If CES 2020, the massive consumer tech convention in Las Vegas, had one consistent theme running across its show floor, it was that every company is now a tech company.
Among the various televisions, laptops, and drones were a surprising number of companies that fall well outside of the traditional tech industry.
They included Procter & Gamble (PG), which showed off its three concepts from its CharminGo Lab including a premium porta-potty complete with virtual reality headset, as well as Delta Airlines, which discussed a future where in-flight Wi-Fi is free, and the potential for the company to eventually pick up your baggage from your home rather than having to bring it to the airport.
Expecting the question of why Delta (DAL) was at CES 2020, CEO Ed Bastian kicked off his keynote with a declaration, saying, “To answer that question you have to look back more than a century when technological innovation brought the life-changing magic of powered flight to our world. And we’re here today, because we still think that the gift of flight is the ultimate innovation.”
John Deere (DE) was also on hand, showing off its R4038 self-propelled sprayer.
“One of the important reasons Deere is exhibiting at CES 2020 is to identify and promote current and potential new technologies to agriculture that will enhance farm productivity, profitability and sustainability,” the company said in statement about the new sprayer.
That’s exactly the kind of announcement that blurs the line between a traditional business like agricultural equipment and the tech industry.
“We have companies that you wouldn’t associate as being a tech company,” Consumer Technology Association SVP of political and industry affairs Tiffany Moore told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday.
Chips and connectivity are everywhere
There’s no doubt technology now permeates virtually every consumer and commercial industry. But this year’s CES served as the codification of that notion, with toothbrushes, toilets, shower heads, microwave, window shades, tractor trailers, and food complete with voice assistants, self-driving capabilities, and speakers all making their debut at the show.
“It’s all about, ‘How do you create that better experience?’ And tech is all about providing those experiences for consumers,” Moore said.
It’s certainly impressive to see everyday gadgets become part of the “tech” category, but for FTC Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, that also leads to questions about how the companies behind those devices are then regulated, as tech, or as something else entirely.
Then there’s the potential for these newfound tech companies and their products to fall victim to hackers or cybercriminals who can gain access to users’ information. After all, adding chips and connectivity to a device instantly makes it vulnerable to malicious actors.
“I think it is a really important issue. I’m glad it’s one that people are talking about a lot, because as I walk around the show floor — and I’m so impressed with all of the innovations and developments I’m seeing — I also see lots of risk,” Slaughter told Yahoo Finance during an interview at CES 2020.
Of course, some companies at the show might be better described as tech adjacent, even more so than Delta or Procter & Gamble. Take Impossible Foods. The plant-based meat alternative company debuted two new products at CES 2020, a ground pork alternative and a pork sausage alternative.
I tried the ground pork, and while it tasted fantastic, it didn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the gadgets and gizmos on display.
There’s also the increasing trend of tech companies themselves branching out into spaces that they have traditionally avoided. Who would have thought Sony would unveil a concept car at CES 2020?
Samsung also showed off a concept of a connected car called Digital Cockpit 2020 at the big show. It’s designed to provide drivers with 5G connectivity, as well as any and all relevant information they made need behind the wheel via a combination of 8 cameras and 8 displays.
It all makes for an interesting new blend of companies and products that are sure to impact our lives in the coming years. And how that plays out will be just as, if not more, noteworthy.
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