The pandemic has greatly impacted how people work, relate, and consume. Here’s a look at how we think this will influence the trends driving conversation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Robin Murdoch, Global Software & Platforms lead, Accenture

December 30, 2021

7 Min Read
virtual reality street environment
ifeelstock via Alamy Stock

Many people going to CES this year are going in with a different mindset. Global events have completely changed people’s priorities and made them question everything more deeply -- from brand purpose to sustainability. ​There is also a growing sense of personal agency that people want to have over their lives two years into the pandemic, which is affecting the way they work, relate, and consume.

The following are some top trends we expect to see at the show, which consider how companies are addressing this changing human mindset:

The Metaverse

Most major platform companies have their eyes on the same space: the metaverse. Originally defined as a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with computer-generated environments and other users, the definitions tend to vary depending on who is talking.

The metaverse promises significant opportunity for companies as the market is predicted to reach $814 billion by 2028. Emerging from a year of limited physical, human interaction, research from Accenture found that in 2021, businesses were doubling down on virtual reality, with 88% of organizations investing in technologies to create virtual environments and, among those, 91% are planning to invest further.

There are many different ways that people can engage in these spaces. For some, it is a collaborative space where they can work, chat, or play together. For others, the value lies in the ability to access different platforms and services through a single account or device. One step further would be to look at the metaverse’s ability to blur the lines between real and digital worlds. Instead of thinking of it as VR, think more augmented reality: two worlds indistinguishable from one another. For example, digital advertising, telehealth, and virtual desks can take place in the real world using augmented reality-enabled devices.

Reaching the metaverse will require businesses across all industries to get involved -- an ecosystem of device manufacturers, entertainers, communication service providers, platforms, advertisers, and health providers. For example, telecom and internet providers should be thinking about how the metaverse will require more bandwidth and connection points. Gig speed might be enough for some of it, but not all. Beyond the typical issues encountered in high-density areas, the coming of the metaverse will also depend on a concentrated effort to build connectivity in underserved areas, which as a global community we still haven’t solved.

The Smart Home

The past two years have made it clear that the home is the new battleground for innovation as a growing number of people continue working remotely and seek entertainment in the comfort of their own house.

This includes digital fitness equipment and services, as few categories experienced the kind of growth the digital fitness industry has seen over the past two years. From Peloton bikes to Zwift’s growing online cycling community and regular gyms offering digital workouts, it’s clear that people are changing the way they exercise. This year will be a great opportunity to see which model prevails in capturing the disrupted fitness market. On one end are closed, end-to-end ecosystems based on proprietary exercise equipment such as Peloton that have limited reach but generate greater value-per-user due to the premium prices of the equipment. On the other are growing online communities based on equipment-agnostic platforms like Zwift that have the potential to capture a wider but less valuable audience due to their lower price of entry.

We are also seeing an interesting dynamic emerge in the TV and monitor space as OLED devices are becoming more affordable, enabling consumers to take full advantage of HDR and 4K content without breaking the bank. This is happening at the same time as online streaming content providers and others are increasingly turning to nearly exclusively 4k/HDR content portfolios. Similarly, interest in gaming is soaring with nearly 2.7 billion gamers globally and more than 400 million new gamers expected by the end of 2023 as consoles and high-end PCs support increasingly high-quality graphics.

None of this smart home innovation would be possible without the connecting tissue: connectivity to and in the home. Next-generation networks such as 5G and Starlink will slowly but surely making their way to the public, providing high-speed, low-latency connectivity to homes everywhere. Wi-Fi 6, which made its debut in 2019, is also making progress with a growing number of smartphones, laptops and smart home devices are adopting the new standard. As the number of smart devices in the average home increases, so does the need for networks that enable better performance.

Autonomous Driving

Many traditional carmakers and new entrants took a bold position during past CES shows and promised fully self-driving cars by 2025. The good news is more cars than ever will have assisted driving or other semi-autonomous driving features in the future (Level 2 out of 6 on the vehicle autonomy scale). We expect that, by 2030, 60% of all new cars will be Level 2.

The bad news is that truly autonomous driving is still far away. Even with increased computing power and more data available from real road driving and simulated driving on virtual roads, autonomous driving remains difficult to master. Lack of human intuition is the root cause for deep learning systems not being robust enough to navigate cars autonomously in real-world traffic. For example, an algorithm still can’t distinguish between a real traffic sign and one that is manipulated.

But while fully autonomous driving is out of reach for the time being, another disruption lies up ahead: Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are turning into software companies dealing in data. In fact, 50% of the auto industry revenue is projected to come from digital-driven business models by 2050. This means that, despite the setbacks, most car manufacturers will continue their autonomous driving programs to collect large sets of data that they can commercialize. For example, the collected data can enable new services such as autonomous valet parking or smart summon driving. The bigger the fleet, the more data -- and that’s where traditional car manufacturers have an advantage over their incumbents.

We expect to see autonomous vehicle sales and aftersales to get smarter and more personalized with the help of data through platforms that connect consumers, dealers, and car manufacturers. There is no doubt that, as the world waits for fully autonomous vehicles, the customer experience represents a significant growth opportunity that will become the next competitive focus of the automotive industry.

The Chip Shortage

The global chip shortage has made clear that nearly every business is a semiconductor business. Consumer goods continue to be impacted heavily because of supply chain issues with semiconductors.

While automotive had the biggest impact with our estimates valuing the revenue loss at nearly $370 billion in 2021 alone, many consumer electronics also resulted in product shortages and shipping delays from the chip shortage. Products like smart home devices -- which can use relatively older chips and have lower margins -- have also experienced the impact of the shortage, with many businesses revising sales forecasts and others postponing product launches altogether. Smartphones, however, specifically managed to avoid the impact of the chip shortage. The high-end chips they rely on are considered top priority by semiconductor manufacturers due to their strong margins.

To help solve these issues, companies are thinking about how to increase their semiconductor sourcing knowledge by hiring semiconductor sourcing experts when looking to secure their chip supply. They also are looking to diversify their suppliers and increase chip inventory to help avoid situations where a $30 chip is postponing the shipping of products that could be worth 10x to 1000x more.

While chip delays can impact the shipping dates of new products, we expect to see innovation in the metaverse, smart home and automotive to be prevalent at CES.

About the Author(s)

Robin Murdoch

Global Software & Platforms lead, Accenture

Robin leads Accenture's Software & Platforms industry overseeing Accenture’s work with the world’s leading Internet and technology companies. Robin advises consumer electronic, Internet, media and communications companies in the development and execution of strategies that capitalize on the changing digital landscape. Over the last decade with Accenture in the US, he has led programs building the world’s leading cloud platforms and developing and launching hit digital products and services in mobile, entertainment and cloud computing.

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