The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in the U.S. is the bellwether of technology trends for the year to come. CES 2022 pointed to the trends of sustainable development, digital innovation and cross-industry cooperation.
An increasing number of companies have jumped on the bandwagon of achieving environmental sustainability with digital technologies. This aims to add value to life with digital empowerment and contribute to a digital LOHAS in the phygital (physical + digital) scenario. New services are gradually being developed for the SaaS (sustainability as a service) model with technological innovations and value from win-wins in the low carbon economy. For example, Samsung unveiled its product strategy for sustainability in daily life in a keynote event “Together for tomorrow”. The lineup includes washing machines that save water with the assistance of artificial intelligence and remote controls which support wireless charging via Wi-Fi. The goal is to reduce the standby power consumption of its mobile phones and TVs to zero by 2025, to reduce energy usage. Samsung collaborates with Patagonia to pursuing environmental friendliness in its product design and use blockchain afforestation, sustainable product design across the entire product range by cross-domain eco-partnerships. Schneider, the electrical machinery and equipment group and the highest-ranking company in the 2021 Global 100 sustainability index, has come up with a low-carbon innovative solutions in sustainable housing. A smart distribution board is connected to all the home appliances, and the electrical loading is optimized by artificial intelligence. This aims to resolve the problems associated with unstable power supply due to extreme climates. John Deere, the agricultural equipment producer, aspires to solve the food production problems caused by climate, soils and insects with automation and artificial intelligence, by developing machinery that can predict the best times for crop sowing and harvesting to maximize the yield. Hyundai Heavy Industries, the leading shipbuilder, proposes sustainable marine transport by launching ultra-large unmanned ships, maritime hydrogen value chains (hydrogen-powered ships), smart shipbuilding and digitally empowered logistics innovations.
It is expected that more major companies will become engaged in industrial symbiosis and systematic cooperation. Digital tools will be put to good use, so companies can move from linear manufacturing models to innovation of value added recycling. Planned obsolescence will be reduced, plastic wastes will be recycled, and innovative biodegradable materials are to be integrated into source design in order to achieve ESG and sustainability.
Meanwhile, digital health has become an important focus of venture capital investment post COVID-19. The hybrid lifestyle places a greater emphasis on mental and physical health. Remote technology has been thriving and new forms of conversation between companies and consumers have emerged. The competition for the personalized market is increasingly focused on mind share. The CES exhibitors this year targeted the IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices required by the sandwich generation to live happily at home. This includes contactless technology, mental and physical health, fitness and sleep technology, senior care and home companions, technology for babies, toddlers and pets.
Examples include an interactive robot cat that nibbles the owner’s fingertip. Pressure sensors in health floor mats that can analyze people’s footsteps with artificial intelligence (AI), to provide spinal care advice and record people’s weight. AI-empowered tech nannies can detect the child’s emotions, monitor safety and sleep patterns of infants. Cat litter boxes that can identify cats and detect and analyze diseases with AI. Nose pattern recognition technology could save the trouble of microchipping dogs and prevent dogs from going astray. iPetWeaR from Industrial Technology Research Institute also debuted at CES 2022. This low-power bio-radar detects the physiological conditions of pets. The pet economy, fitness and exercise and home care are expected to drive the next wave of growth in wearables.
It is worth noting that the rapid development of digital technologies will move toward the phygital scenario as the next big thing. The new digital economy, based on the fusion of digital and physical worlds, will see more value from applications and services. This encompasses the ecosystems, platforms and system integration. Generation Z, who are known as digital natives, will be the main consumers.
CES 2022 made NFT (non-fungible token)/blockchain a standalone theme for the first time. These are considered the building blocks of the metaverse economic system. Multiple speeches were delivered on the influence of Web3 and NFT on branding, marketing and digital transformation of the art market. The leading auction houses, Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips, are also getting involved in the auction of NFT as Crypto Art. Established and up-and-coming artists, exhibitions and galleries are all adopting the NFT as a sales mechanism. Crypto Art has become the new momentum in the art industry, and the source of business opportunities in hardware, platform integration and media content. The high-end TV launched by Samsung Electronics at CES this year comes with an in-built NFT browser and market integrator, so that users can browse, purchase and display digital assets on their TV. The NFT system company AF integrates the display and NFT services for the solution “From Wallet to Wall”. Some companies have introduced display devices showing NFT 3D artworks, so that crypto art can be purchased and touched.
Part of the sensory system of the metaverse is based on the integration of the five senses via wearables, AR/VR/XR, exoskeletons and the brain-machine interface (BMI). All of these offer the user a more immersive and interactive experience in the digital world. Many XR (extended reality) device makers have upgraded their products’ performance this year, with breakthroughs in weight reduction, power consumption, focus adjustability, full color and high resolution, edge computing, inside-out precise positioning and motion sensing accessories.
An increasing number of ICT companies are establishing strategic alliances in metaverse applications and platforms. Existing core technologies are integrated into the digital economy for brand marketing and ecosystem expansion. For instance, Nvidia has been offering a free version of its Omniverse for artists and creators to engage in real-time 3D collaboration in the making of a digital world interconnected with creativity, industry and entertainment. Qualcomm and Microsoft are cooperating in the development of AR chips, for the latter’s AR headsets. Both companies seek to expand their metaverse ecosystem with strategic alliances. Hyundai Motor and Unity, the game engine company, have teamed up to develop a digital twin factory by proposing the concept of “Metamobility”. The idea is to use robots as the connection with the cyberworld for humans to move freely between the digital world and the physical world.
In sum, the development of metaverse technologies and applications is for the interoperability of multiverses. More shared services, open database structures and standard formats will emerge. The digital economy requires a trust and consensus mechanism and cybersecurity and privacy needs. Digital twins and avatars rely on better and groundbreaking technologies in AI creativity, algorithms, computing power and natural language processing. Low-latency communication technology, processing-in-memory (PIM) chips, near-eye devices and optical system improvement and sensory creativity are all challenges for digital enabling technologies. The new digital transaction models in the metaverse are expected to usher in economic and business opportunities for creators in a more open, fairer and safer way and deliver the innovative customer experiences for digital natives and digital immigrants.