Innovative CES Ideas Shaping the New Decade

By Debra Koenig


Digital Transformation Emerging Technology Innovation Online Article

Who among us doesn’t enjoy VIP treatment?

This January, the Consumer Technology Association’s CES had an eye-popping 100,000 attendees and another 75,000 media personnel and exhibitors. One week after the close of the show, NACD Colorado Chapter members had their own CES VIP experience of sorts to launch the new decade—without having to set foot on the CES floor.

NACD president and chief strategy officer Erin Essenmacher and NACD faculty member D’Anne Hurd presented the Colorado members with curated CES content and expert commentary.

With thousands of exhibitors at CES, Essenmacher and Hurd profiled companies at the chapter event who met one or more of the following criteria:

  • The company’s tech impact was near- or long-term.

  • The company featured tech layered with changing consumer trends and/or social and demographic shifts.

  • The company had produced partnership-driven innovation.

  • Innovation was applied at the company level for a strategic advantage.

Here are some of the innovations they selected to discuss.

Innovations at CES

Essenmacher told the group, “All companies must be technology companies.” In that vein, Delta Air Lines was the first airline to keynote and have a substantial exhibit at CES in 2020. At the company, partnerships with Lyft, Misapplied Sciences, and Sarcos Robotics are helping to transform the future of travel. Parallel Reality technology, now in the pilot stage, provides passengers with personalized screen content around a given airport (for multiple passengers on many screens simultaneously) and in the language of their choice. And the world’s first full-body, freestanding exoskeleton can be used to minimize employee injury.

Hurd, who grew up in dairy country, highlighted John Deere as no longer “defending and extending” but instead being customer-centric. This nearly 200-year-old tractor manufacturer now considers itself a software company. On display at CES was a large, high-tech tractor holding a 120-foot sprayer and sensor boom—one of several new agricultural technology products highlighted at the show to enhance farm profitability, productivity, and sustainability.

Companies that personalize and align their core values to consumers were well represented at CES. Essenmacher and Hurd, both directors of the clothing brand Eileen Fisher, discussed the company’s “Vision 2020” pledge to focus on environmental and social issues as drivers of the business and its radical shift toward personalization. Under this vision, apparel is not only created and worn, but also reused and, in its third life, repurposed as home artwork, fitting with today’s more eco-conscious customers.

Additionally, Essenmacher and Hurd noted the autonomous vehicles looked less like cars and more like “boxes on wheels”—and portend how the future of transportation might impact other ancillary business. Bosch’s CES booth presented the prototype of an all-electric self-driving pod. Toyota, meanwhile, is transitioning from a transportation company into a mobility company; its battery electric vehicle, developed as part of the mobility as a service (MaaS) trend, employs automated driving and an open, low-floor design. Safe Swarm by Honda aims to make traffic safer by using connected car and roadway infrastructure systems.

Overall Takeaways

Lessons from the chapter’s CES session are found below.

  1. All companies must be technology companies.

  2. Personalize, personalize, personalize.

  3. Align company core values to customers.

  4. The Internet of Things (IoT) will soon be the Intelligence of Things.

  5. New technologies require a new kind of risk oversight.

At the end of this session, three powerful questions were posed to jumpstart directors’ strategy conversations with management:

  • What will our company look like in the year 2025?

  • How do the trends seen at CES apply to our company?

  • How do new technologies change our risk oversight processes?

While the Colorado Chapter members did not walk the CES exhibit halls themselves, the CES program from Essenmacher and Hurd mirrored the experience with curated content and critical director-centric observations tailored just for us.

Debra Koenig
Debra Koenig is chair of the NACD Colorado Chapter.