With industry experts expecting record retail sales from the US consumer tech industry in the first year of a new decade, the world’s largest and most influential technology expo is kicking off in Las Vegas with 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and electric and self-driving vehicles generating much buzz.
The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicked off on Sunday afternoon with two-day media events featuring news conferences and an official sneak peek event. Hundreds of companies provided a glimpse of their latest innovations before the four-day trade event officially starts on Tuesday.
The organizer of the event, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), estimates that in this year’s show, more than 4,500 exhibitors from around 160 countries are launching nearly 20,000 new transformative tech products that fall into 36 product categories.
Among those categories, streaming services, wireless earbuds, 5G connectivity and AI-enabled devices are leading the growth in 2020, according to a CTA report revealed on Sunday.
The advancement and commercialization of 5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology, and AI are particularly driving innovation in the field and influencing human culture and behavior, according to industry experts.
While the internet of things (IoT) defined the market dynamic in the past decade, this year the industry is “increasingly confronted with an entirely new IoT, and that is the intelligence of things,” said Steve Koenig, vice-president of research at the CTA, during an event on Sunday discussing industry trends.
“5G is one of those ingredient technologies that is really powering the intelligence of things,” he said. “This 5G narrative is just going to continue to unfold as we move forward throughout the decade.”
According to CTA, 2020 will see double-digit growth in the number of 5G smartphones sold and the revenue that they generate. Around 20 million units are to be sold, with an estimated total revenue of $15.3 billion.
2020 is “an inaugural year for 5G-enabled handsets”, said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of research at CTA. By 2022, two-thirds of the handset market will switch from a 4G focus to a 5G one, she said.
The trend is evident at CES, with companies launching 5G-related devices. TCL, the Guangdong-based Chinese TV maker, was to unveil on Monday its first 5G smartphone model, which the company said will retail for under $500.
Lenovo is collaborating with San Diego-based Qualcomm for its first 5G computer, the Yoga 5G, set for release this spring.
During Qualcomm’s news conference on Monday, company President Cristiano Amon made a more ambitious estimation about the application of 5G in 2020, saying that 200 million 5G smartphones will be shipped this year.
More than 45 operators globally already have deployed 5G, said Amon. Last October, China’s three major mobile operators launched their 5G service plans, available in dozens of cities.
5G is not the only star at CES.
“You are going to see AI prevalent throughout the entire show,” said Rohrbaugh.
The consumerization of AI is leading to advancement in many categories: smart home, smart speakers, human-machine partnership in the workplace, automatic driving, to name a few.
“I believe the application of AI technology makes our product stand out,” said Leilei Shinohara, vice-president of Suteng Innovation Technology Co Ltd a Shenzhen-based company devoted to light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology.
“While tens of companies around the world are also focusing on the same technology, their focus was more on the hardware,” he said, but the company brought in AI algorithm — developed by a hundred-person team — to make the detection result more accurate. The company’s automotive LiDAR product has won CES innovations award for two consecutive years.
Koenig is seeing the upcoming decade as “the electric decade for vehicles, and that’s not just cars, but all types of transportation,” he said. Innovation in the battery systems, better-built infrastructure and more developed charging systems are all helping to boost the industry, he said.
This year’s CES will also see a major shift in the content space. The launch of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus in 2019 made it a big year for streaming services. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, short-form video platform Quibi and HBO Max are all set to launch in 2020.
“There is no shortage of choices out there,” said Koenig, and CES 2020 reflected such a trend with two of its eight keynotes delivered via streaming service providers — Quibi and NBCUniversal.
With more than 170,000 attendees expected at CES, it’s an opportunity for big-name companies to break news and for smaller companies to make an impression.
“A lot of media, a lot of distributors are coming here as well. We want to get a little bit of exposure, and we want to have more connections with local distributors,” said Wang Kai from Guangzhou Puppy Robot Technology Co Ltd.
“This year, we bring to CES our product that we found most compelling to the overseas market,” said Lin Xiaochen, product director of Fujian Nanping Nanfu Battery Co Ltd.
“We hope to introduce China’s innovative technologies to the world. As our product is winning the CES Innovative Award this year, we hope that introducing it here can help broaden the road for our company as well as Chinese companies in general in the overseas market,” said Lin.