In today’s Exponential Investor…

  • A work trip where I don’t go anywhere
  • Riding in my first self-driving car
  • Early themes and investment ideas

Typically at this time of the year, I’m in Las Vegas.

It’s a pilgrimage I make to ensure that I’m top of my game.

Not the casino game, no, I suck at casino. For any fans of Seinfeld, I’m like Jerry, I always break even. I never win big, never lose big. That’s why last time I was in Las Vegas, which was one year ago, I just didn’t bother with it at all.

The reason I jet off to Las Vegas is for the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show and exhibition, CES.

It’s probably not the conventional location for a giant electronics and technology expo. However, they hold it there each year because it’s so big. Millions of square footage in exhibition space, hundreds of thousands of attendees.

It’s also shut off to the general public. Not just anyone can roll up and attend. You’ve got to be an industry insider. Thankfully I qualify.

That’s why this week I’m off again to Las Vegas for what will be my fourth CES…

Oh hang on, let me rephrase slightly…

This week I’m off again (virtually) for what will be my fourth CES.

If only Newton had 5G

CES is huge.

If you’ve never come across it, it’s one of the greatest technology events the world puts on every year. And it’s been around for decades too.

Every year throws up something crazy and wild, that on the face of it seems bonkers, but before you know it, is commonplace in your day-to-day life.

Recently I came across an article talking about CES from back in 1992.

The article was talking about the last time Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was at CES. Yes, that’s right – it was last there in 1992. That’s because typically Apple likes to do its own events for product releases and new tech.

Anyway, in 1992 Apple was at CES to debut its breakthrough technology within its new device, the Apple Newton.

You may not have heard of the Newton before. But it’s a classic lesson in the kind of tech you find at CES that’s ahead of its time.

The Newton was one of the first “PDAs” (personal digital assistants). It was what you would consider to be the precursor to the smartphone.

Apple had high hopes for it, but it didn’t do all that well. I believe that’s because its functionality was ahead of the communications technology we had back then. Had we been able to send wireless data faster and in greater volume in 1992, Newton may have been a big success.

Still, it was the origination of the kind of tech we would see hit the mainstream only 15 years later in the iPhone.

That’s what’s so great about CES. The companies on display aren’t necessarily showing us what’s coming tomorrow (in the literal sense). They’re showing us how they can push the boundaries with currently available tech which plants the seed for what we can expect to be mass market and mainstream in another 10 or 15 years’ time.

Being able to witness that first-hand, to touch it, feel it, a decade before the world really catches on, I consider to be a privilege. It’s also why I look forward to January every year now to get ahead of the curve when it comes to the future of technologies for the consumer markets.

Tomorrow’s tech at home

Now, as I mentioned, I’m off to CES again this year… sort of.

I am attending, in fact I’ve already been to several keynotes and presentations from Hisense, Panasonic, LG, Mercedes-Benz and Samsung (to name a few).

Only this year, it’s all virtual. I’m at CES, from the comfort of my office at home.

All the CES content, keynotes, conference sessions – everything – is being broadcast for registered attendees remotely. That’s because the physical conference was cancelled due to Covid-19. Thankfully rather than cancelling everything, they’re now doing it all online.

It’s definitely not the same. There’s nothing better than being there, touching, trying, testing, experiencing all of tomorrow’s tech. In the past it’s given me a chance to ride in a self-driving car from Audi, to see first-hand the pioneering tech behind truly wireless power, meet with some of the world’s foremost people in tech, even experience the insides of concept flying taxis.

It’s also one of the events I pencil in as a “must attend” as it always presents us with a number of investible ideas and companies that investors can get an early slice of action on. This event has been a precursor to some of my biggest and most successful investment ideas and recommendations.

Hopefully at the start of 2022 I’ll get to be there in person again. But at least this week I’ll still get full access to the online content and presentations. It still should be an eye-opening week which hopefully throws up a few more great investment ideas.

One theme that’s already clearly emerging is how the future of “at home” tech is developing.

Albeit one of the things always present at CES is the future of tech at home – but it does wildly change over the course of a few years.

Over the years I’ve seen everything from the latest in cutting-edge display tech, like rollable screens, through to “smart” appliances (fridges, washing machines, even ironing and steaming devices) and even an automated home cooking robot.

This year appears to be no different.

Samsung will be displaying all its “home tech” and talking about personalisation and “AI innovation” in the home. LG is walking through its “@ Home” tech that’s coming soon. I’m kind of looking forward to the “smart kitchen and bath” tech from Kohler.

But there will be everything from telemedicine at home to autonomous systems, entertainment and gaming all connecting to the home and enriching what some are calling a new normal.

Already I can see clear trends emerging in the kinds of future tech that the world’s best companies are moving towards.

It’s clear from the outset there’s an obvious focus on technology in the home, but also how it connects to technology out of the home. There are a number of sessions that are looking at how 5G technology is really going to kick start the promise of our truly connected world.

I see that as one of the big ideas in tech that’s really going to hit home with the consumer and the investor in the short term. 5G is an enabling technology. It’s the kind of tech that turns an idea or concept into a reality because of what it allows companies to achieve.

Telehealth, robotic surgery, smart cities and autonomous systems will all be more prevalent because of an enabling technology like 5G.

That’s just one of the themes I can already see emerging this year. Hopefully for the rest of the week, I’ll be able to dig out more of the opportunities that are coming our way.


Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor