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Highlights from CES 2019

Tim Duchesneau

Tim Duchesneau

Tim is a Co-Portfolio Manager and Investment Analyst

As always at CES, there were many innovative new consumer gadgets and concept ideas from some of the most cutting-edge companies in the world. These companies are leading the way in terms of new technology related to robotics, smart homes/smart cities, AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality).

Molekule is one of these very interesting, emerging companies. Molekule has made great strides in smart home devices in terms of reducing pollutants in the air. Their studies indicate that the air inside a building or home can be 5x more polluted then the air outside (their data has been approved by the U.S. EPA). Studies show that 25% of people are allergic to the air in their homes and aren’t even aware of it. Additionally, their studies show that poor air quality in homes and offices can increase the risk of common colds by 56%! Most people believe that the filters in their HVAC systems are enough to clean the air, but these filters actually enhance the problem by continually recirculating polluted air. Unlike most air purifiers that rely on HEPA filters, Molekule’s proprietary Photo Electrochemical Oxidation system, or PECO destroys pollutants by breaking down their molecular structure. This technology may change the way we clean the air in our homes and offices.

Another interesting standout company was HTC and their efforts to implement AR and VR into businesses, specifically healthcare. For instance, most orthopedic surgeons specialize in one companies’ replacement products (hip, knee, etc.) as the surgical process is unique to each manufacturer. HTC has developed technology using VR and AR, that allows surgeons to simulate replacement surgery without ever coming into contact with a live patient. As their training technology gets adopted, the barriers to entry for surgical replacements will begin to erode and patient options will increase. In addition to expanding surgeon and patient options, this training technology may hold an additional benefit; increased competition among the manufacturers will likely lead to advances in orthopedic replacement products. The utilization of AR and VR to train, educate and simulate real life situations has significant long-term benefits across industry sectors – this is just one example of what the future may hold.

Lastly, one of the biggest focal points of the CES Conference, and the only “game changer,” in my view was the evolution of driverless vehicles. The message from most car companies was that they are not yet ready to implement the more advanced level 4 driverless technology. One of the reasons is that when polled, less than 50% of consumers said they would ride in a driverless car. As a result, most car companies are implementing Nvidia or the more basic ‘level 2’ driverless technology. This includes more basic features such as lane assist, adaptive cruise control, emergency breaking systems, assisted parallel parking systems and other technology already implemented into the higher end car market. Thus, it wasn’t a complete surprise that the introduction of fully driverless vehicles appears to be years away from production. Technology is not the problem, but rather consumer acceptance which will restrict demand in the short-term.  Autonomous vehicles are game changers but consumer acceptance as well as reluctance from those who make a living driving vehicles (taxi drivers, truck drivers, etc.) are slowing things down. What we have learned from revolutionary technology, however, is that although acceptance may be slow, eventually it will take hold completely as it just improves lives.  Improving safety, efficiency, and increasing productivity will ultimately prevail. We may have to wait a few more years for the more advanced, completely autonomous vehicles, but I would expect autonomous driving to be a very large growth trend around the world over the next 10 years.

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