R&D UK Centre's Head of Digital Innovation Nidhal Zribi reports back from CES!

Last week a small group of colleagues from our R&D Team and across Group were at CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show), a 50 years strong annual trade show organised by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), to showcase new products and technologies. Nidhal Zribi was at the event in Las Vegas and has shared his thoughts on the innovations showcased and any opportunities for EDF.

1 day before the Grand Opening

4 January 2022, Las Vegas

The emergence of the Omicron variant, cancellations by some of the biggest exhibitors, risks of disrupted air travel, announcements of 50% of exhibitors forfeiting means that CES2022 is starting off in an unprecedented and not very encouraging context. But despite these challenges, the tech world is keeping up its momentum and this event still promises to be a creative and inspiring edition.

It's one day before CES opens and there’s a lot of excitement in the corridors and exhibition areas as the stands are being set up. I’ve had a teasing glimpse of Metaverse, Autonomous Vehicles, Hydrogen, Blockchain, Smart Home and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on every floor. A team composed of three innovation experts from R&D France, UK and DSIG, the Director of the US Lab, the Group's Innovation Director, and two start-ups, Exaion and Metroscope, represent EDF to highlight our involvement in technology and innovation.

Highlights so far:

The Tree of Life is a demonstration of the strength and competence of the South Koreans in the field of Innovation. SK, Doosan and Hyundaï in particular have developed exhibition areas populated with avatars, trees and houses in which their products evolve. They show that mastery of software engineering is critical for operating products, but also for marketing and promoting purposes.

A Samsung keynote speech almost without a single TV screen! It focused on every aspect of sustainability, particularly in terms of recycling and energy efficiency. The tech giant presented a recycling-oriented strategy towards "battery-free". Innovations from the Smarthings Hub will be integrated into the entire range for a "unified habitat" experience based on Matter, the interoperability standard supported by Google, Amazon, Apple, Huawei.

We can't wait to go back tomorrow to discover more about global innovations and trends around energy management in housing and mobility, services and products for the home and the inhabitant, and the evolution of living modes.

Day 1 - the Grand Opening

5 January 2022, Las Vegas

So, it’s the first official day of CES2022, and there was so much for the EDF delegation to see. There isn't enough time or space to share all the impressive installations - covering everything from energy management, to the metaverse, wireless power transfer, Li-Fi, food tech, decarbonised mobility, home security and much in between, but here are some of the highlights:

General Motors keynote

In a major transformation of the company, General Motors (GM) has invested heavily in innovation towards “zero emissions and carbon neutral future”. This includes the launch of Brightdrop, a new business brand targeting first and last-mile delivery customers, including light commercial electric vehicles, ePallets, and cloud-based software. They’re also electrifying their vehicles with a new electric truck: the Chevrolet Silverado EV (starting from $39k), to to be launched in 2023, equipped with a new battery that has an estimated 400miles on full charge capacity, or up to 350kw on fast charging. GM has partnered with car rental firm Enterprise to make the truck available to customers to try out the latest technology. They’ve also developed Super Cruise, an autonomous driving technology/experience, as well as new concepts for the luxury Cadillac brand.

Energy management

Dcbel's home energy station allows residential customers to charge their electric vehicles (EV) using solar energy. The promise is: "Save money, reduce emissions and secure energy supply". The Canadian start-up is expanding its presence in the UK and France and are keen to explore potential partnerships with EDF.

Two Dutch start-ups have developed heat efficiency solutions:

BlueHeart energy, a patented engine for heat pumps: silent and refrigerant-free thermo-acoustic technology suited for both new and existing homes.

Insmart, re-invents HVAC maintenance with their NB-IoT solution for gas boilers and heat pumps. They make predictive maintenance profitable for companies servicing consumers, while helping consumers to save energy.

Connected objects and sensors

e-peas (Belgium) are looking at improving batteries. Replacing batteries (battery failures, battery replacement and limited battery lifetime) has become a major pain for industries that deploy a large number of sensors and need reliable uninterrupted data. They’ve developed devices to auto-recharge wirelessly (energy harvesting - from heat, light, vibration and/or ambient electromagnetism) with ultra-low-power microcontrollers to optimise energy. These could be used for gas sensors, fire sensors or smart locks. ​​​​​​

Day 2 

6 January 2022, Las Vegas

 

 

Climate change

Climate change is one of the main topics at CES2022. Whether it's science fiction concepts or available products, large and small companies are communicating about their sustainability strategy and presenting how their innovations are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Hyundai is investing heavily in the production and transport of green hydrogen, in combination with offshore wind
  • Doosan presented its innovations in the field of clean hydrogen production from plastic: 20 tons of plastic can produce 2 tons of clean hydrogen. The Korean giant also demonstrated its tri-gen technology: simultaneous production of heat, hydrogen and electricity
  • Ocean Grazer, the dutch start-up has designed an energy storage system for offshore wind 

 

Zero Carbon Mobility

Evocargo designs (in Russia) and manufactures (in Finland) autonomous container transport vehicles, which are powered by H2 or batteries for ports and warehouses. They are standardised for container transport. Depending on the use of batteries or H2, the range is 150 to 700 km between charges. Evocargo produced 10 vehicles in 2021, and plans 50 in 2022 and 1000/year in cruise. It is targeting the American and European markets.

Innovative Business Models

Raincircle SharePlug

Raincircle offers SmartPlug, a low-cost solution for allocating socket usage times. This socket sharing use case is very common in Korea, especially in flats. The mobile application recognises the device and allows the allocation of usage times in advance via the start-up's platform. This solution can be interesting in the case of collective recharging, particularly in collective housing.

Airbnb of EV charging

Sparklin, a French start-up, has designed smart and connected EV charging solutions: an electrical socket dedicated to the slow charging (low voltage) of batteries.

Sparklin offers :

- a totally secure charge thanks to its on-board electronics. "Even if you plug it in, it will only deliver electricity if the user is recognised via their mobile phone and has been authorised beforehand," explains Thierry Jahier, one of the three co-founders. This is a response to the problem of theft that exists on free access sockets, particularly at night in car parks.

- Shared use - aiming to become the airbnb of EV charging. The socket transmits usage data in real time to a mobile app (consumption time, remaining charge, user profile). "This is particularly useful for shared use, in a company or a condominium for example. It makes it much easier to pay for the service. You can bill by the minute. "

The UK at the CES2022

“CES is important for us because we get to see all the innovations that are going on on the world, and it helps us from the UK Government perspective to tell the story of how good the UK is at technology”  - Rollo Hope, Head of Technology Trade and Investment at the UK Department for International Trade.

The majority of UK innovators present at CES2022 are at the UK pavilion sponsored by the UK Government.

  • Dynamon uses data analytics and AI tools to help the logistics industry reduce costs and CO2 emissions through sustainable fleet procurement. We found similarity with EDF R&D’s Celest tool.
  • Triggo has designed a clever electric car: “Just one click of the button located on the steering wheel away! Modify Triggos' width on the go and let it suit your needs just perfectly!”
  • Engineered arts made a big splash at CES2022 with its latest robot Emeca, which combines artificial intelligence with artificial body. "This robot is the digital interface to the real world"

 

Digital technologies

Namu, a young Korean company, counts 120 employees. They have developed Smart DX Solution with a “cocktail cloud service” allowing to “Build, run, and manage all applications across any cloud : AWS, Azure and GCP”. It is very similar to VMWARE solutions. 

Active Loop develops open source tools that “machine learning engineers will love”. Setting up data for AI training can take weeks. Activeloop’s open-source package Hub aims at reducing the set-up time by streaming the data straight to GPUs and without sacrificing performance. 

Day 3 - the Final Day

7 January 2022, Las Vegas

 

This year, CES2022 ended earlier than originally planned on January 7th.

This is the final opportunity for serendipity and discovery:

The technological advances in heavy transport are impressive. 

John Deere is innovating with self-driving tractors that can be controlled from a mobile app.
“Fully autonomous tractors promise to change how food is grown in America.”

US giant Peterbilt Motors proudly displays its autonomous truck, the Peterbilt Model 579 equipped with the Aurora driver, an autonomous driving system designed to "operate everything from passenger sedans to freight trucks."

Kenworth is showcasing its zero-emission electric trucks, equipped with high-density batteries that can travel up to 200 miles emission-free and recharge quickly in an hour.

Wallbox designs, manufactures, and distributes electric vehicle charging technologies:

  • smart solutions for solar charging of EVs with 2 modes: charge with 100% solar energy or a mix of solar and grid energy
  • dynamic load balancing to enable customers to charge their vehicles at the highest possible speed, based on the real-time electricity demand of their homes.

 

Wallbox offers an immersive experience to CES2022 visitors, showcasing how user friendly their products are.

The new world of Samsung

Samsung is one of the big names that maintained a physical presence at CES, unlike LG and Panasonic whose booths only presented QR codes and communications on giant screens.

The Samsung experience at CES2022 follows the logic of their keynote: from the historical business (TV) to tomorrow's mobility, via objects, lifestyle, and smartphones.

Recycling and the consideration of environmental impacts, very present at the beginning of the keynote, are indeed present at the beginning of the tour; but basically the actions are reduced to work on packaging and this step does not appear in the summary of the tour.

Smart homes

Every Smart home provider is talking about the new standard smart homes protocol Matter at CES2022.

After remaining relatively quiet on the subject, Amazon introduced this week the developer tools for devices that support the new protocol. The company is also integrating its "Frustration-Free Setup" solution for Matter products. And it says the 4th-generation Echo will act as a Matter border router in addition to retaining its current Zigbee hub functions.

Energizer was present at CES2022 to present its new Smart Home product range. It is based on Zigbee 3.0 and Wi-Fi with the help of Tuya and therefore soon to be Matter compatible. The battery specialist is therefore betting on launching itself into the field of low-cost Smart Home. Among the solutions on offer are lighting and socket control, connected doorbells and security cameras. A basic pack of 5 products for the Connected Alarm use case was proposed but no public price was announced.

HiSense, the Chinese giant of displays (TV, PC screens) presented on its stand a unified Smart Home experience called ConnectLife. In this Smart Home experience, HiSense presented its range of products (Smart TV, Smart Lock, Smart Fridge, Smart Hoven, Smart Washer ...) and how all these products interact with each other (e.g. search for a recipe on the TV and transmit it to the fridge and oven for preparation). Although the environment is still closed, HiSense confirms that its range of products will become Matter compliant once the standard specification is available.

Unified smart appliances by HiSense : Fridge, Hoven and TV

Low-code application development

We noticed several no-code or low-code offers at CES2022. The expected benefit is to reduce development time and to allow people without coding skills to create applications.

  • Voltapp, a young company (4 people looking for Seed funding recently rewarded by the BNP) proposes a "shop" of pre-formatted and pre-built applications to be customised, inspired by Figma for design.
  • Taiwanese start-up Avalanche Computing founded in 2020, offers a Low_Code approach to code development for data scientists.