CES 2021: How tech will keep us communicating and connected

It’s not often that technology is called ‘life-saving.’

Usually, it’s given a bad name for its ability to create social media addictions, allow access to personal data, or replace our jobs with robots. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), wearable technology was praised for its innovation.

2020 was broadly cited as the year of the chief digital officer, and the evidence of this presented at CES by Steve Koenig and Lesley Rohrbaugh from the Consumer Technology Association was startling. Uptake across four categories; E-commerce, Telemedicine, Streaming Video and Remote Learning saw exponential growth in 2020; years worth of progress condensed into just one year.

However, the forecasted 2021 trends haven’t changed much, still including digital transformation pathways such as robots and drones, 5G, smart cars and cities and digital health. The latter is the one to watch — literally — with predictions that ‘connected health monitoring devices’ such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit will increase in popularity by 34% this year.

Technology & wellbeing 

A key theme to come out of CES this year was that of the role of technology in health and wellbeing. Emerging trends included sophisticated wearable devices that are designed to make everyday workplace tasks like moving the mouse completely germ-free. Powered by biosensors that read muscle movements, these wristbands detect gestures, allowing you to control the device you’re connected to via Bluetooth. And that’s not all, our lunchtime workouts are being improved too, by a ring with a tiny joystick that allows you to control your music playlist.

For public spaces, especially retail stores, businesses are expecting to reduce the spread of infection by making their touch screens, touchless. Using an infrared camera and motion controller, it detects hand movements and selects the correct area of the screen for you.

Of course, it’s a question of where these technologies will be useful, with the increase in remote working and the ability for many of us to stay safe at home. The benefit here will undoubtedly be for frontline workers who don’t have the same luxury, and for all of us in the future to prevent a similar crisis happening again.

With employee wellbeing topping the agenda for many internal communications professionals and leaders, we can expect a number of conversations taking place about the potential adoption of mood-recording wristbands such as those on offer from Moodbeam.

Marketed as a means of tracking employee feelings, the idea is that employees will wear their wristband throughout the working day, pressing the yellow button if they are feeling happy and the blue button if they are feeling sad. This information then feeds into its associated app and web interface, for managers to review.

A great idea in theory, but Moodbeam does present a question of ethics — how many employees will be happy to share information about their mental state with their boss? As shared in a simply team meeting, often our feelings aren’t directly linked to our work, but down to personal circumstances that aren’t relevant to workplace happiness.

Continuing on the health theme, ‘digital therapeutics’, a group of hardware and apps that collect user data and suggest strategies to manage symptoms of illness, are predicted to make $11.7 billion by 2027. Examples of this include virtual reality for PTSD sufferers and exercise plans for diabetics.

A considerable number of organisations have responded to the challenges of Covid-19 by rushing to store their information in the Cloud. The below graphic demonstrates the increase in uptake, triggered by the health crisis.

Digital transformation doesn’t equate to robots 

According to Lesley Rohrbaugh from CTA, society’s concerns about robots may be unnecessary, as it appears that the ‘robot revolution’ has happened without us noticing. As we stayed at home during 2020, we unconsciously relied on services run partly by robots. The clean floors in the supermarket? Speedy Amazon deliveries? Having our food waste and used packaging recycled? All tasks that we don’t realise are automated.

Realistically, though, we’re a long way from any developments that will replace us. Technological advancements such as robots carrying out telemedicine or security tasks are thought to be a step too far, for now at least. This links to the issue of trust, something we explored in our response to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021. Businesses are being trusted now more than ever, so if robotics is to be embraced, it’s the right sector to take on the challenge. You can read our review of the Barometer here.

Digital transformation is at the forefront of these conversations, with organisations transitioning into virtual working and finding new ways to communicate. None of this would have been possible without technology.

If you need help with getting your digital workplace up and running, get in touch with us here.

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