CES 2019: B2B’s Impact on the World’s Largest B2C Show

  • Celestica  |
  • 2019-01-23
CES 2019 Blog

The CES show floor, long dominated by consumer technologies, today reflects how blurry the line between B2C and B2B technologies has become. We saw autonomous vehicles for personal, commercial and mass transit applications, 5G technologies that will serve as the backbone for next-gen IoT devices, and artificial intelligence (AI) advancements that make everything from refrigerators to manufacturing systems smarter and more capable.

Consider the transportation industry, which is driving new technology development and new volume requirements for business opportunities. Ford, BMW, Nissan and Toyota were among the 11 major automakers showing off today’s connected cars and tomorrow’s fully autonomous vehicles. There were also dozens of B2B companies that supply auto OEMs with the hardware and software solutions that will enable them to move those autonomous vehicles off the CES show floor and onto the roads. And we didn’t only see cars and trucks. There was an air taxi from Bell Helicopter and Harley Davidson introduced its fully-electric motorcycle.

The connected vehicle is replacing the smartphone as the aggregator of all technology, and two distinct markets have emerged. The first is comprised of the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and other technologies that monitor and process what’s happening outside the car. For example, Cepton and OSRAM demonstrated their Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) solutions that enables a vehicle to instantly recognize and track objects on all sides and take any necessary actions to avoid an accident.

The second market addresses what’s happening inside the car, with technologies that turn our vehicles into full-featured mobile offices, family event spaces, entertainment platforms, or all of the above.

Shuttles were more prevalent in the autonomous vehicle category than cars as auto manufacturers look to address the development of smart cities worldwide. A transportation system that leverages self-driving shuttles, trams and buses will be key to reducing congestion, pollution, accidents, and help people get from Point A to Point B more efficiently and affordably. 

In fact, an entire section of the CES show floor was devoted to smart city initiatives and technologies with 5G connectivity were the common denominator. 5G will deliver 10X the speed, 50X less latency, and 1000X the capacity of today’s 4G networks. It promises to not only aid in the “construction” of smart cities, but also enable businesses across all industries to increase their use of IoT, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI). 

AI was everywhere, built into virtually every product including smart kitchen appliances, vehicles, medical devices and robots. The products that marry hardware, software and AI are the most promising, and more manufacturers are developing hardware designed to make AI even better. Success will require new advancements in miniaturization, finding new ways to reduce costs, and incorporating more micro-electronics. 

The software that enables AI systems to analyze and process the volumes of data that connected devices generate and collect received significant attention. Big data was the tie that bound all of the technologies on display at CES. During her keynote address, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said that data is becoming a new critical natural resource. 

Developments in autonomous cars, smart cities and 5G are just three of the many areas we found exciting while walking the roughly 2.75 million square feet of exhibit space and trying to visit as many of the 4,500 exhibitors as we could. Digital health solutions also commanded the spotlight, with dozens of disruptive innovators demonstrating products like Myant’s intelligent heated garments and a wide array of connected medical devices from fitness trackers to pacemakers. We also saw demonstrations of new technology including printable electronics, bendable TVs, 3D ceramic printing.  

CES remains a brilliant exhibition of creativity and innovation, even as the definition of the word “consumer” evolves. The more we operate in the ambiguous space between B2B and B2C, the more it becomes clear that only those companies with mature technology management capabilities will be able to maintain a competitive advantage. As the line that used to clearly separate consumers from business customers blurs, reliability and experience are what will enable you to unlock potential and drive growth.