What was hot at CES this year? The folks at WundermanThompson (WT) fill us in on the latest CES trends. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show “marked a drastic departure from past norms,” WT reports. “New product launches took a back seat to acknowledgment of the industry’s shared, societal responsibility.”

They highlight the keynote of Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, who said, “In 2020, one thing became very obvious, very quickly, as COVID-19 began to spread around the world: we leapfrogged five to seven years in the digital revolution. Now, instead of being our future, it’s our present: the future of productivity is now the current reality of work; the future of learning is now the current reality of school; the future of mobile payment is now the current reality of banking, and the future of streaming is now the current reality of entertainment.”

That sounds like a lot to digest, but it’s exciting to realize the future is now. And that WT says the “industry’s approach[puts] humanity firmly at the center of technology.”

WT says health was “top of mind” at this year’s show, with many companies introducing new products to facilitate at-home health management. There’s a bot (from Samsung) that keeps you healthy by telling you to get away from your computer or to get some exercise, a toilet from Toto that analyzes your health, and sensor patches from Tatch that monitors your sleep patterns and offers personalized feedback. Philips introduced a suite of health monitoring products, including a smart toothbrush and a sensor that measures and automatically transmits respiratory and heart rates.

But the overall theme, says WT, is corporate responsibility. Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, showed a clip from 1962 of President John F. Kennedy saying, “technology has no conscience; whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man.”

Smith added, “‘technology has no conscience.’ It was true then; it is true today… Technology has no conscience, but people do…And as an industry, [it] is our responsibility to ensure that the technology we create serves the world.”

The takeaway for small businesses is consumer expectations have changed. They want the companies they do business with, large and small, to be good citizens of the Earth. Two massive generations, millennials and Gen Z, consider consumerism a “channel for change”.

Indeed, they’re shopping activists, as a survey from CompareCards reported in Chain Store Age shows. Last year, 38% of Americans, and more than half of Gen Z and millennials, boycotted at least one company, up from 26% in 2019. (I’m boycotting at least three.)

Photo courtesy CES