Global tech leaders share visions on post-COVID-19 era at C ES 2021
Published : 17 Jan 2021, 14:11
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, held online for the first time this week, has invited leading professionals from the technological, health and financial industries to share their unique, forward-looking visions for the future.
Global leaders including Hans Vestberg, chairperson and CEO of Verizon; Mary Barra, chairperson and CEO of General Motors; Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, and newcomers like TikTok's Head of Global Marketing Nick Tran, joined the virtual meeting to forecast the post COVID-19 era.
"No amount of distance can keep us from exploring the world together," said Verizon's Hans Vestberg, highlighting the unparalleled power of 5G to change the world. Verizon Wireless is the second-largest wireless carrier in the United States, with 120.3 million subscribers as of the third quarter of 2020.
COVID-19 has helped speed up the development of work-from-home, distance learning and telemedicine, pushing the digital revolution to leapfrog, according to Vestberg. "The future of productivity is now the current reality of work. The future of learning is now the current reality of school. The future of mobile payments is now our current reality of banking. The future of streaming is the current reality of entertainment," he explained. "Instead of being our future, it's our present. Our 5G future is here," he added.
To Vestberg, 5G is much more than just another technology innovation. It's an industrial revolution and a platform that will make countless other innovations possible. "5G innovation opens doors to other innovations," Vestberg said.
He explained that using 5G-backed augmented reality, viewers can participate in sports, visit museums and galleries, and attend universities, all without leaving their living room.
Vestberg and National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell stressed 5G's ability to radically improve sports viewership and create personalized fan engagement, particularly in venues like Verizon's 5G super stadiums, which the company will roll out in 28 cities in 2021. The stadiums will offer seven customized camera angles, virtual players interactivity, and instant replay on-demand among others.
The National Football League, a professional American football league, is the wealthiest professional sport league in the country. In the 2020 regular season amid COVID-19, NFL games averaged 15.1 million viewers, down 8 percent from the 2019 regular season.
Verizon is also working with the Smithsonian in the U.S. capitol, the world's largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, nine research centers and New York City's famed Metropolitan Museum, to make 3D augmented reality (AR) digital replicas of their valuable artifacts, so that they can be viewed from anywhere in the world.
Lonnie Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian, explained how they are using 5G AR to launch an exhibition when most of museums and public education facilities are closed due to COVID-19.
"It can bring education to life beyond the classroom and help whomever come to explore important subjects in ways that bring our shared history to life... and can help us achieve a more inclusive future," he said.
General Motors anticipated a bright future in transportation with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, and is committed to building the infrastructure to make that future a reality, said the company's chairperson and CEO.
"We are at an inflection point that is moving toward putting everyone in EV (electric vehicle). GM intends to lead that charge," Barra said. "With the indisputable science behind climate change, investors are asking to put purpose alongside profit. So we must use this moment to look forward with optimism and hope."
"2020 must be a call-to-action to address the health crisis, racial injustice and climate change," she said.
In the eco-sustainability arena, GM and its battery partner, LG from South Korea, have managed to reduce the amount of problematic cobalt in their batteries by 70 percent, using more aluminum instead, according to Barra. Their engineering innovations also enabled their batteries to produce 60 percent more power, which is no mean feat.
Social media upstart TikTok also shared their perception of the future of social media. TikTok's Tran told attendees that he perceived his company's mission as helping to "democratize entertainment" by providing creators with a robust and innovative platform that could adapt to the demands and tastes of its users.
"We are less of a social platform than an entertainment platform powered by the community," Tran said. "Our creators can make an endless amount of content, and our algorithms allow users to see more content they like."
TikTok, based in Los Angeles, is a video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It generated over 800 million monthly active users last year.
Besides, Microsoft's Brad Smith warned of the challenges posted by the new technology to the future, including indiscriminate cyberattacks, which he called "a danger that the world cannot afford."
He believed the only way to protect the future is to understand the threats of the present. To do that, companies and governments must stop exploiting data and share it in new ways, or the world would fall victim to the same problem that contributed to the 9/11 terrorist attack a decade ago.
He warned that the perils of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be ignored. For example, facial recognition can be easily misused and machine learning could promote bias and discrimination.
"People around the world are looking at us and they want to know not just about our hearts, but about our souls... As we think about the decade ahead and about all the promise of AI, we have to think as well of the new guardrails we need to create, so that humanity remains in control of our technology," he stressed.
"Technology has no conscience, but people do," Smith said. "We must exercise our conscience. Every day we go to work, we must decide to use technology for good or ill. That is our challenge... and our responsibility."
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