene for the entire year, and innovation sits in the middle. Creative minds are constantly thinking up new solutions to the world’s problems. They are tackling major issues like climate change, sustainability, increasing demand on medical services due to aging populations, urbanization, and much more. They are taking major ingredient technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing and using them in new and innovative ways.”
 Wilson Rothman, Katherine Bindley, Joanna Stern, and Bowdeya Tweh, “The Annual Flood of Weird, Cool and Possibly Useful Gadgets,” The Wall Street Journal, 7 January 2020.
 Fred Jacobs, “We’re Off To CES 2020 And Gary Shapiro Is Our Guide,” Jacobs Media Strategies, 6 January 2020.
 Staff, “Artificial Intelligence Is Star Of This Year’s CES Spectacle.” Inside Radio, 7 January 2020.
 Jeff Minsky, “CES Special Edition – What’s Trending,” MediaVillage, 6 January 2020.
 Jared Council and John McCormick, “Reporter’s Notebook: Emerging ‘Intelligence of Things’ on Display at CES,” The Wall Street Journal, 6 January 2020.
 Dave Evans, “CES 2020: What’s Driving Innovation,” Forbes, 6 January 2020.
 Staff, “Presenting the Best of CES 2020 finalists!” Engadget, 8 January 2020.