By Jordan Fischler
CES has been the Super Bowl of the consumer electronics industry for decades. Executives from the hottest brands, the biggest buyers and most influential media personalities all converge in Las Vegas for a week of mingling, deal making and getting a first look at the hottest technologies that will hit shelves in the year to come (and beyond). Attendance has climbed back since the COVID-19 pandemic’s all-virtual CES in 2021; this year, more than 135,000 attendees and six sprawling show floors spread throughout the city. (The biggest CES was in 2017, with more than 184,000 attendees.)
While the biggest brands use the CES stage to set the agenda for the industry, traditional consumer brands have begun to interject with unique industry innovations like bone-conducting audio eyeglasses from EssilorLuxottica that transmit sound without the need for buds, and at least a few smart, scrappy start-ups find ways to break through with something truly unique or just bizarre. This year, the most talked-about AI product was the Rabbit r1 handheld AI terminal. The show is supported by legions of communications professionals who spend the week chasing beleaguered reporters, analysts and influencers to ensure their brand/product/concept is top of mind.
Allison team members walked miles each day to bring you a look at the trends that communicators need to know about in 2024. And as we have tracked insights from the show for years, we know how to identify trends that will drive traction and interest for the remainder of the year.
Trend No. 1: What’s the practical impact?
CES is cyclical – 2024 was a decidedly functional year. We saw tech that will impact our everyday existence vs. other years where there is a decidedly fantastical vein to the show moving us past the practical to Jetson’s-level fun. But functional and practical isn’t a bad thing in a year when AI dominated the conversation. The questions around AI will drive enough uncertainty for consumers to keep us all interested, but brands that stood out showed tech with clear functionality and easy-to-understand use cases like an outdoor installation from startup Genesis Systems that pulls water from the air, an indoor smoker from GE Profile or the myriad of tech devices that allow us to better monitor our health from the comfort of home.
Brands should continue to ask, “Is it practical and will it benefit me every day?” when creating storylines for the remainder of the year. When the world is in a state of flux, the practical becomes comfortable and ultimately successful.
Trend No. 2: AI Everywhere
As expected, AI stood out well above all the other trending topics; a stark reversal from the previous trend. In 2023, AI was in the middle of the pack of top topics and trending down from 2022 while Gaming, Sustainability and VR/Metaverse led the conversation. This year, on the heels of the generative AI onslaught, AI jumped to the top of the list and was talked about 60% more than the next topics on the list – EVs and mobility.
It also allowed for conversation from brands that have never made the top 20 list in the past, notably Replica Studios, which entered the list at the No. 2 spot due to the announcement of its deal with SAG-AFTRA for AI-digital voice replicas in video games.
Yes, AI was everywhere, but skepticism has started to set in. Linking back to our top trend, making AI practical and showing the benefits for real people in their everyday at home or at work will be critical for storytelling for the remainder of the year.
And be wary of AI washing – we saw it in many places – products that claim to leverage AI in some way just to leverage the trend without truly using the technology.
Trend No. 3: Mobility Dominates
While traditional tech brands, such as Samsung, Apple, nVidia and Sony, were the most talked-about brands, the influence of the auto manufacturers and their traditionally high-end media operations were more competitive than ever this year. At the top of this game, Hyundai demonstrated a TV-ready car with wheels that steer individually up to 90 degrees, enabling it to crabwalk into parking spaces. “EV” and “Mobility” were the No. 2 and No. 3 top technology topics this year, behind only AI, and West Hall at Las Vegas Convention Center was a must-see for some of the grandest and most impressive booths of the show.
Coverage of these innovations now bridges between traditional automotive and consumer tech/gadget reporters and communications teams should remember to consider both for stories as the year progresses.
For a show driven annually by the new, the bold and the innovative, 2024 held its own delivering spectacular booth experiences – a must-have for in-person events today. The best example of that trend was SK Wonderland, a booth/spectacle to behold that fascinated anyone who wandered near it and hoped to get a seat on the attraction’s in-booth tram ride. Exhibits like this, coupled with the industry news, top-notch meeting opportunities, and impressive panel line-up of industry luminaries, made CES 2024 a worthwhile trip!