Let’s move past the metaphors and low-level poetic imagery when it comes to the International Consumer Electronics Show, that annual conference and trade show better (and officially) known as CES. PYMNTS readers already know that CES — scheduled to take place in Las Vegas from Jan. 8 to Jan. 11 — is big, important, exciting, impactful and forward-thinking. So we will spare you the puns and other such attempts to grab your attention.
What matters is how CES — the speakers and companies there — views the coming year, and years, and decades. A reasonable sense of that comes from the published program. What follows is a look at some of the most important topics in the worlds of payments and commerce, and how they will be treated and discussed at the upcoming CES. This story does not pretend to be an exhaustive account of what will command attention of CES attendees, but it does offer decent advice about what to look for — and that applies whether you can attend this year’s conference or not.
CES helps sets the payments and commerce agenda for the coming year. Here’s a glimpse of what’s coming, tailored specifically for the readers of PYMNTS.
The coming year will bring significant movement toward the 5G ecosystem, which promises to, in turn, bring significant changes, improvements and experiments to the worlds of payment and commerce. The issue of improved connectivity and its impact on consumers — whether via connected cars or smart homes or just new smartphones — will get the spotlight during some sessions, with speakers from Mercedes Benz, Samsung, Verizon, Waymo, the White House and others help to shed light on how 5G will eventually change so many daily habits related, directly or indirectly, to payments and commerce. Much of the 5G focus at CES will indeed revolved around connected cars, which is understandable, given how the mobile and automotive industry are on course to become very close siblings in the coming years, enabling more seamless forms of payments and retailing. Nothing is ever totally smooth, of course, and the conference will also include talk about the short-term and near-term gaps related to 5G deployments, and what companies can do in the meantime to prepare for the cutting-edge mobile technology.
Digital Health Products
Insurance companies and medical services providers already are taking their initial steps into the world of wearables data — the information now more often used to encourage healthy behavior than crafting insurance policies, through the trend is clearly going to include much more of the latter — and CES will reflect the growth of digital health. The growing supply of data from wearables will serve to give patients more power as healthcare consumers, a trend that will undergo discussion at the conference, and an ongoing shift that will bring impacts to healthcare payments. And you can bet that artificial intelligence — still in its infancy but growing fast — will play a role. Of course, strong AI use cases must still emerge (and they will), and that will also get consideration during the conference — along with a dose of talk about the roles of cybersecurity and mobility in the digital healthcare ecosystem.
They might be coming quicker than many consumers think — or they might be headed for a reality check as many consumers realize they are not quite ready for such technology. In any case, self-driving cars are no longer a sci-fi idea, and at CES, experts from Samsung, Waymo and other companies will talk about how 5G and public policy will help shape the coming self-driving future. At stake, of course, is nothing less than the future of transportation and, along with that, a good part of the future development of payments and commerce. As will be discussed during CES, self-driving vehicles will make up but one part (though a big part) of digital consumer experiences in the decades to come, connecting various mobile, payment and retail ecosystems in ways that not even the sharpest among us can yet fully grasp. So much for now will depend on the powers of in-vehicle infotainment systems — an effort that, as speakers from the National Association of Broadcasters and other organizations will discuss — will probably require closer collaborations between automotive players and media-and-content providers.
The robots aren’t just coming — they are, of course, already here. But with the spread of the digital economy, technology developments and other factors, robotics are advancing fast, and it all kinds of payments and retail environments. Speakers from SoftBank Robotics and Wilkinson Baking Co. are prepared to argue at the conference that robots are becoming nothing less than “shoppers’ new BFF,” offering a higher-level of customer engagement. Robots are taking on more duties in healthcare, which has impacts on healthcare commerce, data-collection, cost and payments. The conference will take on the issue of robotics in myriad ways, not the least of which include their potential roles in so-called smart homes (itself an increasing hotspot for digital commerce), QSRs and other restaurants (More robots as chefs?) and general retail (including for inventory tracking and providing more insights into consumer behavior).
This past year has been an interesting one, to say the least, for cryptocurrency. Despite what your thoughts might be on such topics as bitcoin and blockchain, those technologies promise to play an meaningful role in tech development in 2019 — or, at the least, ideas about tech development in 2019. CES will take a look at how cities are making their first moves into blockchain for such tasks as supply chain and fiscal system management — a flirtation (their word, not ours) that could have longer-term impacts on B2B and B2G commerce and payments. The future of money and security also stand as relevant topics associated with blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
These emerging technologies promise to change various industries including retail, healthcare, payments and manufacturing. AR and VR also can fit into advertising and branding strategies, a topic that involves consumer engagement and which will be discussed by speakers from such organizations as Google and NextVR during the conference. Further exploration of how AR and VR, along with other tech, will change the relationships between brands, merchants and consumers will receive the attention of speakers from ZeroLIght and Webasto, among others — such activities as car buying and clothes shopping are likely to undergo significant changes thanks to AR and VR. But what, in fact, will constitute “The Augmented Reality Experience,” as one conference session is entitled? Speakers from IBM, Amazon and other businesses will discuss that vital question.