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51: On Tech, Retail and the All-Digital CES with Steve Koenig of the Consumer Technology Association

Written by Rob Stott

January 5, 2021

Even as the calendar flips to a new year, the ongoing effects of the global pandemic are still being felt. We sat down with Steve Koenig, VP of Research for the Consumer Technology Association, to talk about the role tech has played in enabling so many businesses and industries to continue operating during this time — and we dive into the first-ever all-digital CES that CTA will host in January.

Rob Stott: All right. We are back on The Independent Thinking podcast and really excited to have a really awesome interview with a guy in an organization that they’ve got some big things coming up. We typically try not to be too newsy with this podcast so these episodes can have long shelf lives. But when you’re talking about CES and the Consumer Technology Association, things happen just like in the tech world, kind of evolving really fast.

So, Mr. Steve Koenig, the VP of research for CTA, I appreciate you taking time out of… We’re talking here two weeks before the show for you guys. So, the fact that I got any of your time right now, I truly appreciate.

Steve Koenig: Well, the pleasure’s all mine, Rob, and it’s great to be with you and your listeners. So, I really appreciate the opportunity to come on the show and to talk about trends we’re seeing, and more, talk about the all-digital CES coming up soon on January 11th through 14th.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Absolutely. I will be there virtually at CES, but first time in almost six years that I haven’t been out there in Vegas. And I know we’re all going to miss it, but we’ll dive into that in a minute. And like you said, there’s plenty to dive into. And we want to start with 2020, this kind of year.

Like I said, again, we’re sitting here at the end of the year. It’s an interesting time to look back and reflect on what we’ve been through these past 12 months. From CTA’s point of view, what’s it been like this year? I can venture to guess there’s plenty of words to describe what 2020 has been to you, but when you think about it and want to look back and reflect and package it all up, what comes to mind?

Steve Koenig: Well, Rob, interesting is certainly one, I think, very courteous word for it. Challenging is another, but I think another word I would choose maybe perhaps ironically, inspiring. Just thinking about all the innovation that we’ve seen in this season of technology helping us stay connected, productive, entertained, healthy, technology helping save lives in this health crisis that we continue to find ourselves in.

Yeah, it’s certainly been a wild ride and really one step forward, two steps back kind of a dynamic. But I think the other silver lining is that this has really brought us together in many ways as humans. This is a pandemic, it’s a global thing. It’s not like this is just happening to certain people or in certain places, it’s everywhere. So, it’s really, I think, forced us to come together to take this thing on, meet it head on, and I think we have collectively tackled so many challenges.

And what we’ve generally witnessed, I think, from a consumer-technology perspective is just a massive acceleration of many, many different pre-existing uptrends really across the industry and across the economy. And that’s been inspiring just to see. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any difficulty or pain associated with that. I think a lot of that was just born out of necessity and we’ve seen those things, we’ve read about them in the media as it pertains to businesses having to digitally transform.

And of course, I know we’ll get to it, but we’ve digitally transformed the CES as just emblematic of a lot of those efforts. But that has really been inspiring. And just to see the innovation tech adoption and fast-forward, the industry has had a phenomenal year.

And again, it’s all about helping consumers stay connected, entertained, productive, healthy, all these things. Technology has really been able to rise to the challenge or meet the moment, if you like. And it’s been great. Just everything from TVs, to smartwatches, just smart home has performed very, very well, a lot of consumers leaning into that space.

And tech has benefited from a lot of freed up discretionary income. Certainly the industry has been a beneficiary of that, where we’re not spending on, say, buying a new suit or taking a vacation, we’re not eating out as much. And so, a lot of households really funneling those dollars into other areas. And technology has been one of those. Home improvement has actually been another one.

A lot of home projects have been green-lighted or are really pressed forward in this season. So, it’s been a great year for tech, but I just want to emphasize that thank goodness we’ve had these digital tools because I can’t imagine what it would be like without them.

Rob Stott: No. I know. And I mean, it’s funny because we’re sitting here right now using a digital platform. I can’t imagine, if you think of some of the few words that reflect on and what comes to mind with 2020 virtual meetings, Zoom meetings has to be up there in that top five. I mean, a lot of events wouldn’t be taking place if it weren’t for these types of platforms.

And I know CES too, you guys have the partnership with Microsoft that’s allowing CES to happen digitally. So, it’s awesome to see these tools. And you mentioned all the other trends throughout the home. Before we dive into CES, I know you guys, CTA keeps track, keeps an eye on things during the holidays. And you mentioned a couple of the categories that always tend to do well around the holidays. Was there any surprising things that you saw come out of this? We’re just on the opposite end of the holiday shopping season here. Anything that surprised you at what we went through over these last couple of weeks and months with the holiday shopping trends in tech?

Steve Koenig: Yeah, absolutely. Another example of how 2020 was different, of course, this holiday we’ve seen sustained strong demand for what I describe as the usual suspects around holiday. That’s TV’s, of course game consoles with the new release of the PlayStation 5 and the Series X Xbox. Very, very popular. And it pre-orders all the way and sold out probably within hours, just couldn’t find that stuff.

Rob Stott: I can’t get my hands on a PlayStation 5. I’ve been trying so hard, but it’s impossible. I keep refreshing all the websites.

Steve Koenig: Well, I’ve heard that in the secondary market, the new product can be found, but you’re going to pay a healthy multiple.

Rob Stott: Right. I don’t have $1,500 for a $500 console. That’s just not… Maybe with the stimulus check coming we’ll see.

Steve Koenig: I like how you think. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Yeah, but for holiday 2020, there are actually a couple of examples I can give listeners that was neat to see just from a organic technology perspective, but also I think very much related to this season that we’re in. And the first thing is this is we saw demand at this holiday really bloom for what we describe as healthy home technologies.

And this makes immediate sense to people, of course. But what am I talking about when I say healthy home technologies? Well, connect an air purifiers, water filtration systems as just a couple of examples, UV sanitization, robot vacuums like the iRobot Roomba as one example. So, these are the kinds of technologies that just help maintain not only just our personal health and wellness, but the health of our home.

And we did some research on this, Rob, actually and we found that there were about 64 million consumers across the U.S that scored very high in terms of their concern for their personal health and wellbeing, and then the health and wellbeing of their household or their home. So, that’s a pretty big market. So, it’s no wonder that we’ve seen that really pop or bloom this holiday.

The second category that’s also related to the health crisis is STEM education. And I don’t like to call them toys, but devices is maybe a better word because they’re not really a play thing. They haven’t expressed purpose, but very, very, just when you start looking into that STEM education device market, what a constellation of products in there, and for all ages. For all ages in that learning demographic, if you like. And what that looks like is that, I mean, they’re STEM education devices for very, very young kids under the age of five.

And of course, those are more like toys. It’s more of a fun, kind of an orientation. As you get into the older STEM education device segment, call it ages six to pre-teen, these are more activities. And then for more of the teenage proper STEM education device market, these are more like projects. Like we’re going to build iRobot, or we’re going to construct this certain kind of circuit using these different electrical components and things of that nature that add up to something, and you’re actually building a functional device. And you guessed it. I mean, you can build a lot of different things. So, very, very interesting market that has done very, very well for holiday 2020.

Rob Stott: And to your last, that specific market, it’s always felt like there’s always interest in that sort of stuff because it’s fun to do, parents and kids get to work together on these interesting tech-forward type projects or toys. But especially in a year where you’re at home and parents are forced into a situation where, one, you have to keep the kids active, you got to keep them entertained. And what better way than by doing it with products that also have an educational component to them.

So, parents had to become teachers in the moment, and interesting, but I think to what you said too often maybe not surprising necessarily that some of those markets saw some great benefits of 2020, where we were all trapped in our homes for a time there. So, no, that’s awesome.

Steve Koenig: Yeah. You’re right. And I think the direct tie is a lot of parents, and say, grandparents probably want to do their best to help support their child or their loved one’s education. Given some of the challenges with remote learning. We’ve heard about this. I think the good news is that they can stay on the path of education. The bad news is they’re not getting the socialization, it’s certainly not the same. And I’m sure a lot of parents listening would a hundred percent agree with that.

But be that as it may, I think on the whole, at least we’re keeping kids engaged in school and continuing on that education path. And anything that parents can do to supplement that like with STEM education devices, I think they’re absolutely willing and certainly want to do. And that’s just the really underpinnings of why that category has really done very well this holiday.

Rob Stott: And who knows? Maybe in the next 10 years or so, we may see a major boom in the the job market, potential job pool for STEM jobs because of this. So, we’ll have to keep an eye on that. There’s one for you to mark on a post-it and hold on for a couple of years. No. But let’s talk CES.

I know there’s a lot of change. CES, like every other trade show, I think of our own PrimeTime here at Nationwide and a lot of changes to the events industry and certainly not I think of the people in the events industry and what they’ve gone through, but it’s a lot of adaptation and to relate it to retail and our members. Every industry has had to adapt and trade shows certainly were a major industry in that space.

And I know you talk about trade shows, and specifically here in the U.S, CES is one that always comes to mind that, I know personally having attended and for you being involved, but with one of the largest, if not the largest in the U.S in North America. Trying to convert that to a digital show is quite the undertaking. So, I know you guys have quite the staff there and they do a lot of hard work.

And I’m sure, certainly, in these weeks and months leading up to January 11th, they’ve been hard at work trying to get the show ready, but what excites you about the opportunities for this all-digital CES?

Steve Koenig: Yeah. Well, there are a lot of things, and you’re right. So many industries just across the economy and the events business, the business of trade shows, conferences, meetings, events of all kinds, from trade shows to opera really have had to pivot. And for trade shows, I think, in particular, the irony is that the health crisis and the circumstances that are intertwined with that have really just underscored the absolute importance of live, in-person events.

And the reason is pretty obvious. Virtual events have been great and we’ve been able to carry on with business. And there’s a lot of evidence for that all around. But again, it’s not a substitute, and it’s really not meant to be a substitute, but it is a good proxy in some ways like I said.

But again, it’s just underscored the importance of gathering in person and being able to have those side conversations, those organic, pop up meetings, you see someone in a hallway or just being able to network organically. Listeners know exactly what I’m talking about. So, I don’t want to labor the point. But yes, a lot of deep thought has gone into just evolving the general trade show business in this season. And certainly an awful lot of thought is really a simplistic way to put it, specific to the CES.

And CTA’s leadership, Karen Chupka, who runs the show just so much time. I can’t even fathom the amount of time that her and her team, and our president and CEO, Gary Shapiro as well, obviously intimately involved in these decisions, just a great deal of thought and careful consideration.

But ultimately, like so many other events, as time wore on through 2020, it became increasingly obvious that we just were not going to be able to hold CES in person safely, no matter what we did. There were just so many reasons, too many to really get into. I think it speaks for itself just with what’s been going on. But that’s when really the transition started in earnest.

And as you mentioned earlier, we selected Microsoft as our partner, and what a fantastic partner, Rob, that they have been. And the reason I say that is that listeners may have been to CES or at least heard about the relationship. The point is, is that CTA and Microsoft have a very long history and a very long relationship there.

Bill Gates used to give the keynote on the night before the show would open for years and years, Microsoft was a fixture with their booth in Central Hall. And times have changed, and of course, Bill Gates hasn’t keynoted in many, many, many years and so forth. But they know us. That’s the point. They know us. They know CES, more importantly. So, they’ve been extremely helpful, which is to say that they get it. They get it. They know what we’re trying to do.

And what we’re trying to do. And I think what we’ve accomplished, and anyone listening that’s going to be attending the all-digital CES in a few weeks will experience is a digital event platform, the likes of which no one has ever seen before. We’re creating history with this event. It’s going to be amazing. Networking is one of the things I think with a lot of these online events and so forth, it has been really dimensionally flat.

It’s just been very, very challenging, but not necessarily with the all-digital CES. We have some great tools to allow people to connect and message back and forth, request meetings and so forth, setting up profiles. So yeah, it’s going to be incredible. And I think, like so many things, all year long, we’re reacting and coping with the health crisis. It’s been fast and furious. But I think we’ll see an amazing historic event in just a few weeks. And what excites me most about this, I think, is just thinking about each year, there’s no shortage of people that say, “Oh.”

You ask them, “Are you going to CES?” And, “Ugh, well, I want to, but the boss didn’t approve my travel,” or, “Our company’s, they can’t go.” I mean, it is a big commitment of time and money. We think there’s tremendous ROI on that, but be that as it may, a lot of people who really want to attend CES can’t for a range of reasons. And I think that’s the neat thing about the all-digital format is that a lot of people who have always wanted to attend CES now can, because it’s in a digital format.

So, we could see CES attendance eclipse what it normally is, which is already an epic number on the order of 160,000 – 170,000 plus people gathering in Las Vegas. Hopefully we’ll come close to that number gathering online. But that’s what I think is so exciting about the fact that it’s all digital and the opportunities that it really conveys.

Rob Stott: No, that’s an awesome opportunity and one that I know for a lot of people, like you said, whether they can get approval to attend or not, related industry professionals that they’ll be able to be there in some capacity. And I know even in our own show, we’ve been talking about the idea of hybrid events moving forward and how, to another point of yours, the in-person you really can’t overstate how much that’s missed.

I know we all want to get back to face-to-face and we will soon enough, but the idea that we could still have these meetings in any capacity and potentially expand the audience to include people that can’t make it for whatever reason is something that is a major benefit and segues nicely into the next question I had for you. Which is about all these changes, whether it’s to CES, it’s to our everyday work lives working from home. Tech has had a major impact on work lives, home lives, just business in general. It’s allowed business to continue in many ways.

So, I mean, just reflect a little bit about, on the role that tech has played in enabling things to continue to, the world to turn in sorts in 2020.

Steve Koenig: Well, absolutely. And I think that’s well said. And like I said, thank goodness we’ve had these digital tools and there’s been no shortage of examples of technology helping with us in just every facet of our lives stay entertained, connected, healthy, productive, still attending class, working on that degree, or trying to make it through the 10th grade, whatever it is, so many of these examples.

And in business, I think it really comes down to two words, digital transformation. And this is something that we’ve seen really across the economy. And the reason I say that, it’s not just retail, but manufacturing, even like agriculture and so forth. Again, the health crisis has really, the crucible of the crisis has forged altogether new technologies. That’s true, but it’s also accelerated a lot of preexisting uptrends.

And that’s everything from subscriptions to streaming video services like Disney Plus and Netflix, and so many others, right through to cloud computing, which is probably at the Vanguard of a lot of, I’d say, enterprise organization pursuits this year and into 2021.

Getting into cloud, a lot of that for retail has everything to do with e-commerce and so forth. Process automation also known as RPA or robotic process automations, fewer workers on the factory floor, fewer hands around the office, so we need to automate some processes there because there’s not so many humans to do those.

Basically pulling forward more human machine partnerships really in this season. And that’s been, I think, basically it. I mean, there are other examples I could point to just certainly to do with AI, and automation, machine learning, that have been really accelerated. And in fact, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft said early in 2020, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” So, right there, that bears testimony to this accelerated dynamic that we’ve seen.

But the other thing that’s been very interesting, and this is where I think it really has had a lot of value for small businesses, small retailers, that maybe just have a single location in a local community. Has been the acceleration of public and private partnerships. And a lot of public government or local government entities really reaching out with both hands to small business to help support them.

And a couple of hyper-local examples I can share from where I live in Northern Virginia, D.C Metro area, one is the City of Alexandria has a very historic downtown, lots of just private shop-

Rob Stott: King Street.

Steve Koenig: … and so forth. Yes, yes. You know it. So, the city there had basically this collective website that their businesses could sign up to. They don’t have the funds, the capital to stand up their own ecommerce site and so forth. So, Shop Alex, for Alexandria, was created as this collective ecommerce, you’re used to coming down or to Old Town Alexandria and hitting your favorite shops. Well, not really keen to do that now. Now you can go online.

So, that’s one example. Another example, where I live in City of Fairfax right in the middle of Fairfax County, Virginia, the local government here, the city government actually put forward $10,000 to bring Starship Technologies robotic delivery systems to the city. And of course, there’s a defined footprint of where they can operate, but for a lot of the restaurants and the local grocery stores, this has been a real lifeline-

Rob Stott: That’s incredible.

Steve Koenig: … and great for contactless delivery for consumers. You work through an app. A lot of the local restaurants, especially. My wife and I have used it on a number of occasions and it works great.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome.

Steve Koenig: And so, that’s just a couple of examples, I think, of just how local governments have really supported small business. And of course, they have vested interest, don’t they? In tax revenue.

Rob Stott: Absolutely.

Steve Koenig: That’s going to be interesting to see is they’re counting pennies for 2020 like, “Wow, okay.” Tax revenue wasn’t what it used to be. But yeah, that’s helped so many small businesses, and I’m sure there are manifold examples across the U.S of this. But for larger businesses, it’s been much about digital transformation as I mentioned.

Rob Stott: Yeah. It’s neat to hear those kinds of real world examples. I mean, on the digital side of things, technology, you think about just e-commerce and websites. And I know that for our independent guys, that’s been a big push. And beyond just building out websites, it’s always been a big push to get small businesses on websites and understanding the need to be there digitally where your customers are these days.

But even beyond just the building out of a website, it’s adding those services, the chat functionalities, the video in stores using tablets to walk your customers who couldn’t come to your store around your store and give them those video virtual tours so they can see product when they couldn’t physically be in your store.

So, just a lot of different ways to see technology impact just the natural flow of retail that was disrupted for so long, and honestly continues to be. So, heading into ’21 and what that means for them. And I think too, the cool thing is that a lot of these advances, and I love that quote about pushing about 10 months into 10 months, the numbers of years into so many-

Steve Koenig: Yeah. Three years and two months.

Rob Stott: Three years into two months.

Steve Koenig: Three years and two months.

Rob Stott: It feels that way certainly for small retailers. And we felt that trend towards those types of services trending that way, but to see a pandemic push the accelerator is just something that can’t be overstated and definitely is something that, those trends will continue and it’ll be around for a while. Are there any other big trends that you see having a big impact on retail as we move into 2021?

Steve Koenig: Well, one thing we haven’t talked about yet is consumer behavior. We’ve talked a lot about technology, leaning in to help consumers cope with the crisis in various ways, we talked about digital transformation really across the economy, but certainly for retailers. But what about consumer behavior? And this is something we’ve been documenting and we’ve been seeing through the lens of our research at CTA really all year long. And we’re going to continue to track this as we hopefully start to unwind from the crisis and the economy regains its footing in 2021.

I’m going to stick with that and say that’s what’s going to happen. Certainly fingers crossed on both hands, but in any case, the point I’m coming to is that I think there are a number of behaviors that have been really generated during this crisis. And a lot of them have to do with shopping and retail in particular. Of course, we know that the preponderance of purchases and shopping has pivoted to online and that doesn’t surprise anybody.

But what may be surprising is, even though when the stores reopened fully and there’s no more occupancy, or customer count restrictions, and wearing a mask, and socially distancing. I’m not so sure that all those customers are going to come back in store, which is to say, I think traffic will be reduced from pre-crisis levels.

And that will probably be for a while simply because not everybody’s going to re-engage all at once. It’s not like, “Okay. We’ve passed a certain date. We got the all clear and back to business as usual.” They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. We’ve been telling with this a lot longer than that.

And so habits…an example I would give is, if you used to buy certain products at a store and in this season all year long, month after month, after month, you’ve been buying this online, I would put money on that, that a lot of people are going to stick with that. And so, what I’m saying is, I think that retail has been transformed in more ways than one.

A lot of these coping strategies and tactics that we’ve seen so many retailers invoke like contactless delivery and even more curbside pickup, these things are going to stick around. They’re here with us now for health safety reasons, that’s clear, but they’re going to stick around for consumer convenience reasons post-crisis.

People will get used to that convenience where I click a few clicks of the mouse, I bought this certain product from the store that I prefer, my local store and instead of having to drive around and find a parking space and then walk into the store, do the usual stuff, I can simply pull into a dedicated space, I send a quick text message, someone comes out with my product, puts it in the trunk of the car, in the back seat, whatever it is. And I’m on my way. That’s super convenient. That’s instant gratification. I don’t have to deal with shipping and wait and so forth.

So, a lot of people are going to stick with that. I think retailers certainly need to be prepared to keep those spaces reserved and to keep that as part of their competitive portfolio. Because I’d also wager that those stores that don’t offer those services post-crisis may literally and figuratively find themselves short-changed, because consumers are going to follow typically the path of least resistance certainly when it comes to procuring product.

And I do think, yes, people are going to go back to stores, and they’re going to shop around, and they’re going to do these things, but probably not as much as they did pre-crisis. That’s at least our perspective at this junction. And of course, the longer that this thing goes on, I think the more and more likely it is that those behaviors stick. But we’re pretty confident, it’s been going on long enough that a lot of those behaviors are cemented already.

Rob Stott: Yeah. And to be fair, it’s another example of a trend that’s been accelerated because of the situation we’re living through. And I think the number last I checked, because it constantly feels like it constantly gets refreshed, but something like 95% of purchase cycles, the purchase process starts online. Research is happening online before a customer goes into the store.

And now when you can’t go to that store, you’re asked to make that purchase online and either have it shipped to you or go pick it up and pick it up curbside. But it’s a change in shopping habits that certainly is one that it’s going to be around for a little while here. It’s not one that’s going to go away anytime soon.

And having those features, whether it’s made aware of, have it be very public-facing on your website that you offer those types of services is going to be super important, I think, for retailers, if they aren’t doing it already. I know a lot of pandemic marketing revolved around letting people know how you were open, how they’re able to shop you, get items from you safely.

And you also think too on the inside, for those that do come back, I have to imagine that health and wellness, telling customers how you’re keeping your store clean and the things you’re doing on the inside of the store, keeping things maybe not having shields up all the time anymore or things like that, but making it a priority to let them know that things are clean and you’re doing things to protect them too.

That’s not going to wear off, I don’t think. At least it doesn’t feel that way. Even once we’re back out, it’s going to be like that slow, tiptoe out of the door into the retailer store or I don’t know how many people are going to be running full bore into big box stores or any other retailer right now to just get back to shopping in person.

Steve Koenig: Well, yeah, exactly. And your point on cleanliness is very well-stated. And I 100% agree. That’s another thing that I don’t think, maybe like you said, some of the plexiglass can come down and we can have a little bit more, let our hair down as it were. But yeah, certainly there’ll be a continued focus on cleanliness and sanitization. I don’t think anybody endorsed a dirty store in the first place.

Rob Stott: No.

Steve Koenig: But I think consumers and customers are going to be a little more sensitive to those things. And that’s certainly to retailers’ advantage. The calculus though continues and there’s a lot of opportunities actually that, thinking about reduced store traffic and just how the business is very likely to remain modulated towards an online modality post-crisis, that invokes a number of opportunities for retailers to think about.

I mean, starting with their space. A lot of the space is leased and maybe they don’t need as much. Maybe there are certain product lines that tend to sell a lot better online, or maybe they have just almost completely moved online. That could free up space so they could reduce their footprint is what I’m saying.

So, that cuts out their real estate costs and maybe some of that value is returned to shareholders and operating expenses go down, or they could re-imagine uses for that space. One for tech in particular could be more demonstration areas, product demonstration areas. Certainly when we think about how popular, like another category that’s been popular, connected fitness equipment. You could have a whole virtual gym on the show floor if you like.

So, it’s just re-imagining. And I think we’ll see that. I think we’ll see that. Re-imagining that the retail show floor environment. Maybe less aisles and aisles of shelves of product and more experience areas. Maybe they put in a café. Make it more of a destination that creates a draw to, like there’s more of a reason to go. I mean, how many grocery stores can we think of that have a Starbucks in them and so forth. There’s a reason for that. There’s a reason for that.

Not just to ring the register, but because it creates more of a pleasant shop, you can go, you can get your nice coffee, you can do your shopping, and everything is right in the world. So, I see a lot of interesting opportunities. No doubt physical retail was likely pre-crisis already being re-imagined. When we think about destination shopping and creating experience stores and things. Here’s another trend that’s just going to accelerate post-crisis.

Rob Stott: It’ll be cool to follow and see how those things change, if and how drastically it’s able to be done. 2021 feels like an opportunity to start fresh and start thinking about those ideas. And I know we’ll be certainly on the lookout for it, but I’ve already taken up a lot of your time.

I wanted to close on one question. So, before we let you go, we kind of talked about it a little bit when we were diving into the changes to CES for this year. What are you most looking forward to at this show? Tech perspective, I know you’ll be on “stage” presenting on some of the things, the industry trends and state of the the tech industry. So, what is it that you’re most looking forward to January 11th to 14th?

Steve Koenig: Yeah. Well, first, as I do every year, perennially at CES, I look forward to just the organic innovation and the application of existing technology to new use cases. That’s always a perennial point of excitement, something that I think myself and so many attendees look for. 2021 actually has a lot of interesting things happening that I’m excited to just take in at the show simply because across the industry, we’re hitting some key moments in time.

One in automotive. We’ve got a great keynote from Mary Barra, CEO of GM. An incredible industry leader. She’s going to talk about GM’s all electric future. Electrification has been happening, but here’s another trend that’s expected to accelerate and a major U.S automaker joining the ranks of so many Asian and European automakers and charting really an all-electric path forward, which means every model year from here forward will just be increasingly punctuated with electric vehicles.

And I’m super excited about the electric truck market that I think is a huge swing factor for the success of the ED market in the United States. The other thing is 5G. And here again, we’ve got another great keynote from Hans Vestberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon. 5G is approaching a very important inflection point where it will really push beyond just enhanced mobile broadband for consumers, faster speeds on your smartphone.

And that next phase of development will be where we start to unlock opportunities for enterprise applications. And that’s what eventually will lead us as we move forward through the decade to a point where 5G is going to just underpin the entire global economy and touch every economic sector from entertainment to agriculture.

So, we’re getting towards that, it’ll be very interesting to see and get topped up on the perspective of how we expect 5G networks to grow. Just so many other stories. I mean, digital health. I mean, this is an obvious one, but something where I expect to see just a ton of innovation and by extension of that, the healthy home technologies that I mentioned earlier. I expect a whole crop of innovative products to come out of that. And then as always, yes, more big screen TV. That’s something we all love to see every year. It doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s like that’s amazing.

Rob Stott: My 200-inch LED, when can I get that? That’s all I want to know.

Steve Koenig: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s so true. I mean, especially for the American TV market. I mean, we want to go big, well actually, we want to go big and we want to go home with it. It’s not go big or go home, it’s go big and go home.

Rob Stott: In my home.

Steve Koenig: Yes. Yeah. In my home. And they’ll find a way to fit that in. So, those are a few things I’m excited. Thank you so much for having me on the show today. It’s been a great discussion.

Rob Stott: Yeah, no, it’s a lot of fun. And one thing, you mentioned 5G. And so much excites me about 5G and where it’s heading. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the viral video of a banana that gets operated on using 5G technology from a distance. And it’s able to be peeled back by these little hands and then sewn back together. If that’s where 5G is taking us, I am so excited for that future.

Steve Koenig: Well, that is, interestingly enough, a sneak preview of some of those in enterprise applications that I talked about. Yeah. Because remote surgery is one of those things in the medical field that 5G will enable. So, yes, if your specialist is in New York and you’re not, but you can get to an equipped facility, you can have that benefit. So, yeah. You’ll have to look for that.

Rob Stott: It’s a good one.

Steve Koenig: But it’s going to get a lot better than just bananas, I can guarantee you.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. Well, Steve, I appreciate it. I look forward to seeing all those technologies and more, and participating in virtual CES here in a couple of weeks. So, I’m very much looking forward to it. And like I said at the top, I appreciate you spending some time ahead of this show. I know you’ve got a lot to prepare for, so I’ll let you go with that. But a big thank you to you, and to CES, and CTA for spending some time chatting with us.

Steve Koenig: You got it, Rob. All the best. Thank you.

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