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CES 2021 Highlights: COVID-Accelerated Innovations, 5G and Privacy Issues Dominate

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The first-ever all-digital CES 2021 welcomed 2,000 exhibitors that unveiled next-gen innovations across a variety of sectors, including almost 700 startups from 37 countries. Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) , the virtual event featured product launches from startups to tech giants, keynotes from global industry leaders, live entertainment from Hollywood and more than 100 hours of conference programming. 

Exhibiting companies included tech giants such as Intel, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics and Sony, as well as tech-adjacent organizations ranging from AARP to Bridgestone, Caterpillar, Indy Autonomous Challenge, John Deere, L’Oréal, Moen and Procter & Gamble. New companies exhibiting at CES 2021 included ASUS, BioIntelliSense, Bose, Sono Motors and Volvo Penta. 

“CES showed how the pandemic accelerated the arc of innovation and illustrated the resilience and innovative spirit of our industry,” said Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of CTA in a statement. “From the latest innovations for the home and entertainment, and advances in 5G, vehicle technology, AI and digital health, the technologies at CES 2021 will pave the way for a brighter tomorrow.” 

Executives Discuss Promise of 5G, Privacy and Security Concerns
Industry leaders took to the all-digital CES keynote stage to make major announcements, including:

  • Verizon: Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO of Verizon, demonstrated the immersive 5G experience across sports, education, connected communities and live music, and announced partnerships with the NFL, UPS, Live Nation Clubs and Theaters, The Met and the Smithsonian.
  • Best Buy: Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy, shared how the company shifted during the pandemic and put the customer in control of buying, whether from home, curbside or in person (click here to read more). 
  • Walmart: Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, discussed ways 5G, AI and robotics will change the business; how Walmart pivoted to keep employees healthy and customers satisfied; and the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. 
  • General Motors: Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, launched new product lines from GM including the Cadillac eVTOL, a concept air taxi; and a new business unit devoted to electrifying the goods delivery market.
  • AMD: Dr. Lisa Su, President and CEO of AMD, revealed the new Ryzen 5000 series mobile processors with two categories — the H-series, for laptops intended for gaming and content creation, and the U-series, for ultra-portable notebooks.
  • Future Reimagined: Michael Miebach, CEO of Mastercard, and Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, predicted tech trends they expect to see over the next decade. 
  • Microsoft: Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, gave his vision for ensuring cybersecurity and customer privacy protection and discussed the tech industry’s responsibility to “exercise our conscience.”
  • Entertainment Transformed: Michael Kassan, Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, and Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, described the ever-evolving entertainment industry and what the industry will look like in a post-pandemic world. Maverick Carter, CEO of The Springhill Co.; Adrienne Lofton, VP, North America Marketing, Nike; and Deborah Wahl, Global CMO of General Motors discussed how marketers and brands are adjusting and creating in today’s landscape.

Key Themes at CES 2021
The event featured innovations designed to improve our world, from health and safety to sustainability and accessibility, including:

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  • Tech Innovation Accelerated by COVID-19
    Tech companies innovated during the pandemic, with companies at CES 2021 featuring smart masks, disinfecting robots, body sensors that detect COVID-19 symptoms and smart air filtration systems. 
  • Consumer Privacy and Trust
    The heads of privacy at Amazon, Google and Twitter discussed new privacy regulations and the need to increase consumer trust, stating that tech companies must give users more control over their data.
  • Global Tech Challenge
    The Global Tech Challenge, launched at CES 2020 in partnership with the World Bank and CTA, rewards tech solutions in three areas: digital health in East Africa, resilience in India and gender equality around the world. The selected winners were announced this week from more than 1,000 applications, with three winners selected for gender equality, 10 for resilience and 17 for digital health. 
  • Space Tech
    NASA was joined by leaders from Lockheed Martin and Space Tango to discuss technology’s role in accelerating space research and breakthroughs that will benefit all of humanity.

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