CES 2021: What tech trends to look out for this year

Last updated: 04 February 2021

Though it is often said that each edition of the Consumer Electronics Show will be the biggest and most innovative show ever, the 54th incarnation of the world’s biggest technology show has truly been unlike any other. In a historical first (and hopefully last), CES 2021 was a purely virtual event due to the ongoing complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

However, as with previous shows, this years CES still showcased the latest and greatest innovations in the technology world, outlining what will be the most important technologies to keep an eye on in the coming months. 

Here is a selection of the top technology trends we will be monitoring in 2021 based on our observations from CES. 

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5G 

2020 saw exponential rise in workingfromhome and remote learning as a result of the pandemicthese activities placing increased emphasis on the need for strong, reliable and secure connectivity. And while many have been utilising Wi-Fi to facilitate these tasks, the pandemic has accelerated the timeline for the development and deployment of 5G across the globe. 

During one CES keynote, Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg discussed how 5G will become the primary platform which enables the deployment of other technologies and services, such as drone delivery services and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences at museums. 

Additionally, with the establishment of new norms such as social distancing, areas like telemedicine and touchless retail have experienced faster adoption. These services will be facilitated further by 5G in the future. 

While much attention was given to new technologies which use 5G, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Fold smartphone, the discussion around the future role of 5G in our society, particularly in realising the concept of smart cities (more on that later), may prove to be the most impactful thing taken away from this year’s CES. 

Autonomous Vehicles 

The buzz around autonomous vehicles reached new levels of excitement this year. 

Throughout 2020, we saw a greater level of discussion around the deployment of robotaxi services across the world, with Amazon and Cruise unveiling and testing their offerings to the market. At CES, Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel, announced that they are looking to scale up their autonomous vehicle programme and plans to launch test fleets across four more cities over the coming months.

We’re not far away from seeing massive deployments of digital car keys which lets us open and close our car doors directly from our smartphone. This is for example made possible thanks to our Connected embedded Secure Element –featuring eSIM-based mobile connectivity and secure contactless services in a single chip – which has just received the 2021 IoT Semiconductor Product of the Year award in the 5th annual IoT Breakthrough Awards.

With the level of automation in vehicles increasing each year, it is not hard to believe that robotaxis will soon be a common feature of everyday life, especially as the concept of smart cities comes closer to realisation. 

Aside from the use of autonomous vehicles for personal and public transportation, we are seeing an increased adoption of this technology in the business spaceFor example, construction machinery and equipment manufacturer Caterpillar unveiled their portfolio of autonomous mega-trucks. Apart from fulfilling the dreams of every child who played with remote-controlled cars, these gargantuan trucks are geared towards improving the safety and productivity around mining operations. 

While autonomous vehicles have become a common theme at CES, their stratospheric trajectory is more than enough reason to be excited about their future deployment in the 21st century. 

Smart Cities 

One trend that was pervasive throughout this year’s show was the concept of smart cities. This is because CES 2021, as headlined by the keynote led by Vestbergsaw heavy emphasis placed on the development and deployment of 5G, this being a crucial technology to fulfilling the concept of smart cities. As Vestberg succinctly put it, 5G will act as the platform which enables other technologies to be possible. 

Whether this is in the form of coordinated fleets of delivery drones or firefighting robots, 5G will be the cornerstone which allowthese smart technologies to function 

However, there are other components that will be key to realising the concept of smart citiesBy using Electromagnetic Engineered Surfaces (EES),  cities will be able to augment and direct 5G wavelengths across urban landscapes, allowing smart devices, such as automated vehicles or drones, to remain connected as they travel. 

While we may be some time from witnessing fully-fledged smart cities being commonplace throughout the world, the increased development of 5G and other connected technologies signals that we are on our way to seeing them soon. 

Smart Health Tech 

In response to the pandemiccompanies across the technology landscape have turned to creating innovative solutions to help fight the virus and keep people safeAt CES 2021we were treated to a wide spectrum of fantastic health techcoming from a variety of sources. 

For example, Razer, a video game hardware and software developer, debuted what they claim to be the world’s smartest facemask. With built-in lights to illuminate the user’s face in low-light conditions, a microphone and an amplifier, Razer’s mask demonstrated how companies across the technology spectrum have devoted their time and resources into creating tech to assist consumers in protecting themselves from the virus. 

With there being an increased emphasis on the tracking of COVID-19 symptomstechnologies such as BioIntelliSense’s BioButton could be something which may prove to be invaluable in a more health-conscious society. By measuring a person’s vital signs with a coin-sized device which sticks to their skin, the FDA-approved BioButton can continuously track an individual’s health for up to 90-days, allowing consumers to closely monitor and prevent the spread of the virus. 

What’s more, as we (hopefully) see more workers return to the officeCES showcased a variety of technologies which will help businesses keep their office spaces clean and employees safe. For example, Ubtech’s Adibotis a robot which disinfects rooms using UVC light, allowing people to feel safe while working in the office.  

Biometrics 

As with previous years, CES 2021 featured some of the most innovative biometric technology in the world. With biometric authentication becoming an important factor across a variety of industries, such as financial services and transportnew innovations in this space will be key to improving the security and convenience of using products and services. 

One of the key biometric innovation showcased at CES 2021 was Qualcomm’s second-generation ultrasonic fingerprint reader. Called the 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2, this latest edition of Qualcomm’s fingerprint biometric sensor improves on the previous generation by offering a larger surface area for the sensor and faster processing to unlock smartphones quicker. 

In facial biometric technology, Orbbec debuted a series of new 3D cameras with features capable of supporting biometric deployments in challenging conditions. With effective 3D imaging in dark environments, Orbbec’s device could expand the adoption of facial recognition for applications such as outdoor access control. 

What was your favourite moment of CES 2021? Which piece of tech excited you the most? Let us know in the comments below or tweets us @ThalesDigiSec. 

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