Tuesday, January 11, 2022

CES 2022: Welcome to the Future

Photo courtesy Karl Strom
For 20 years I attended the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas which takes place the first week of November each year. Many of those years I would be on a shuttle or bus and would here someone say, "CES must be in town." SEMA was one of the few shows that rivaled the Consumer Electronics Show when it came to drawing mobs of that size to Vegas. 

CES is the perfect way to kick off a new year. The scale of this show is mind-boggling. Over 2200 exhibitors were on hand this year, with media representatives in the thousands flying in from 159 countries. 

It must have been around 20 or so years ago that the top six companies in the Fortune 500 were automakers and oil companies. How things have changed. Tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and others have become fixtures as the world's leading brands. Ironically, cars are becoming tech companies. Before 1968, when VW introduced the first transistorized, electronically controlled fuel injection system, cars were essentially mechanical devices. 

Photo courtesy Karl Strom
This year's CES showed just how sophisticated technology has become with regards to motor vehicles, autos and trucks. The future was on display in all its forms. 

I asked Karl Strom, editor-in-chief of The Hearing Review, to send me his impressions of this year's CES. Here's a brief summing up that he provided this past weekend.

"The CES conference is like walking into the future. Lots of dazzling displays from the huge corporations like Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung, but also a couple thousand exhibits from established companies to start-ups. My beat is hearing healthcare but it’s difficult not to get sidetracked by the incredible ideas that range from self-driving cars to watering the lawn. There are essentially 3 giant convention halls with one of them being almost completely devoted to fledgling companies and start-ups from all over the world, often grouped by countries or geography. It’s a physically and mentally exhausting event, but fascinating!"

* * * 
TECHNOLOGY touches us in such a wide variety of ways today. Here are some of the categories of products you will find at CES:

Photo: courtesy Karl Strom

Products and services with innovative features that enable ease of use by disabled persons to improve accessibility for seniors and persons with disabilities, regardless of cognitive, mobile, hearing or visual abilities.

Computer Hardware & Components

All desktop and notebook computer systems and internal components, including tablets, e-readers and mobile computing devices.

Computer Peripherals & Accessories

Products designed to connect to and extend the functionality of desktop or portable computer systems or to enable, enhance, connect, power and/or maintain desktop or portable computer systems.

Cybersecurity & Personal Privacy

Products that serve to protect, enhance, manage or analyze digital security. This is a category that has really grown in recent years. Our next war may be a cyber war rather than nuclear.

Digital Imaging/Photography

Products designed to enhance the visual experience and/or allow the user to capture, store and edit still images or video.

Drones & Unmanned Systems

Consumer drones, consumer UAVs and other unmanned systems that are able to fly, or otherwise move and be operated from a remote location. May include secondary features such as photo/video recording, movement of materials, mapping, wayfinding, search/rescue or other capabilities. It even includes agriculture an energy applications. 

Embedded Technologies

Silicon chips and integrated components designed to provide functionality to finished products or subassemblies.

Fitness & Sports

Products designed to test, monitor or analyze the fitness and/or sports performance of an individual. May also include sports apparel and equipment that incorporate sensors or other technology.


Products (hardware, software, services) designed to allow one or more users to interact with electronic games.

Headphones & Personal Audio

Devices that allow users to listen to audio content, such as music, radio, video, TV, gaming and/or telephone conversations. The devices may incorporate microphones for user voice response or input and do not have to be designed for use with any specific type of device. 

Health & Wellness

Consumer devices, mobile apps and other technologies designed to monitor and analyze health, support well-being, manage disease or provide a therapeutic benefit.  

High-Performance Home Audio/Video

Separate audio components and speakers that provide for optimal performance and sound reproduction. Items are typically produced in limited quantities and are often handcrafted.

Home Appliances

Products that have a primary function of being used in the home, including major and portable appliances. Products technology may provide home heating and cooling, comfort, aesthetics, convenience, food storage and preparation, and/or cleaning. Products should have significant electronic functionality as a central part of the item’s operation. 

Home Audio/Video Components & Accessories

Systems and/or speakers designed to provide playback, storage and/or distribution of audio and video signals and content in the home, as well as products designed to enable, enhance, connect, and/or maintain home audio/video systems and components. 

In-Vehicle Entertainment & Safety

Products and components designed to be part of an in-vehicle entertainment and information systems.

Mobile Devices & Accessories

Smartphones (iOS and Android) and other mobile handsets. Also includes accessories designed to work with mobile devices, such as cases or chargers. 

Portable Media Players & Accessories

Well as the accessories for enabling, enhancing, connecting, carrying and/or maintaining them.


Programmable or otherwise Intelligent machines capable of performing specific tasks or replicating human movement or interactions.

Smart Cities

Products, applications and technologies designed to be incorporated in a smart city, or smart venue, technology ecosystem. Smart cities are designed to improve and enhance the lives of the citizens and businesses who inhabit them.

Smart Home

Products and accessories that provide a home's inhabitants with sophisticated monitoring and control over the building's functions, and/or enable users to maintain a wired or wireless data network. May also include products and software that provide for remote or conditional access.

Photo credit: Greg Bulla. Creative Commons
Software & Mobile Apps

Programs or operating systems meant to be used on a computer system or mobile device, whether being distributed for free or at a cost.


Devices, apps or services that allow a user to transmit audio and/or video over a network. Offerings can be free or at a cost.

Sustainability, Eco-Design & Smart Energy

Innovative features incorporated into products that are environmentally-friendly. For example, efficient and clean energy use, manufacturing processes that reduce use of harmful environment substances (e.g., lead, mercury), durability/end of-life (e.g., reuse, refurbish, remanufacture, recycle), resource conservation, facilitate the powering and/or charging of consumer electronic products.

Vehicle Intelligence & Transportation

Automotive and other transportation products and services that integrate technology into the driving or riding experience, whether by enhancing safety, navigation, improving the passenger experience or enabling self-driving functionality.

Video Displays

Devices whose primary purpose is the display of video content, excluding items marketed and sold primarily as computer monitors.

Virtual & Augmented Reality

Products (hardware) designed to provide a virtual or augmented reality experience for one or more users.

Wearable Technologies

Electronic devices worn by the user that may include sensors, processors, displays or other technology for the purpose of sensory enhancement, measurement, computing or data-collection/transmission.

* * * 

So many things go through my mind when I read through this list. Here are few off the cuff, not in order of importance:

In a world where there has been a fair amount of criticism of consumerism, how much of this technology is necessary and how much is luxury? As we become increasingly immersed in technology--from social media to virtual reality to streaming media and interactive games--is there a danger of becoming so removed from nature and the natural world that it will damage our humanity in some way? 

On the question of luxury and necessity, what are our expectations for the future of consumption and natural resources? How does this impact the have nots of our world? 

I personally find all this applied creativity to be a dazzling spectacle. Will the next generation be dazzled or simply take it for granted? 

When I read about the decline in math skills in our country, what impact will this have in the advances and maintenance of all these incredibly complex systems? When everything we own requires technical knowledge in order to fix it, what then? Auto mechanics who wrench engines will not be qualified to fix EVs. Will we have a shortage of qualified people to keep all our cars and toys running?

What does all this say about the jobs of the future? One thing is apparent, there is going to be no end of opportunity for those willing to hit the books and stay abreast of the changes that are coming. In 20 years from now there will be jobs that don't even have a name yet. 

For optimists, this is an amazing time to be coming of age. For pessimists, the future is shrouded in a fog of doom. 

When I was in school there were doomsayers as well. That didn't stop the possibility thinkers. Its probable that a visit to CES will offer ammunition for both camps. As the saying goes, we'll see what happens. 

How many of you who were coming of age in the Sixties could have imagined Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones still performing concerts in 2021? 

May you stay forever young!

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