Managing Director, Etc.
I’m back in the UK after spending last week at CES soaking up the latest transformative technologies in Vegas. I’ve been going to CES for more than 15 years now, but this year was my second with Etc., and it was great to reflect on how much progress we’ve made in the last 12 months.
Last year we were focused on launching Etc., the startup incubation arm of BT Group and the work we were doing with Altitude Angel to help scale the UK drone industry. This year we were no longer the new kids on the block, and our latest pilots transforming green street cabinets into EV charge points and trialing new remote care software with the NHS gathered the attention of the global stage – both at the event and in the media. Few conferences are as synonymous with innovation as CES, so to be awarded an Honouree at the CES Innovation Awards for our solution really was the icing on the cake.
I may be a veteran these days – but CES always brings something new and interesting to the table, and there were a few innovations that really caught my eye this year.
Green tech is here for good
With 2030 sustainability targets creeping closer,it’s no surprise that green tech was at the forefront of the show. With consumer interest in the electric revolution continuing to grow, electric vehicles (EVs) were centre stage. BMW, Kia and Honda all unveiled impressive concepts – and this year we also saw electric RVs and Segway e-bikes on display.
But beyond the vehicles themselves, I was also on the lookout for solutions that could help drive adoption, from concepts driving smarter navigation to solutions that improve battery life. Addressing the challenges around range anxiety is something the Etc. team have been investigating alongside our own charging solution which transforms green street cabinets into EV charge points. The cabinets, traditionally used to store broadband and telephone cabling, are being explored as potential public EV charge points, forming part of a wider trial with the potential to repurpose up to 60,000 cabinets across the UK. We were proud to see the pilot being referenced in a panel on ‘Shaping the Future of Electrification’ as an example of a “great innovative approach” in the space and look forward to seeing the potential they hold to electrify Britain’s roads as the trial progress.
Healthtech and AI are showing transformative potential
From mobility devices – including ‘the world’s fastest shoes’ – to an anti-snoring pillow powered by AI, health tech was also huge at CES this year. It should come as no real surprise, given the rise of the wellness industry, which now generates $5.6 trillionin revenue around the globe.
Deloitte’s Andy Davis offered a particularly interesting perspective in a discussion around the future impact of healthtech, suggesting that people will become ‘CEOs of their health’ in the next few years, with generative AI playing an increasing role thanks to devices like wearables.
With this shift to empowering patients in mind, we launched the second phase of our digital preventative remote care initiative this month, designed to prevent, detect and manage cardiovascular disease through early monitoring and pre-emptive intervention. Now expanding into 26 practices in Warrington, our preventative remote care solution, which enables patients to submit their own vitals into an app monitored by clinicians remotely will be rolled out amongst a population of 228,000 in the coming months.
From soccer to SIMs – the era of drones is coming
Drone soccer had its debut at this year’s show, which saw two teams of five human pilots battle it out on the field remotely – and rather noisily.
But there are some more serious use cases for drones too. Nearthlab made its first venture into the hardware sector with the introduction of AIDrone, which combines artificial intelligence and drone technology to execute tasks autonomously even in zero-light and GPS-denied environments. DJI also showcased its new FlyCart 30, a delivery drone designed specifically for businesses capable of carrying over 60 pounds of cargo, signalling once more towards the future of commercial drone usage.
And the winner of buzzword of the year goes to… Gen AI
Of course, generative AI was the running thread throughout sectors and industries from transport to retail and beyond. Mercedes-Benz added AI to its in-car virtual assistant, and Volkswagen showcased new vehicles with integrated ChatGPT and Samsung had its robot, Ballie, also at the show. Ballie is built with integrated AI to act as a smart home companion – capable of welcoming users home by taking care of household tasks, displaying the day’s events and sharing weather updates.
Whether it’s in smart homes, vehicles or in business, I’ll be interested to see how gen AI can play a role not just in enhancing people’s lives, but streamlining and making people and businesses more efficient.
Another CES may be over, but the work doesn’t stop for us. We’ve got lots more exciting projects in the pipeline in 2024 and beyond.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what we’re up to, please do get in contact. And I’ll also be speaking at SXSW in March to share the latest updates on our EV charge solution, so if you’ll be in Texas then drop me a message – I’d be keen to chat to you there.