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Welcome to the future: CES 2030 happened in 2022

January 11, 2022, 5:10 PM UTC
Economic conditions are boosting investments in strategic innovations that have the potential to propel key industries into the future.
Ethan Miller—Getty Images

After a hiatus, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) returned in 2022 with an unusual sense of urgency and a reduced physical presence owing to the Omicron variant.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitization of products and services by five to 10 years and condensed a decade of e-commerce penetration into months. Record levels of capital have surged into public and private markets and more than 400 active SPACs currently have $1.2 trillion in capital ready to deploy.

Enterprises have taken advantage of this supercharged growth by pursuing acquisitions to avoid falling behind their competitors—expect that to continue into 2022. How long can these goldilocks conditions last? If inflation and supply-chain issues fail to self-correct by mid-2022, it will get more difficult. However, technologies that solve problems in strategic areas will make an impact for years to come.

5G rollout is here

In 2022, the three largest mobile service providers in the United States—AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile—will push for nationwide adoption of 5G, including the phasing out of some of their legacy networks. Theoretically, 5G can offer speeds up to 100 times as fast as 4G, but no mainstream U.S. consumer app has taken advantage of this advancement yet.

In the 2010s, 4G enabled everything from mobile e-commerce and on-demand services to broader social media adoption and video streaming. Uber and Instagram are representative of the many apps that could not have succeeded were it not for 4G.

Big 5G announcements were somewhat muted at CES 2022 owing to recent delays as a result of potential interference by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but the full rollout is definitely coming in 2022, and it will have a myriad of effects. We think of 5G as a phone technology, but it really is the foundation and platform for much of the innovation announced at CES. Autonomous cars would not be possible without the advent of 5G. Autonomous robots and delivery vehicles were all made possible by 5G.

Media’s search for new data

Media and advertising technology can be easy to overlook at CES—but that would be a huge mistake. We have to remember the trade show started with radio and TV sets.

2022 will see significant growth in streaming services and AVOD (ad-supported video on demand). Connected TV (CTV) will continue to mature and grow in advertising relevance across the board, as evidenced by Amazon Prime’s exclusive broadcasting rights for Thursday Night Football in 2022. Brands will refine their strategies and continue to shift more traditional linear ad spends, like broadcast TV, to CTV. However, with audience fragmentation increasing, robust new tools will be critical to the effective use of ad dollars in reaching these audiences.

The digital advertising duopoly of Facebook and Google continues to become a triopoly, with Amazon’s ad business having another year of massive growth as it further monetizes digital shelves. Walmart, eBay, Instacart, and other marketplaces are following Amazon’s advertising footsteps. Fueled by privacy changes across the digital advertising landscape, brands and sellers continue to battle across these marketplaces enriched with first-party data and intent-focused shoppers.

Consumers are more concerned than ever about data privacy while also expecting a seamless, personalized experience across an ever-expanding universe of platforms and channels. Brands will need to bridge gaps between emerging opportunities, like the metaverse, and more traditional media, like TV and streaming to reach their target audiences.

As it becomes more difficult for companies to access third-party data, those companies are already looking to CES for ideas around creating a first-party data pipeline. Whether it’s a unique subscription model, a newsletter, tracking app activity, or another collection method, consumers should expect to see this desire for data play out in their interactions with brands and media.

2022 will require brands to use A.I. and analytics to acquire insights and learn more about their customers before they even reach out. For marketers, platforms like Nielsen One (which premiered at CES) promise a universal way to measure a myriad of audience metrics.

Cars go digital

Multiple new electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving concepts debuted at CES. Tesla, one of 11 companies to ever achieve a 13-digit market capitalization, and Amazon-backed Rivian, have set the tone. If Rivian can surpass Ford’s market cap with only hundreds of EVs on the road, and no real revenue to date, why not duplicate its model? When will Apple make its long-anticipated announcement in this market? 

For legacy automakers, subscriptions are the next battleground. GM expects to generate a Netflix-size $25 billion per year on subscription services like OnStar. To compete, other automakers may partner with Silicon Valley companies or make acquisitions. They’re also likely to emulate the Carvana model, which is riding post-COVID demand for online sales, at-home test-drives, and vehicle deliveries. Digital service is here. Auto dealers are riding high now as there is more demand than supply, but that will change in 2022, and many will seek to reinvent themselves.

The question for many at CES: Where do we want to be, given that our industry has been propelled into the future at a faster rate than ever before? Goldilocks macroeconomic environments like this don’t last forever, and CES 2022 gave us urgent, exciting clues about what the next decade might hold.

Chris Legg serves as a senior managing director at Progress Partners and as a general partner at Progress Ventures, the firm’s venture capital arm.

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