After a completely virtual event in 2021, CES is back and in a way that speaks to the fluid nature of our lives now – embracing a combination of the virtual and real worlds.

For those unfamiliar with CES (Consumer Electronics Show), it’s arguably the most influential tech event in the world and the proving ground for many emerging technologies and global innovators. CES was born in 1967 and over the years the event has given oxygen to the VCR, the camcorder, Microsoft Xbox, OLED TV, tablets, android devices and, most recently, virtual reality.

This year’s hybrid event saw over 2,300 companies from around the world showcase the latest in digital health, automotive innovation, gaming, NFT, smart home devices and food tech.

So, what stood out among all this incredible thinking?

Unsurprisingly, the clear impact the pandemic has had on our world. However, what was also apparent at CES was that the pandemic has seen brilliant minds come together and look at how emerging technologies can be used to help protect the future of our planet, support our children’s lives and improve our quality of life in terms of health, wellness and security.

Let’s dive in and explore these three main themes, discussing what it might mean for our brands as we move into, and beyond, 2022.

1.     Tech to help protect the planet

Sustainability featured heavily at CES 2022. There was an absolute focus on how ideas can help nurture our environment and provide sustainable, future-proof solutions – minimising our enviro footprint.

A big theme within the greening tech space was technology that helps renew energy. We saw a plethora of ideas that provided utility to consumers and worked to see a more efficient use of energy. Two great examples in category here were the Rainstick Shower and Powerfoyle Headphones.

What does this innovation mean for brands in Australia?

Sustainability is big. The Australian Government has committed $2bn to support practical emission reduction projects and in 2020 we had our highest deployment of renewable energy. That said, there is increasing pressure on our government, on businesses and on citizens to do more inside this space. If brands can meaningfully address our collective desire to improve our impact on the environment and create practical sustainable solutions, there is tremendous upside.

2.     The use of technology to support our children

The impact of COVID was widely acknowledged at CES 2022 with many innovators looking at how we can ease the burden of repeated outbreaks and the need at times to remain indoors.

While lockdowns may (hopefully) be a thing of the past in Australia, there is an acknowledgement that there will be instances when we are unwell or caring for an unwell person – particularly children – and have a need to support their learning, their playtime and wellness from home.

This thought gave rise to a litany of ideas for supporting children as the pandemic continues:

  • Blocks by Tonies. These blocks are available in themed sets of 4 each containing digestible 7 to 10-minute audio classes, all completely screen free. This product can be used by parents to support in-home learning and provide meaningful entertainment when needed.
  • Active Kids 2.0. This is a fitness and wellness space where kids and their families can get active and participate in classes and challenges with their peers, keeping them socially connected in a safe fashion.
  • Linklet. This LTE-embedded wearable has a super wide-angle camera so you can show more on a video call. For a teacher, think of this as being able to show a whiteboard while speaking to camera or showing students around a room. The added benefit of this product is that it also supports remote education across universities, TAFEs, colleges, on the job training and even normal video calls – particularly when collaboration is required.

What does this innovation mean for brands in Australia?

As we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic in Australia, how can your brand, or products within your portfolio provide support and meaning to Australians who are experiencing a change in their everyday routine? Whether this is working or educating from home, or existing in a blend of time in the home and in the office, how can you support this for individuals and for households? How can you make life easier and provide experiences that stop gap those lost due to the pandemic? What opportunities have changing lifestyles opened up for your brand or products? Now is the time to act and if you can provide meaningful solutions there is the potential for positive gains.

3.     Improving the quality of our lives

The final series of standout ideas for us at CES 2022 was how technology can be used to once again support all our lives in a COVID and post COVID world.

We saw a range of concepts that all spoke to the use of tech to provide in-home wellness and security solutions coupled with the use of tech to support us as we interact virtually.

  • RTFKT by Nike. Welcomed by big kids and little kids alike, RTFKT was acquired by Nike in December 2021 and is technology that merges real world and virtual world experiences. Nike has used this technology to facilitate its entrance into Web 3.0 and the metaverse, helping gamers experience games on a whole new level.
  • Cold storage wallet. Providing further safety and utility in the metaverse, this is a one-stop-shop app that securely manages keys, purchase exchange and sending or receiving crypto currency. Critical as we spend more time globally in the digital world and in particular as the metaverse grows.

Finally, is the development of tech that helps us manage our health and wellness remotely. Many of you would have had a telehealth call in the past two years and would appreciate the convenience of this but also note the limitations. Many of us are now committed to managing our own health & wellbeing, thanks to COVID shining a light on the importance of good physical & mental health practices.

  • Libre Sense. This wearable contains a small biosensor that accurately measures glucose levels inside the body. This helps the user better understand their energy levels, proactively manage their day-to-day performance and provides them with real data to take to their GP or health practitioner.
  • Hapbee. Another smart wearable that helps manage your mood (without the use of caffeine or other vices). It uses low energy magnetic fields to provide these experiences; no doubt a tech response to the fluctuating moods we’ve all felt these past two years. Again, the user can get curious about these changes in their mood and seek professional support as required.

While neither device is a silver bullet solution, they both show the awareness innovators have of the pandemic’s impact and the desire to provide support to individuals as we move forward.

What does innovation like this mean for brands in Australia?

While there are aspects of the metaverse that currently exist, it could take 5 to 10 years before the key features of the metaverse become mainstream. That said, there is still a continued need for engaging and immersive experiences online with more of us spending time in this space. Such experiences are highly sought after right now, so if your brand is playing in this space, innovating here will pay back. If your brand isn’t playing here yet, is there an opportunity to innovate and test the waters? How can you begin having a dialogue in this space? If your product can’t innovate, can you begin looking at media opportunities that might open up new consumer groups?

There is acceptance that we still have a journey ahead of us with COVID but there is a clear want globally to support this journey. Innovators are creating meaningful, utility-based products to help ease the effects of the pandemic and to a degree, enrich our lives.

This can only fill us all with positivity around the future and the acknowledgement that with the hardest of times comes great thinking and innovation. Like many challenging periods in our history, we have seen these events pave the way for incredible design, thinking and execution.

We are even more excited to see what this year and beyond will bring having experienced CES 2022, and we look forward to supporting our clients on this journey.