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CES 2021: The technologies moving us forward

11th January 2021
Joe Bush

At this week’s virtual Consumer Electronics Show 2021 (CES), Panasonic North America CEO Michael Moskowitz, announced the next generation innovations and emerging technologies that will be driving our society forward through these current challenging times and beyond.

While technology has helped bring us closer together this year, I think we can all agree that we miss the face-to-face connections. Last year at CES, I spoke about our commitment to always working to be better, and how change isn't something that should define us, but something that we all have the ability to define.

Little did I know how much change we were all in for. No industry, company, or family has been spared in the last 12 months. However, individually, and as a company, we keep moving forward and adapting and this has been part of our Panasonic DNA since the company’s foundation more than a century ago. It’s how a modest light bulb socket manufacturer evolved to become one of the world’s most innovative technology companies.

We believe that the potential for innovation is everywhere. It’s in partnerships; the energy of emerging cultural moments; the ever-changing world environment; and the needs of humanity. It’s that belief that continues to move us forward to create technologies that result in a better life, and a better world for our customers.

In the last year, products and solutions that were created for one use have been reimagined to address the current environment and our consumer concerns around health issues. For instance, in avionics part of our wellness solutions have renewed relevance in our newly launched, Welcome Aboard collection.

This collection includes the Nanoe Air Purifier, powered by Panasonic's nanoe X technology. This is a revolutionary air purification module that generates hydroxyl radicals, which have been proven effective to inhibit bacteria, viruses and odours. Of course these solutions transcend air travel. And our nanoe X air purification technology, which was first introduced just a year ago, is creating cleaner fresher and pure indoor air quality in automobiles, hotels, homes, trains, and even elevators.

We’ve been conducting research on this technology for more than 20 years. But we are the most excited about our latest lab studies have confirmed that the hydroxyl radicals contained in ionised water particles can inhibit the novel coronavirus. The current global pandemic is one new type of this virus. We will continue to pursue the potential of the technology, with the aim of creating healthy environments for people around the world.

Sustainability

We continue to innovate, to meet the growing demand for smarter, more sustainable energy. We’re the world’s largest battery factory and supplier of lithium ion. As of August, we’ve shipped over three billion cells, and our Gigafactory in Nevada continues to grow to meet EV battery demand for Tesla vehicles.

This year, we added our 14th cell assembly line, increasing capacity by ten percent and creating many new jobs. More than four decades of battery leadership has positioned us for the growth that we’ve been experiencing and will continue to experience.

Part of that growth is our strategic partnership with energy company, Equinor, and the industrial group Hydro. Together, we are exploring the possibility of a sustained and cost competitive European battery business. And we are also continuing the development of new batteries, such as the 4680 for Tesla, and a new cell model with increased energy density that when introduced, will be the world’s highest energy density, automotive battery.

However, our energy story is not complete without mentioning, our continued efforts around sustainability. Our partnership with Redwood Materials is focused on increasing the sustainability of the lithium ion supply chain. We are driving towards our vision, where a significant amount of future raw materials will come from recycling.

Of these raw materials, we’re looking to eliminate the need for cobalt. We continue to reduce cobalt content per battery, which is now less than five percent. And then the next few years, we expect to realise cobalt-free batteries. And lastly, we have been named as a top global supplier for a leading global healthcare company - awarded for a partnership in developing processes that help them build a reliable capable battery product. And in recognition of our ability during COVID to meet their lithium ion demand, they ramped up production five-fold to produce additional ventilator inventory.

Food industry

It’s hard to think of an industry that has been more impacted from the events of last year than food service and food retail. For convenience and grocery stores, and restaurants, the challenges have been daunting. So much so that in a recent study, 100% of respondents in the food service industry said that COVID-19 has increased the urgency to adopt transformational technologies.

Panasonic and our husband division are providing businesses in food service and food retail with these transformational technologies and is truly making a difference in their survival. Our smart lockers allow food and order pickup to be completely contactless.

It all starts when the customer places their order through a mobile app, website or kiosk. Once the order is complete, the food is loaded into the locker - one side for hot, the other side for room temperature, and the customers are alerted through a text.

They enter the code or scan a QR code to open the locker door, take the food and go. And this is not just for quick service restaurants. We moved at warp speed to install smart lockers at college campuses to keep students safe in traditional cafeteria settings. Drive-through service was deemed essential when restaurant interiors were closed.

Those businesses who had, or added a drive-through, saw sales increase up to 70%. We allowed for long wait times by equipping staff with our tough-look rugged tablets to take orders beyond the menu boards to deliver food faster and process more cars per hour.

Our ClearConnect solutions for quick service restaurants integrates all the back end, and front end of the house technology to work together. This integrated solution helps increase restaurants’ ability to serve customers quickly and lower costs.

Always putting our customer challenges and needs first is integral to how we function as a company. Our husband division did just that by going above and beyond in 2020 by combining their product innovation and food retail leadership to bring solutions to customers when they needed it the most.

Their ‘shop the future’ collection of solutions are all perfectly suited for what is needed right now in the food retail industry, and they’ve bought nearly 500 customers on board across the US. A few examples from the collection include the Hussmann Smart Exchange Locker for contactless pickup. To keep foods fresh it has three temperature zones - Ambient for perishable goods; Medium Temp for refrigerated items; and Low Temp for frozen foods.

Gig economy

Food retail and service is not the only industry to transform. The world of live entertainment was especially hard hit, and the industry seeks to captivate audiences in new and diverse ways, from the magnificent Olympic Stadium poised to open in Tokyo this year, to the immersive COVID defying Gogh by Car experience that is on display in Toronto.

What began as a walkthrough exhibit in Paris and other cities, is now 600,000 cubic feet of stunning projection animation that allows visitors to see the art like never before, safely from their car. Located in an industrial space that has been transformed to magical. This is a display of Panasonic technology and human ingenuity and resilience, at its very best.

Learning

However, our cameras and projectors are not just for entertaining. Last year we used them to help educators quickly pivot to virtual and hybrid classrooms. A great example of this was Pepperdine University, where we helped create a fully remote learning environment for students with our PTZ cameras in more than 160 classrooms.

I am incredibly pleased to announce that Panasonic is the official technology partner of Iluminarium Experiences. Our native 4k projectors, professional displays and cameras will bring their new 360 degree immersive entertainment centres to life to transport and inspire audiences. The first Iluminarium will open in Atlanta, and be 30,000, square feet, featuring Wild - the world’s first virtual safari. Our engineers collaborated and created an ultra-short throw lens, with minimal offset and lots of light, exclusively for this experience.

As a company, we’re built for moments like this. Combining generations of innovation and category expertise with a culture that is driven to make the world a better place.

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