Subscription News delivered straight to your inbox.


Just Back from CES: Thoughts from the Subscribed Strategy Group

Nick Cherrier
Senior Strategist, Subscribed Strategy Group

As a CES first timer, I was not exactly sure what to expect but I knew it was going to be big. It was bigger and more exciting than I could have anticipated. Set in Las Vegas, the conference is unlike a mirage in that the things that appear so far away, namely the tech, is actually within grasp.

The conference opened on a high with Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and CEO Jong-Hee Han setting his vision for “a better future for the planet”. It was a deeply human response to what he perceived as fundamental customer expectations – that people want their technology to help them stay connected with loved ones, while ensuring that they leave the world in a better place for their children. Fighting microplastics with Patagonia definitely drove the message that Samsung was serious, not just about their carbon footprint, but more broadly about addressing sustainability issues head on with innovation. “Sustainable innovation” as a way to “connect and conserve”, as JH Han puts it. Microchips efficiency, batteryless SolarCell remotes that harvest radio frequencies, and eco-packaging are some of the concrete solutions attendees can interact with at their CES exhibit.

Similarly, companies like Panasonic and Hyundai echo the plight for “green impact” and a technological solution to sustainability. Hyundai tackles it through advanced robotics. Using sensors and telematics, autonomous robots are their solution to most of our labours, whether it is earth excavation on a job site, or preparing coffee. And these robots, for the most part, are already in use. Two hundred barista robots are supposedly serving cappuccinos and americanos in Seoul. What really caught my eye though is still a concept with a ten year roadmap: the autonomous solar powered cargo yacht. It looks like a ship out of a sci-fi blockbuster, powered by two gigantic solar sails and equipped with maintenance robots and drones for full autonomy.

At a session on forging a “Path to a Better 5G World”, Andrew Poliak VP and CTO at Panasonic stated that there is no industry that will benefit more from 5G than automotive. Judging by the OEM announcements and numerous tech displays at CES, Poliak is probably right. The move from 3G to 4G improved bandwidth by 7X. To put things in perspective, 5G will improve it again by 100X. That allows for a lot of connected devices to share real time data. 5G will allow connectivity on a completely different level, leading to an IoT revolution.

For cars, although technology is still evolving in many aspects, this means we are just a few years away from EV where the “digital chassis” is constantly updating to allow multitudes of software that improve user experience. Of course, autonomous driving will play a big part. In the Central Plaza of the Las Vegas Convention Centre, Valeo proudly displays their sensor capabilities set upon a car’s chassis. Meanwhile in the West Hall, Luminar announces their Iris sensor technology will be fitted on the new Volvo SUV. A few meters away, Stellantis showcases their Airflow SUV with L3 autonomous driving and Over The Air (OTA) updates “so that each day of ownership keeps getting better”. As Turkish OEM Togg’s CEO puts it, “intellectual assets matter more than physical assets”. The new revenue streams enabled by digital connectivity are projected to provide a growing share of the total (growing) pie; up to 17% by 2025 and a remarkable 40% by 2035 according to BCG. To provide access to these digital services, OEMs and their partners are turning to subscription. This could represent an additional $380 billion to the Subscription Economy by 2035!

After a jam packed morning, I had my meal prepared by a robot. Korean company Beyond Honeycomb has mapped 2,000 flavor data points and uses an AI enabled robot to cook meals in mimicry of top chefs. I had Chef Wind Minzi Kim’s “Salmon in Black”… robot style!

Meanwhile companies like Bosch and Hisense were displaying their visions of the smart home, again enabled by connectivity and digital services. Broader than homes though, some smaller tech startups are trying to solve for smart cities. Replica City has used their tech to render a 3D digital map of Gangnam, able to show how the city evolves day by day. They plan to help Seoul manage issues with transportation and construction, but venture that if the pilot is successful many cities around the world could benefit from their software. Asked how they plan on monetizing it, they say it was still undecided but they are considering subscriptions.

Sony meanwhile showcased their Vision cars, Airpeak drone and Star Sphere Satellite project which will allow, at some point in 2022, for users to tap into their satellite to take pictures of space and earth. They believe two charging models will be deployed, pay-as-you go and some form of subscription. And while I did feast my eyes on the mythical PS5 console on display, sadly I wasn’t able to procure one. In 2022, one may have a better chance of controlling a satellite in outer space than getting their hands on the PS5…

This leads me to the final piece of the exhibits: gaming and immersive entertainment. I put on a vest and gloves with sensory feedback so that I could become a virtual DJ. The music not only came out of my headphones but vibrated through my vest as I turned virtual dials with my tech gloves. I went shopping in a virtual store, dressing up my avatar with branded items on display, and somehow ended up at a virtual K-Pop concert in the metaverse.

Time flies when you’re having fun and before I knew it I was visiting my last exhibit for the day, the most impressive, the one that opened the conference: Samsung. I felt like a child at a Toys-R-Us, checking out their new sound bars, curved screen (I really need to get myself an Odyssey Ark), their new Galaxy S22 FE phone and Galaxy Book Pro, and finally their new portable screen: the Freestyle. Fundamentally though, all this cool tech was built on a vision of a better future. I could hear the words of CEO JH Han, “Sustainable Innovation”. As I exited the Convention Centre to face the desert twilight, I felt elated by a deep sense of optimism. Perhaps corporations could step up where governments couldn’t. Perhaps our planet will benefit from corporate leadership on climate change and sustainability. And I think Zuora can help them.

Fresh subscription stories delivered to your inbox, weekly.

Subscribe to Subscribed
By using the website, you agree to the use of cookies. Head to our cookie policy to learn more about cookies and manage cookies on this website.