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Three trends for frontier technology in 2020

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What CES can tell us about the year ahead for tech

Source: Business Insider


The year 2020 is here. Just writing that date feels oddly futuristic, so it was fitting to start the New Year at CES — the Consumer Electronics Show for the uninformed. CES is the annual showcase for the technology community at large to descend on Las Vegas and share in a vision of the future, along with the products that will take us there. Large corporates and emerging startups meet to share their next generation of products and gadgetry, introducing new product lines and hinting at what is to come.

For SVB’s Frontier Technology team, CES represents an opportunity for our community to come together and kick off the year with a shared interest in what is next. While the press often covers the show as a futuristic curiosity, for the companies in the innovation ecosystem it’s an exceptional environment to connect with customers, partners and investors.

As is often the case at CES, the most talked-about technologies coming into the conference were conceptual products that are far from commercial availability or viability. Products like STAR Labs’ NEON, a virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence, creating “virtual humans” in avatar form; Mercedes’ AVTR Concept vehicle, a sci-fi-inspired human-connected autonomous vehicle; and LG’s foldable screen turned heads but felt far from mass adoption. More interesting to our team were the overarching technology trends that are indicative of which technologies will be most impactful in the near term. Below are a few major trends we saw that excited us for 2020.

Next-generation automotive technology is here

Over the past few years, CES has increasingly become an automotive showcase, with seemingly all major automakers debuting new vehicles and highlighting the technology within them. CES 2020 was no different, with the likes of Nissan, Mercedes, Jeep and Audi announcing new vehicles. Impressively, all new vehicle models and concepts introduced at CES were electrified (either fully electric or hybrid), continuing a promising trend in the industry. Strikingly, 2020 featured less discussion around near-term autonomy and instead focused on technologies re-purposed to improve advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Automakers and tech firms alike touted advancements in ADAS in 2020 models, leveraging the evolution and ubiquity of sensors to drive improvements in safety.

Investment in autotech has taken off in the past two years

Source: CB Insights

Our world will become increasingly connected in ways not yet seen

Over the past few years, different platforms of connectivity were showcased at CES, allowing homes, cars and wearables to become “smarter.” This trend continued in 2020, with the underlying platforms that tie together our connected devices behind many of the products introduced at CES. New applications of Amazon Alexa and Google continue to proliferate, with both platforms vying to own the home and the car. Additionally, the health-and-fitness category continues to emerge, with many brands looking to replicate the Peloton model of connected home fitness, as well as other brands tracking data to improve our health. Perhaps the boldest display of connectivity was Toyota’s Woven City, a planned development at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan. Toyota announced that it is re-purposing an old factory site to become a futuristic planned community that will integrate autonomous vehicles, robotics, new forms of micromobility and fully occupied smart homes — all powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

CES smart home area

Source: Haier Group

Collaboration between startups and corporates is key to moving next-gen technology forward

In the hours leading up to CES, it was announced that Sonos was suing Google over its smart speaker technology patents. With this as a backdrop, CES is an outlet where both emerging and established tech companies showcase their innovative products. Although convention areas are segregated, many large corporate displays featured partnerships with emerging companies — an Amazon booth included a Rivian electric truck, for example. Eureka Park, dubbed “Startup Hall,” had a palpable energy and many impressive products that felt close to market. While the press pays the most attention to the latest technologies from established players, a takeaway for our team was that the most important innovations to come out of CES will come from companies at all stages of development — and bringing those new products to market will likely require collaboration between established players and nimble young companies.

CES is a lot to take in, and our Frontier Technology team came back energized. As a conduit between emerging companies and the investors and corporates that partner with them, the conference is a great way for our team to get a pulse on the tech trends coming to market in 2020 and beyond. We are passionate about next-generation technology and aim to be a key partner to companies throughout their life cycle. If you were at CES and we didn’t get a chance to meet, or if you work for a company that’s exploring exciting new technologies, I would love to connect — so please send me a message.

About the Author

Cody Nenadal is a Director based in San Francisco, CA, and focuses on frontier and emerging tech companies. Cody is driven by supporting his clients with insights, advice and connections to help them realize their cutting edge technologies.

Prior to SVB, Cody spent six years at Square 1 Bank. Cody earned a Bachelor of Science Business from the University of San Diego.
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