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CES 2021: technology trends to watch

At the CES 2021, two analysts from the show organizer – CTA - provided their insight into the 2021 technology trends to watch.

According to Steve Koenig and Lesley Rohrbaugh, as millions remain at home and rely on technology, streaming services, robotics, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will drive technology growth in 2021.

Accelerating the digital transformation

The transition from a physical to a digital environment has been accelerated as a result of COVID-19. As noted by the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

The adoption of new technologies and services, which would have previously taken years, has now occurred in a matter of months. In many countries, schools have moved to e-learning platforms with millions of students now receiving their education online. In some cases, court proceedings have moved online in order to facilitate social distancing.

As millions remain at home and rely on streaming services for entertainment, popular platforms such as Netflix and Disney Plus have gained millions of subscribers worldwide in the past year. More time spent at home has also driven the uptake of tele-medicine and e-commerce.


Robots have helped to respond to some of the dangers associated with COVID-19. In hospitals, they have been used to clean and disinfect rooms, help monitor patients and provide delivery services. As workers stay home, automation has increased. Robots have been used to help with retail inventory by stocking shelves and identifying inventory gaps.

E-commerce have also indicated an interest in the use of autonomous delivery of their products. For example, preliminary use of drones and robots have been tested by companies such as UPS, Amazon and CVS.

Digital health

As health became a foremost concern in 2020, digital health services expand to fulfil demands from health-conscious individuals and healthcare providers. Individuals sought tools that allowed them to become more aware of their health while doctors and healthcare providers have been able to keep closer contact with their patients and improve their efficiencies.

Moving forward, Koenig and Rohrbaugh predict that the future innovation in digital health will include the use of robots as triage helpers in hospitals, the use of artificial intelligence for diagnosis and the use of virtual and augmented realities in medicine.


The roll-out of 5G services continues around the world. According to research by IHS Markit, 5G investment is up 10.8% over the 2019 forecast.

Enthusiasm for 5G remains high. It remains an essential technology for IoT devices and will drive advances in areas such as healthcare by allowing for the development of complex solutions that require significant computing capability on the edge of the network.

Smart cities

While many continue to work and learn from home, planning is underway on the post-COVID future. As Koenig and Rohrbaugh note, out of crisis, comes opportunity. Technologies such data dashboards, smart kiosks, networked sensors and contract tracing have been used extensively in the past year and may find new applications in the future.

As employees return to their workplaces, they may find smarter and safer environments. This may include touchless and voice enabled technologies as well as tools that allow for remote collaboration. Hybrid solutions will likely embrace a combination of both on-site and remote meetings.

Standards support innovation

CES offers an exciting opportunity to witness innovation in technology. Innovation, however, relies upon standards which provide the necessary backbone on which innovation can be built. They offer the tools to ensure the safety, security, interoperability and performance of products and services.

Each year, the IEC publishes over 700 international standards, technical specifications and reports that support the electrical, electronic and information technologies.

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