CES 2023 the year of purposeful technology


Anthony Stonehewer



If you work in consumer technology, everyone knows CES is the place where brands make major announcements, reveal their latest innovations and breakthrough products that we will see on shelves later in this year. 

Post pandemic over 3,200 exhibitors, including 1,000 startups, turned out to showcase sustainable innovation from transportation and mobility to digital health, Web3, and the metaverse. 

New product development and mass market evolution grabbed the headlines, but what stood out for me was the scale of, sometimes niche, purpose-minded technology. Products designed to support people’s lives, health and wellbeing, as well as positively impact the planet. 

There was a clear trend from both blue chips and startups for technology that helps people and businesses to be more sustainable, empower accessibility and inclusivity. If you weren’t showcasing a purposeful product or solution you were bucking the trend, and not in a good way. 

While household names from Amazon to Google and Hisense to Sony filled column inches, it was refreshing to meet future superbrands quietly exhibiting conscious technologies from, biodegradable batteries, screen-free educational devices, and smart glasses for the visually impaired.

Standout, purpose-first technology

SK Group displayed 40-plus “zero-net” technologies from state-of-the-art batteries for electric vehicles to sustainable food. Its booth visualised the impact of climate change with rising sea levels against a backdrop of landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty, before taking viewers on a journey of how it plans to address global issues. 

With 15-billion batteries disposed of every year, BeFC, raised plenty of eyebrows with a goal to eliminate the environmental impact of battery waste. The French start-up pioneers bioenzymatic fuel cells – a paper, biodegradable energy source that points to sustainable and reusable energy.

Global power and infrastructure firm, Schneider Electric, unveiled a sustainable home energy management system, Schneider Home, that gives homeowners energy independence, savings and control. It also presented power sockets and switches recycled from discarded and used fishing nets.

The number of green outdoor energy solutions was vast. Jackery’s portable and solar power generators stood head and shoulders above a sea of competition with a creative exhibition space which showcased practical everyday uses, as well as green energy solutions for weekends away. At a time when energy prices have soared, solar power and its storage is clearly of major interest as a solution to a growing global challenge.

Among the medical tech line-up Mvitro revealed home devices for human care. Needles are nasty and create waste, so its Ortiv blood sugar test machine that reads levels without the need to draw blood will be a welcome device for millions of diabetics.

Earable Neuroscience helps people better understand their sleep patterns and manage their physical and mental wellbeing with its Frenz Brainband. The wearable sleep headband tracks and stimulates brain activity via bone conduction speakers and claims to facilitate better sleep quality, relaxation and focus. 

The list of companies that inspired me is endless, but here’s a final few to round off what was an overwhelming experience. Screen-free, educational learning from Tonies; Sustainable, wireless headphone by Rolling Square; Acapela Group’s “my-own-voice”, an AI that offers people with speech or language challenges to create and communicate through a digital voice.

How to communicate purposeful technology

The innovations unveiled will drive economic growth, improve our lives and create a better future for the next generation.  But with so much noise, and many “me too” products how can marketers stand out from the crowd?

Start with the story. Too many companies focus on the features rather than the benefits.  Technology media thrives on specifications and chipsets and consumers want to know how it solves an everyday or specific needs. Additionally, highlight the purpose-driven features and provide evidence to back up claims. Market the sustainable materials, energy-efficient design and other aspects that appeal to consumers who seek sustainable options. As a rule of thumb, given the nature of your product or service, use sustainable packaging: materials made from recycled materials or are fully recyclable and minimise excess packaging to reduce waste.

Demonstrate value through social and digital content and leverage PR and influencers to engage with consumers through a community of conscious customers. That could be done by collaborating with other purpose-driven brands or organisations, partnering with those that share your values and can help amplify messages to increase brand awareness or creating activations and PR moments that bring purpose-driven technology or UN SDG-related actions to life.

Ultimately, communicating your sustainability actions is imperative. Sharing information about the company’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact, such as using renewable energy, implementing recycling programs, and reducing water and carbon emissions, can create standout in your market and deliver a connection with your audiences; something that sustainable and purpose-minded consumers are calling out for.