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5 Market-Defining Technology Trends Hiding In Plain Sight at CES 2024

5 Market-Defining Technology Trends Hiding In Plain Sight at CES 2024

Introduction

Media coverage of CES typically focuses on fun, cool, clever new gadgets, and 2024 was no different, with a lot of buzz surrounding several “see-through” TVs, the Rabbit—a standalone handheld device designed for AI-powered applications—and of course, the odd flying car and fun new robots. And do not get me wrong, I love a gadget and a cool new device as much as the next consumer, but as an industry analyst, my attention tends to steer toward more significant—perhaps more impactful—market trends. Here are five trends from this year’s CES that caught my eye, and why I feel that they are going to matter in 2024 and beyond.

1. In-Vehicle Automotive Tech Is Getting Impressive (and It Has Very Little to do with EVs)

If the Las Vegas Convention Center’s main hall felt like CES had turned into an automotive show, it’s because automotive tech has grown into one the biggest new market segments for tech companies. Every major semiconductor and automotive platform company was there, from Qualcomm, AMD, Arm, and Intel (Mobileye) to the hundreds of hardware and software vendors making up the expanding ecosystem of solutions capitalizing on the segment’s increasingly complex needs.

The focus this year wasn’t as much on EV technology as it was on automotive UX. On the one hand, platform vendors and their partners were primarily showcasing new connectivity, cockpit, and infotainment features of the software-defined vehicle. On the other hand, platform vendors were clearly giving visibility to their ADAS solutions more gas (pun intended).

I plan to write a more detailed analysis of this particular topic, so be on the lookout for it, but the point I want to make here is that the market opportunity for tech-powered automotive UX is all upside, regardless of what happens with EV adoption. Investments by automotive, semiconductor, component, software, and infrastructure vendors are massive. Cars will come equipped with more screens, more chips, more memory, more sensors, more cameras, more microphones, more software platforms, more features and capabilities, all powering very specific types of experiences for users, and for that reason, we are going to have to be a lot more deliberate about how we segment automotive tech.

2. Services Around Automotive Tech Are Shaping Up to Be a Huge Play for Tech Vendors, Particularly in the Cloud Services Space

Unsurprisingly, infrastructure and service vendors like AWS were showing off their automotive-facing ecosystem of services and solutions at CES, right alongside Qualcomm, Intel, and AMD. These addressed basically every phase of the automotive product lifecycle, from designing, building, and testing vehicles (and components) in virtual environments, and reinventing the car shopping and buying experience, to the management, maintenance, and servicing of connected vehicles once in use. This touches on monitoring the performance of key systems, from ADAS to battery performance, and allows automotive OEMs, their dealers and potentially their customers to have more visibility into their vehicle’s health and potential problems. Some of the more obvious use cases for this type of data collection and analysis at scale fall into the realm of predictive maintenance and repair, which allows problems to be detected and dealt with early, before they become a serious problem.

EV battery performance monitoring seemed especially important, and it was good to see it prioritized. Other services that caught my eye dealt with sustainability as a service, with an eye towards helping OEMs or third parties create circular economies around vehicles and their components. Again, look for a deeper dive into this soon, but the idea is to be able to track every component in the vehicle, and every material in those components, down to their exact weight or volume, in order to collect, extract and repurpose them once they have reached the end of their intended use. On the one hand, this type of data-driven circularity model will help keep end-of-life vehicles and components out of landfills. On the other, it delivers the building blocks of both the ROI and the logistics foundations of a scalable reuse, recycling, and repurposing services model. Another use case that was discussed at length but not as public-facing is the crowdsourcing of learning, training, and map aggregation that will help automotive OEMs and their ADAS platform vendors accelerate performance improvements across their fleets of smart, connected vehicles. The infrastructure opportunity here is fairly significant, and it is something I am keeping an eye on.

3. AI Was an Important Theme But It Was Not the Star of CES (And Why That Is a Good Thing)

AI was basically everywhere at CES this year—in vehicles, in laptops and other devices, in virtually every type of user experience, even in the product design and manufacturing itself. And yet, for the most part, AI wasn’t the point. AI was, and rightly so, an enabler of next-gen experiences and services, a sort of prioritized box at the top of the relevance checklist. Designed with AI? Check. AI-optimized? Check. AI-capable? Check. AI-adjacent, even? Check. Why not.

Strangely though, the pervasiveness of this year’s “AI inside” theme didn’t skid too far into hollow buzzword territory. It never felt overdone or annoying, and that’s a good sign. AI is already finding thousands upon thousands of valuable use cases and applications, across hundreds of industry segments, and this is driving both innovation and value creation for consumers and vendors alike. When it comes to users, the point of AI is simply to make technology work better and/or unlock new capabilities. Consumers don’t necessarily need to understand the why, the how or even the where of AI. All they really need to know is that a product or solution is powered by AI, and how the technology manifests itself in terms of UX and performance. Better sound quality through AI? Great! Longer battery life thanks to AI? Wonderful. Faster processing times, more natural voice interfaces, spaces that self-optimize based on an analysis of user preferences? Terrific. That’s the conversation that users of AI technologies want to have, particularly as AI becomes part of the fabric of their daily lives. AI being at the heart of every conversation at CES but not being the topic of said conversations reflected the shift towards AI already becoming a mainstream, ubiquitous technology.

This might help explain why the trend towards generative AI moving from the cloud into devices didn’t get as much attention as it perhaps should have. As radical and transformative as it is to shift training and inference workloads to phones, PCs, cars, and other devices is a radical departure from the cloud-based generative AI capabilities the market was introduced just over a year ago. It brings scale and speed to AI workloads, and will likely fundamentally transform personal computing, creativity, and productivity; accelerate XR adoption and ADAS performance; change the trajectory of infrastructure spending; and create a wave of new demand for semiconductors and component tie-ins. I suspect that these conversations will become more obvious and deliberate by next year’s CES.

4. Micro-Mobility Is Shaping Up to Be a Significant Channel for Tech But Not Quite Yet

As a cyclist and a motorcyclist (and reformed skateboarder), I hold a special place in my heart for micro-mobility, whether it’s recreational or more purpose-driven, like commuting or enabling faster deliveries and microtransit in dense urban environments. From e-bikes to e-scooters and the growing ecosystem of tech-enhanced accessories, like connected helmets and GPS add-ons, CES exhibitors highlighted the extent to which micromobility represents a massive market opportunity, particularly in Asia and Europe. As someone who nerds out on design, I was mostly impressed with what I saw: Gorgeous, fun, clever, well-designed bikes and scooters, cool helmets, glasses and other accessories, valuable features, and UI …. It was all very well thought out, and I could legitimately see all of these products turn up at my local retailers in some shape or form. The problem is that I will probably never see any of these products again, and that makes me nervous.

To make matters worse, several of my conversations with platform vendors targeting the micro-mobility market haven’t yet convinced me that their go-to-market plan isn’t more solution-looking-for-problem rather than something the market actually needs or that anyone is asking for. More to the point, I am troubled by the gap between the market opportunities at scale (low cost, high volume markets) they appear to be prioritizing, and the high-cost solutions they are leading with. In other words, embedding LTE or 5G connectivity, bike-specific ADAS features, and other services-enabling tech in bikes and scooters will add costs that OEMs will have to pass on to their customers. In premium markets, like high-end motorcycles and premium-priced e-bikes, that’s a great value add that OEMs can leverage to boost their margins and differentiate themselves from their competitors. But when the intended market is mostly high volume, low cost two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles, the business case becomes harder to make.

A realignment of this strategy is going to need to happen in the next 12 months, which I think will end up returning to the model that has already worked in every device and automotive market: new premium features targeting premium priced tiers first, and eventually trickling down to lower price tiers and high volume segments once the case has been made for the solutions’ market viability. Look for established OEMs with strong brand followings to lead the way in bringing these solutions to their own markets, starting with built-in connectivity, GPS features, anti-theft, and theft recovery features, and safety-focused V2X features like blind spot detection and collision avoidance solutions. The bicycle market will be a bit different from the motorized 2 and 3-wheeled segment, with third party digital add-on accessory OEMs taking the lead instead of the bike OEMs themselves, but the principle is the same.

5. Tech for Kids Is an Evolving Market Segment Transitioning from Device-Level Thinking to How Tech Fits Into the Design of Kid-Defined Spaces

Kid-focused tech was not an obvious trend at CES this year, but as it was difficult to walk through any consumer tech booth without spotting smaller, more brightly colored versions of adult-sized tech, I felt that it deserved a mention. But more than that, I noticed a new trend beyond the dozens of cute companion robots and edutainment products: a shift from product design steered towards kids to the creation of spaces designed for kids.

I found a great example of this in HP’s experience pavilion, which showcased more than a dozen spaces built around HP and Poly products—running the gamut from corporate office environments and home offices to hybrid workspaces, gamer/streaming rigs, and more. It reminded me of walking through an Ikea store’s showroom, but designed to showcase HP products: PCs, printers, monitors, cameras, earphones and headphones, custom keyboards, and so on. One of those setups was meant to emulate a pre-teen or early teen’s bedroom, complete with a desk and chair, and all of the devices and platforms that enable the consumption and creation of digital media by that type of user: Smaller and more fun keyboards, more colorful headphones designed for smaller heads and ears, custom accessories, and so on.

Granted, HP is one of the few tech companies with a broad enough ecosystem of productivity solutions for adults and kids, so few companies are able to create such a clearly-defined tech-forward space for young technology users—Apple, Google and Samsung come to mind—but echoes of this trend were everywhere, from phone design, to laptops, tablets, smart watches, and headphones designed for smaller bodies and more colorful palettes. Even the cockpit and infotainment automotive platforms I demoed were designed to allow OEMs to carve out spaces for kids sitting in the back seat of a car—complete with cameras and touchscreens, as well as connectivity and app ecosystems to keep them entertained, allow them to do their homework, and initiate video calls with friends: Spaces over devices, whether those spaces are their bedroom, a corner of the living room or kitchen table, or the passenger seat of a car.

Look for deeper dives into all five of these trends in the coming weeks.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

We are Live! Talking CES, Memory Market, Arm, HPE, Mobileye, GenAI

5G Factor: CES 2024 Takeaways—Automobiles Shine

Reimagining the Automotive Customer Experience in the Age of Autonomous Mobility

Author Information

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

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