CES 2020: Orange’s experience of the international high-tech trade show

Karine Dussert-Sarthe, Orange’s Director of Product Marketing & Design, attended this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and shares with us her analysis of this extraordinary event. Between the scheduled arrival of 5G smartphones, the proliferation of voice interfaces in all kinds of objects, and the lack of any environmental considerations, her findings put into perspective the show’s vocation, which is above all to showcase new products.

The development of voice interfaces and their integration with a growing number of objects was a major trend of CES 2020.

In 2020, the CES dreamed big once again, hosting over 4,500 exhibitors and 170,000 visitors. From January 7–10, the Las Vegas trade show shone a light on the future of the technological world, revealing a mixture of quirky creations, promising gadgets, and breakthrough innovations. But what are the key takeaways from the event?

5G is at the forefront…

At a time when the new generation of mobile networks is already giving rise to the first deployments in the United States, the CES focused on the future of connectivity. This revolves, of course, around 5G, which makes it possible to design and offer new experiences that are accessible and transportable everywhere, on the go. In addition to the presentation of “5G ready” smartphones, including some foldable handsets, certain announcements underlined the explosion of future video uses that will come with the new networks. One example is Quibi, which intends to use it as a springboard to propel its short-form streaming service designed for mobile devices, almost like a bite-sized Netflix.

Will augmented reality/virtual reality technologies also be supported by 5G? Immersive experiences have carved out a special place for themselves during CES 2020, giving a futuristic emphasis and ever more ergonomic designs. For example, the pair of mixed and augmented reality glasses developed by Chinese start-up NREAL look like classic sunglasses and have the reduced weight to match.
Finally, 5G is also pointing the way to laptops and other devices manufacturers, to have a very useful plug and play logic for consumers, in order to make their experiences possible everywhere and in continuity between home and outside!

The realm of insiders and conventional players

If there is another lesson to be learned from the trade show, it is that high tech is now integrated into the strategy of many traditional manufacturers and service companies. “Traditional players are demonstrating and proving their ability to reinvent themselves by developing useful innovations,” explains Karine Dussert-Sarthe, Director of Product Marketing & Design at Orange. “For example, the almost two-hundred-year-old company Procter & Gamble has, via its Pampers brand, developed a smart diaper system. Or, more accurately, it has developed a sensor which can be fitted to a diaper so parents can monitor the baby’s activity from a mobile app.” In the same vein, Kohler—a manufacturer specializing in kitchen and bathroom equipment—has developed a smart shower head/speaker with built-in Amazon Alexa. It enables you to give instructions to your speaker or listen to music while enjoying your morning shower. The development of voice interfaces and their integration with a growing number of objects was another major trend of CES 2020. Ballie, Samsung’s new ball-shaped companion robot, is also part of this dynamic.

Societal challenges in the shadow of innovation

Above all, the CES is a showcase for innovation and the future of consumer products. The event has rarely demonstrated a desire to tackle the societal challenges facing the development and democratization of new technologies. This year’s event was no exception. “The environmental impact is one of the main considerations that the show does not address,” says Karine Dussert-Sarthe. “The challenges caused by the use of data and artificial intelligence, however, were highlighted in an original and disturbing way by HBO. The cable network had invited several journalists to attend a dinner during which some elements of their professional and personal lives were shared, all of which had been pieced together using their data accessible on social networks. We see that the subject of respect for privacy and data confidentiality continues to raise questions. And this highlights Orange’s positioning and commitment, reaffirmed through the Group’s latest communications campaign: We all have great powers and great responsibilities. The fact remains that AI and voice assistants are features of ever more devices, and convenience sometimes takes precedence over the ethical side of the objects, at least if we go by what is presented at the CES.”

The oral recognition system and voice access to Alexa in a toothbrush from Oral-B, the AI in an LG refrigerator, a connected smart razor from Gillette, the list goes on. So-called “smart” technologies have invaded the trade show floor, revealing a concern to take the experience and use of the future consumer into account.

At this year’s CES, as is typical, we were able to see the fullest extent of innovation.

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At the heart of CES 2020