Key Takeaways for Government Leaders from CES

Attendees of a previous CES tryout virtual reality. The 2021 tradeshow was held virtually.

Attendees of a previous CES tryout virtual reality. The 2021 tradeshow was held virtually. Kobby Dagan/

For the government to stay competitive and best serve Americans, it’s time to look to the consumer market.

The Consumer Electronics Show is widely considered the global stage for tech innovation. Held by the Consumer Technology Association since the late ‘60s, CES has often set the stage for cutting-edge consumer product launches, discussions around tech news, and industry perspective on what tech trends will permeate the consumer market next. 

The news, sessions and discussions happening at CES are more relevant than ever for government leaders looking to keep up with innovation in the private sector. Wearables that are advertised for immersive gaming experiences can be used for similarly immersive simulated training experiences for the military. The advanced artificial intelligence that powers self-driving cars can inform how the government applies that tech to its missions.  

For the government to stay competitive and best serve Americans, it’s time to look to the consumer market for key takeaways. From CES this week, here are the top five takeaways that government leaders should consider.

AI ethics goes beyond right and wrong. It means sharing human values with machines.

In a session about the “Technological Megashifts Impacting our World”, Professor Amnon Shashua of Mobileye says computers exist to compute, but the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning has transformed computing into much more than a tool. AI is designed to recognize patterns, make inferences from data, and make decisions. AI should be predictable, but when you place artificial intelligence in a distinctly human environment, how do you align AI/ML with human judgment? 

On a panel about “The Power of AI”, Bridget Karlin of IBM, Kevin Guo of Hive, and Eric Cornelius of BlackBerry discussed that same theme with more granularity: deep learning enables AI to think like a human. In the same way that a bad habit from childhood can stick around through adulthood, a bias in the data used to train an AI model will continue to affect the AI as it’s used. 

To leverage the power of AI to solve government challenges with unfathomable amounts of data, federal agencies have to share human values with AI. AI is honest and makes good predictions, in the sense that it analyzes, recognizes patterns and is objective. But when AI provides data analysis that impacts humans, how do you code good judgment into a machine? 

Tech policies must go beyond the traditional defense industry, and the U.S. government will need to build expertise and partner with federally-focused experts in the private sector to make sure it’s leveraging emerging tech like AI responsibly.

Innovation is a team sport. 

In a session about the “Biden Administration’s approach to Innovation and Technology” and others, a standout theme was how tech innovation is changing. Gary Shapiro, the president and CEO of CTA and Brian Deese, the director-designate of the National Economic Council, discussed how private sector innovation is outpacing government innovation—but that’s OK. 

According to Deese, the government can harness the innovation from the private sector, as the new administration plans to invest heavily in areas where the United States has been under-resourced, including the tech industry. 

While Deese states that the next administration is looking to drive innovation with investments in key areas to help the U.S. become more competitive, the way innovation happens between the government and the private sector is changing as well. Moving forward, innovation can’t be siloed into one sector—it must happen in an ecosystem where multiple sectors converge, where testing, iterating and designing all happen rapidly. Government can be sure it is a key leader in this ecosystem by working with federally-focused private sector partners to keep up with commercial tech trends and stay competitive globally. 

5G interconnectedness is upon us ...

In sessions like “Trends in Mobile Communication” and “5G’s First Year: From Insights to Innovation”, with Deloitte Principal Dan Littman, AT&T Business CEO Anne Chow and Qualcomm SVP Alejandro Holcman, a major topic was the interconnectivity that 5G can provide, and why it’s the present and not just the future. 

Mass connectivity will enable the industrial internet of things to expand capabilities of smart “things,” enable edge computing and allow the processing of massive amounts of data on-premise. Device proliferation and access to data can improve the speed and efficacy of operations. 

To realize these benefits as quickly as possible, the government should keep a close eye on the private sector and lean on expert partners to evaluate tech solutions for the federal market. Businesses will be on the leading edge of 5G adoption and the faster government agencies can get tech on contract, the better. 

... but it requires layers of security. 

As increased interconnectivity becomes the norm, security measures will have to adapt. 

In a session titled “Exploring Rapidly Changing Cyber Terrain in an Interconnected World,” Christine Herman, Finance of America CISO, says technologies are converging and disciplines are evolving in a way we haven’t seen in a decade. 

Much of this change once again comes in the form of ecosystems: this time, an ecosystem of interdependent tech.

Herman discussed how IoT is a relative newcomer to the cyber threat landscape, and software bills of materials will be critical as smart “things” increasingly become the norm. As tech on the consumer side becomes increasingly connected, security architecture must adapt. Smart homes, virtual assistants, smartwatches … everything consumers interact with is connected and communicates with each other. What happens when a personal device like a wearable is compromised?

Federal innovators need to consider how security architecture must meet the demands of an interconnected world, especially as consumer tech permeates every aspect of regular life. 

What does this mean for the government?

In the session about “Technological Megashifts,” Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and Professor Amnon Shashua of Mobileye discussed how the tech industry is experiencing a “Promethean moment” right now. It’s true. 

Security must be a high priority, ethics in AI will become more and more vital as adoption increases, and soon, everything will be connected. 

To stay competitive globally and better serve working with private sector tech is essential to stay competitive, build the strongest tech foundation, and be at the forefront of cutting-edge innovations. 

Riya Patel supports community engagement, business development and product innovation at Dcode. She previously worked at the Defense Innovation Board, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and the intelligence community.

Lauren Strayhorn is a tech engagement manager at Dcode. 

Mary Beth Fiedler leads customer and content marketing at Dcode.