In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the fast-forward button on tech adoption from our homes to our work to our doctor’s offices. Although this has been an unprecedented time, the tech industry is keeping us informed, connected, educated and entertained.
In mid-March, executives faced a new reality: a falling economy, restricted travel, home-bound employees and changing customer needs. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® canceled or virtualized all our events through summer 2021. We also made the difficult decision to cancel CES Asia. Although the show had grown each year since its 2015 launch, we decided to focus on other CES related programs. We held the first virtual CTA Technology & Standards Spring and Fall Forums that brought in new voices to the tech conversation.
For the first time in its 54-year history, CES® 2021 was all digital, illustrating the resilience and innovative spirit of our industry. Global attendees learned about 5G, AI, self-driving vehicles and new forms of mobility, digital and telehealth, resilience, robotics, drones, new forms of entertainment, 8K Ultra HD screens and smart TVs from entrepreneurs, investors, business and media.
Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2021 featured product launches from startups to tech giants, keynotes from global leaders, live entertainment from Hollywood and over 100 hours of programming. Big policy issues involving privacy, competition and the regulation of new technologies and media platforms were discussed. CTA also partnered with the World Bank Group on the Global Tech Challenge to call on tech companies to develop innovative solutions to worldwide problems. And CES 2022 will be even more exciting as we move to a hybrid digital and physical event in Las Vegas.
The coronavirus is a major marker in our lives but telework, tele-medicine and tele-education have kept us moving forward. Digital platforms empower Americans to stay productive at work, educate our children, connect with loved ones, access medical care and stock our kitchens—all from our homes. The tech industry is doing good work and tech is a wonderful tool.
To keep members informed, CTA provides webinars, fact sheets, research insights and best-practice guidance. Our weekly CTA Tech Use Tracker provides timely data for our members. Some of CTA’s initiatives include funding of STEM opportunities through the Boys and Girls Clubs, $10 million going to funds which invest in diverse startups, and our diverse staff and board. CTA and the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) also launched the “Masters of Leadership” webinar series featuring policymakers like Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC).
On a bright note, with vaccines becoming widely available, we may be turning the corner on COVID. U.S. tech industry retail sales revenues are expected to climb to $461 billion in 2021 – a 4.3% increase year-over-year – according to CTA’s U.S. Consumer Technology One-Year Industry Forecast.
CTA member companies are providing tech solutions to keep patients healthy, treat the ill and keep the public informed. Connected devices such as blood sugar monitors, blood pressure cuffs and heart rate monitors are prime examples. These devices allow doctors to stay in touch with their patients.
Greater use of telehealth has improved Americans' access to care, increased patient engagement in managing health and helped lower costs. Along with the American Telemedicine Association, CTA developed a Digital Health Directory to connect doctors, patients and customers with solutions. CTA and the Connected Health Initiative also are leading the Health Equity and Access Leadership (HEAL) Coalition, a multi-sector initiative of tech companies, health care providers and public agencies examining new ways to leverage technology to reduce health disparities across diverse demographics and communities.
Earlier this year, over 60 organizations convened by CTA developed a new ANSI-accredited standard that identifies the core requirements to determine trustworthy AI solutions in health care. CTA also released standards on performance requirements for physical activity and stress monitoring. And nearly 25 health tech companies have joined CTA’s initiative to develop standards for the use of digital therapeutics that use software-based interventions that can manage pain, allergies and even mental health issues.
CTA works with policymakers on issues including connectivity, immigration, self-driving vehicles, trade and free online speech. Our industry is a leader in the battle against climate change and our companies are proving that economic growth and environmental stewardship can coexist. CTA’s 2020 Industry Report on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions shows even as our industry continues to grow, we are reducing GHG emissions. CTA television manufacturers and other stakeholders are also working on revolutionizing CTA’s standard for measuring TV power consumption.
Broadband will revolutionize health care, education and energy conservation. We need long-term solutions for our nation’s growing demand for spectrum and broadband in every home to enable remote work and education. Also proficiency in technologies like AI, 5G and quantum computing will soon determine our nations’ economic and military strength. Government regulatory efforts should promote U.S. leadership in these technologies, and avoid mandates that stifle innovation. Lawmakers should consider whether proposals enhance innovation; encourage investments in startups and small businesses; are forward-looking; promote clarity; provide rational guardrails within which companies can operate; and make U.S. companies more competitive globally.
Online competition and antitrust are also critical issues before Congress. Consumer harm should be the standard – not protecting legacy companies. Competition in the tech sector is fierce, with record levels of R&D investment and a thriving startup scene. Protecting platforms from liability for user generated material is the cornerstone of free speech online and has catalyzed economic growth, innovation and free expression. Consumers worldwide have embraced internet platforms from Google to Facebook to Twitter to Amazon.
Tech companies power the U.S. economy producing more than 18 million jobs that represent 12% of GDP. The U.S. surpasses all countries in unicorns, start-ups with valuations over a billion dollars, with 133 unicorns founded in the past decade. Cracking down on internet speech would hamper the free exchange of ideas and entrepreneurs’ incentives to take risks. Antitrust action against tech companies would have a disastrous effect on the economy. Congress must protect America’s fair, free and vibrant markets. Tech companies want to work with policymakers to craft effective, predictable rules that create jobs, improve public health, foster innovation and protect our crown jewel companies.
As the U.S. recovers from the pandemic's high unemployment, new collar apprenticeship training can revitalize our workforce by offering in-demand skills. CTA and IBM created the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, a collaborative effort by CTA member companies to create apprenticeship opportunities nationwide. CTA’s fourth annual Future of Work survey of tech business leaders found three in four find it challenging to hire candidates with the necessary skills. The survey also shows tech companies are embracing diversity and inclusion initiatives (D&I) with 86% of respondents replying they have at least one D&I initiative at work. And CTA’s 21st Century Workforce Council has over 50 companies that share best practices for attracting talent and shaping a productive work environment.
A truly inclusive economy must be future-oriented and technology-driven . We will leverage American innovation to propel our nation forward and emerge safer and stronger. See you at CES 2022 on January 5-8!
Global Managing Director, CTO & VP, IBM Corp.
President and CEO
Consumer Technology Association