Tech trend review offers insight into the future

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The big CES show – formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show – has long evolved into a space where technology of all types get shown, often for the first time. The Consumer Technology Association, which hosts the show, researches the tech market throughout the year and opens the big […]

The big CES show – formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show – has long evolved into a space where technology of all types get shown, often for the first time. The Consumer Technology Association, which hosts the show, researches the tech market throughout the year and opens the big event with a review of trends to watch.

Steve Koenig, vice president of research, CTA, opened with comments the key factors that impact technology and adoption. “The global economic downturn and pandemic crisis became an innovation acceleration,” he says. “We’ve seen an abundance of innovation in the past year.”

CES, forced to go virtual for its 2021 show, is on live and virtually this week with some major exhibitors bowing out in the last week. However, as 200 left 143 came back, with their opportunity to show tech in person. That “in person” experience is especially important for the 800 startup companies on hand for the event.

Koenig looked at four tech-related areas – demand, investment, lifestyle and trends. “This is what we’re seeing through the lens of research,” he notes.

A key conclusion of his talk is that tech demand remains strong and while the growth will taper into 2022 but remain strong. According to the association’s research, consumer spending on tech will top a half-trillion dollars in 2022. That number includes software services and hardware and continues a path of growth that has remained solid since 2018.

“The core fundamentals show back to back annual growth in consumer tech spending and will propel us forward into 2022,” Koenig says.

Consumers level up technology

Koenig points out that during the pandemic consumers leveled up their tech. A look at the technology consumers own shows increases across the board from 4K televisions to “smart” tools from appliance to lightbulbs. In addition there was a greater investment in connected fitness tools.

In the study the percentage of consumers that reported owning a wide range of new tools went up on every front between 2020 and 2021, according to CTA data.

As part of that leveling up, Koenig points to data showing that as consumers invested, they spent more on premium products rather than “standard” level items. Koenig says consumers are deciding between “Okay and great.”

Even farmers know if you have cash on hand and invest in new tools you don’t settle for second best. In this case the consumer is investing in a wide range of top-level tools. Smart phone sales are just one indicator, and consumers are opting for the full-featured models.

Services get more money

If you have access to broadband, and that’s not a given in farm country, investment in streaming services may be rising as much as in town. Koenig points to interesting stats from Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. While Netflix is the leader with 214 million subscribers and Prime right behind at 175 subscribers, Disney+ has hit 118 million. Apple TV+ is at 20 million.

“Disney+ launched just two years ago, but as they say content is a key to success and they’ve topped 100 million subscribers,” Koenig notes, and admits he’s a Star Wars fan (which is key content for Disney+).

He adds that research shows consumers – on average – subscribe to eight different online services. Koenig adds that conversations with younger CTA staff members shows that some subscribe to as many as 20 services “including some I’ve never heard of,” he quips.

Investors keep piling on

Tech investment continues to rise too. Research from CB Insights show a 105% increase in year-over-year global funding of startups. That list of 800 exhibitors in the startup area at CES – known as Eureka Park – is one indicator that venture money still flows toward technology.

The United states gets a big chunk of that investment according to the study, but more investment is flowing into Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa too. Key areas of investment include retail technology including logistics and tracking, fintech for financial services and healthcare.

There are challenges, he notes the chip challenge and shipping challenge. In fact, Koenig characterizes the current situation as a chip to ship issue. If you can get the chips can you ship the product. But adds that chip makers are boosting productivity where they can and investing in new plants.

One trend of that chip plant investment is diversity of location. Today most chips are made in East Asia, but new plants slated to come online in the next few years will be more geographically distributed.

Other trends at work

No tech presentation would be complete without a discussion of 5G connectivity, but Koenig says this high-speed infrastructure is growing differently than its predecessors. “This trend is being led by enterprise not the consumer,” he notes. “In the past this tech was more consumer centric, but the value of 5G is in the enterprise with industrial [Internet of Things] tools.”

The global standards board for communication – 3GPP for 3rd Generation Partnership Project uniting seven standards organizations – will release its protocols and requirements for industrial IOT applications in 2022. This standard may bring more IOT devices to a range of industries, many powered by 5G.

Agriculture is a prime target for a lot of IOT tech, how that plays out as 5G service becomes more widely available will be interesting to see.

Artificial Intelligence will see wider application too. During Koenig’s presentation the slide showing AI at work included John Deere See and Spray technology. He hailed it as a practical application of the technology at work today, but added AI will be used in autonomous systems and food technology too.

The diversity of technology impacting society today will continue to grow. Healthcare is getting more attention and technology applied there has implications for large and small communities. More access to health monitoring tools, including those for mental health, offer potential across the country.

While the tech shown isn’t specifically agriculture, there are a range of tools at CES that may someday find their way to the farm. The trends show that consumers (and farmers are consumers) are paying more attention to tech these days than ever before.

You can read the CTA industry forecast online.

Farm Progress is on hand at CES this week to capture more insights on tech developments that may have application for ag in the future.

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