“Innovation tends to accelerate in times of economic downturn,” Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said Monday during the virtual CES 2021.

You’ve probably noticed.

Technology companies are racing to respond to the coronavirus crisis with products intended to help you connect remotely. Robots, augmented reality, and new filtered air solutions for the home are among the tech developments the real estate industry is watching.

CES 2021—the tech industry’s annual mega-show—moved to an all-digital format this year due to the pandemic. About 1,800 exhibitors are taking part in the virtual show, which CTA is hosting through Thursday. Companies are showcasing products via virtual press conferences, Zoom rooms, and an all-digital expo floor experience.

Here are a few trends to watch:

1. Greater emphasis on cleanliness

Portable air filters, robotic vacuums, and ultraviolet light sanitation products are trending. Companies are adding touchless and voice-enabled tech, such as for smart locks and faucets, to prevent the spread of germs at home and in the workplace. Several companies are presenting air purification systems—some portable—to help filter out harmful germs in indoor environments.

Homebuilders are paying attention to buyers’ increased interest in healthier homes, too. For example, Taylor Morrison’s TM LiveWell model home highlights improved ventilation for indoor air quality, filtered drinking water, and nontoxic building materials containing fewer chemicals. More than a third of potential home buyers say they want a new home with better health and wellness features, Erik Heuser, chief corporate operations officer at Taylor Morrison, recently told BUILDER.

2. 5G connectivity serves as a backbone for innovation

More than 67 million 5G smartphones are expected to ship in 2021, according to CTA. As 5G service becomes more available across the country, tech firms believe the super-fast connection speeds—10 times faster than 4G—will pave the way for rapid innovation in smart-home tech, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and connected cities. “5G is so much more than just another tech innovation,” Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon, said Monday at a session during CES 2021. “It makes other innovations possible.” Vestberg added that there are about 14.2 billion connected technology products currently supported on 4G networks. The field is predicted to grow to 55 billion products by 2025, which will require the support of 5G networks, he said.

3. Interest grows for robotics and drones

As the pandemic made less physical contact necessary, companies increasingly turned to robotics and drones, said Lesley Rorhbaugh, director of research for CTA. She predicted accelerated adoption of more robotic technology across industries. “These solutions are becoming necessary to stay safe and protected,” she said. Retailers are turning to robots to stock store shelves. Hygiene robots like the Xenex LightStrike disinfect commercial spaces using UV light. Drones are increasing in demand for contactless deliveries, she noted.

In real estate, could robot-led home tours become more commonplace? In 2017, real estate startup Zenplace began offering such tours, enabling a remote real estate agent to speak to potential customers in a video chat while the robot shows the ho0use, gliding from room to room. Since the pandemic, “we are seeing unprecedented demand for our platform across 35-plus states,” Jason Green, a spokesman for Zenplace, told CNBC in March.

4. As more information heads to the cloud, security concerns grow

Fifty-nine percent of global enterprises expect their cloud usage to increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud Report. But as more data moves to the cloud—including home sales—security remains a paramount concern. Eighty-three percent of companies cite security as their top concern as more processes move to the cloud, according to the report. Tech companies are rushing to develop greater encryption technology to better protect business data. In real estate, cybersecurity remains a top concern due to the growth of wire fraud scams, but you can step up your defense against hackers.

5. Smart-home tech adoption accelerates

Voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Home are simplifying the use of smart-home devices. And the call for cleaner homes is fostering an interest in smart-home products for air filtration. Kohler is debuting several motion sensors and touchless operations for kitchen and bathroom faucets to prevent the spread of germs. Also, greater artificial intelligence is being added into smart-home tech to recall user preferences and make suggestions. AI is being incorporated into everything from television sets for content suggestions to washer and dryers for recommend wash cycles. The largest growth in smart-home products centers on smart displays, doorbells, and appliances, CTA notes in its tech forecast.

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