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5 trends from CES that will majorly impact the built environment

January 12, 2023

By Rick Huijbregts, Greg Rodriguez and Tariq Amlani

Electric vehicles. Smart cities. Virtual healthcare. And clean, renewable energy. A look at tech innovations and what they mean.

When you think of CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, you probably think about new VR headsets, robot vacuums, and other consumer tech products—and to be clear, it does have all of that. But it’s not limited to those types of conversations anymore. In recent years, this conference has evolved from a parade of new gadgets to a melting pot of innovative, influential technology leaders sharing ideas, trends, and insights around a variety of topics. On a global scale, the conference is even connected to the United Nation’s goal to advance human security. The trends include those that impact the built environment—so the discussions impact all of us.

On this year’s agenda, attendees attended sessions that covered topics related to smart cities, safer mobility, health equity, global electric vehicles (EVs), and more. We want to briefly touch on a few trends from CES and explain what impacts they will have on the built environment.

The electric vehicle transition is underway. The EV impact will be profound—to our lifestyles, our economy, and our communities.

Trend 1: The industry is still working on making smart infrastructure work for communities

We’ve often said that people don’t care about living in a smart city, instead, they want to live in communities that have 21st Century infrastructure that helps to deliver exceptional quality of life. ADT Home Alarm Systems cited a survey of their customers, where the prevailing insight was: “if it makes my life better, I don’t care.”

And that is precisely what we need to focus on. It’s not how we can adopt the latest smart technology but how we are solving problems for communities—and for people. What are the outcomes we are looking for? Technology can help with that, but it’s not the purpose.

We were happy to see the panel talk about taking a human-first perspective and bring up the question of equity. What if people don’t have reliable internet? We can’t create new devices and applications without thinking about how they will be connected to old infrastructure. We have an obligation to make sure we’re not leaving people behind. We must raise the tide for all boats.

Another notable “old infrastructure” example from the panel came in the form of smart locks. ADT was looking to add smart locks to a building but found the doors were too old and not suitable for the technology. So, what’s next? Does someone pay for all new doors? And more importantly, does the added value of smart locks outweigh the cost and inconvenience that come with upgrades? Are there lower-hanging fruit digital capabilities that deliver leading-edge experiences and conveniences that can be prioritized instead?

For those getting serious about smart cities solutions, don’t start with technology. There are four foundational building blocks need to be in place before any city makes its transformation: prioritize a people-centric approach; enable collaboration and partnerships; update policies and regulations; and formalize digital infrastructure and connectivity.

—Dr. Rick Huijbregts, Global Lead, Smart Cities

Trend 2: The future of healthcare in America is the new hybrid model

Telemedicine visits are 1700% higher than pre-pandemic numbers. They have remained steady and are the new normal.

Digital health is about empowerment and engagement, but how is it enabling a new model for patient care? A panel of experts from the provider and payer sides discussed what is needed for patients to embrace virtual care to improve the hybrid model.

Telemedicine visits are 1700% higher than before COVID-19. Patients need to feel they are getting the same level of care, comfort, and safety from remote care as they do from an office visit.

One panelist noted we’ve had remote care and telehealth for decades but never really used them. Recent years have forced us to recognize that we need to embrace these tools while keeping the patient at the center. These tools create more equity when caring for patients.

The pandemic has certainly accelerated the need to advance healthcare. Our designs of health spaces put patient care, comfort, and safety at the forefront. Patients need to feel that same sense of well-being from remote care.

Panelist Dr. Stephen Klasko put it this way: “The big ‘T’ when it comes to data is not technology, it’s trust.” The future is how we make virtual care meet the urgency and support of in-person care to create holistic care. We have a responsibility to educate patients about the value of technology in healthcare.

—Tariq Amlani, Senior Principal, Health Sector Leader

Trend 3: The EV transition is underway—but requires a holistic approach to equitably build and maintain needed infrastructure

The excitement around EVs right now is palpable—from longtime industry insiders to consumers on an ever-growing wait list for EV vehicles. With the investment in EV charging infrastructure in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, it feels like now is the time for electrification to take off. Further, this week the Biden administration released the first ever Blueprint to Decarbonize America’s Transportation Sector, adding to the buzz around zero emission vehicles (ZEV).

While there’s government funding and more acceptance than ever before, the panel made the point that there is still a constant need for education and reeducation. Range anxiety is still a concern, as are issues around charging standards. This is part of a greater need to get organized around this technology and how it integrates with our existing approaches to land use, funding, and maintaining infrastructure.

This conference has evolved from a parade of new gadgets to a melting pot of innovative, influential technology leaders sharing ideas, trends, and insights.

While there are many practical benefits to widespread EV adoption, we still don’t talk enough about how the technology will help the community. Think about it, the busiest city streets will be so much quieter. Cities will have reduced emissions, with a major reduction in noise pollution. People will be able to hear each other on construction sites, which is a safety issue. But these benefits require new views around the important connection between EVs and a reliable electricity grid. EV charging infrastructure also needs to meet the needs of not just current adopters who can afford EVs but future adopters as the cost of EVs come down in price and a used EV car market grows. The EV transition needs to consider equity, and we need meaningful outreach and engagement with communities to ensure no one is left behind.

The EV impact will be profound—to our lifestyles, our economy, and our communities. But it will only truly arrive when we create a working ecosystem that offers affordability, efficiency, and convenience. To get there, we need increased collaboration across the industry and across the public and private sectors.

We need a new appreciation for the EV ecosystem. It goes from mining to battery manufacturing, to grid enhancements and microgrid adoption, to battery recycling. And technology like ZEVs needs to be supported by a paradigm shift in how we value transportation.

—Greg Rodriguez, Principal, Mobility Policy

Trend 4: Powering the clean energy future

Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy, highlighted some of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) clean energy innovations. She explained the two key energy goals of the Biden administration—100% clean grid electricity by 2035 and net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And she explained how achieving these goals will combat climate change while providing national security and economic benefits.

Granholm outlined the DOEs efforts by putting innovations in three buckets. First, she explored current technology such as solar, wind, battery storage, EVs, charging infrastructure, and energy efficiency upgrades. Then she moved to technology on the cusp, which included new battery chemistries, new building materials, and reducing the cost of clean energy initiatives. They include offshore wind, hydrogen, and carbon-capture technologies. Finally, she looked to technology on the horizon—namely nuclear fusion—that will continue to be a focus for years to come.

These are initiatives that our clients are focusing on as well. From supporting the first offshore wind farm in New York, to designing the largest public fast charging station in the nation, our teams understand the need to help build the clean energy system of the future. 

The Biden administration’s goal is 100% clean grid electricity by 2035. Wind power is one key part of that energy transition.

Trend 5: Renewable energy, renewable world

This presentation featured experts in renewable technologies like EVs, batteries, solar panels, and hydrogen. The moderator asked the panelists several questions about the transition to renewables and how each industry has been evolving in recent years. She began by noting that the International Energy Agency has raised its 5-year forecast of renewable energy growth by 30% from what they predicted last year—the biggest upward revision in its history.

The panelists shared some positive highlights. These include the increased adoption of EVs, more commitments to hydrogen, and battery production coming to the US. They also described some key challenges in the industry. Among them are disruptions to the mineral supply chain, delays in permitting, procuring a skilled workforce, and securing financial commitments from hesitant markets. A main key to success is viewing the entire lifecycle of a product. From mining and processing to manufacturing, use, and recycling, it is crucial to reduce carbon emissions and protect the natural environment along the way.

Our teams are acutely aware of these challenges—specifically our mining experts who are helping our clients work toward sustainable solutions for their operations. It is critical to understand that a net zero world needs mining. The precious minerals and metals required for solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries are still in the ground, and we need them. But we must mine responsibly. That means transitioning to renewables, becoming more energy efficient, reconsidering waste in mining, and more.

Last year, we were selected to provide engineering services for the Resolution Copper Mine in Arizona. This mine will supply up to 25% of US copper demand each year—copper that will be used to produce the renewable technology that is vital to the energy transition.

Planning for our future gets a kick start at CES

Technological innovations are now largely industry agnostic and have a significant ripple effect on how we move and interact in the built environment. Conferences like CES give us an opportunity to look to the future and plan for the needs of our communities of tomorrow. 

  • Rick Huijbregts

    Rick is a smart cities global lead who applies innovative methodologies to enhance sustainability in built environments. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in municipal innovation in Canada.

    Contact Rick
  • Greg Rodriguez

    With his experience as an attorney, Greg provides regulatory and policy guidance to clients as they develop the policies and operational frameworks that support innovative transportation technologies.

    Contact Greg
  • Tariq Amlani

    A mechanical engineer and health sector leader, Tariq has extensive knowledge and experience working on the procurement, design, and construction of new and existing healthcare facilities.

    Contact Tariq
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