CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which is one of the biggest technology events, is all set to return to its regular old in-person format in 2022. The event that sees new announcements and product launches take place in Los Angeles each year, went all-digital in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ahead of the show, the Consumer Technology Association(CTA), the organisation that hosts CES, confirmed that 1,800 exhibitors across 44 tech categories have registered to appear at CES.CES 2022 will start on January 5 through to January 8 next year. Given it is taking place in the middle of a pandemic, there will be an online element as well. For safety, some venues have changed how they circulate air, and the event will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from attendees as well.There will be several new categories at CES 2022, including food tech, space tech, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), among others. Companies to watch include TuSimple, which will be showcasing its autonomous trucks. From India, seven companies have signed up to exhibit, and five of them are in the event’s startup area — Eureka Park. Enverde Altifarm and H-Bots Robotics are to name a few.Air taxis are also among the trends expected to feature in the upcoming CES 2021. Sierra Space is gearing up to showcase a space plan at CES, while Beyond Honeycomb will be featuring an AI-enabled robot that can recreate restaurant meals. Coinbase and Autograph, well-known companies in the NFT space are also participating.Gadgets 360 spoke to Brian Moon, Vice President, Sales and Business Development, Consumer Technology Association to know a bit more about CES 2021 plans and early trends. Edited excerpts follow:For the first time in the CES’ over five-decade history, the event moved online in 2021. As it returns to its physical venues in Las Vegas in the coming year, how is the event planning going?Brian Moon: Certainly, like all of us the entire world had to adapt and change during the pandemic. The positive story for us is technology is one of those things we took advantage of to keep us connected, safe and healthy. For CES, the all-digital event this past January in CES 2021, it still brought the industry together when we couldn’t gather together physically and allowed businesses to continue and innovation to continue happening. But technology as important as it is, it cannot replace face-to-face interaction. It’s going to be a reunion of technology leaders, policymakers, buyers, retailers, and media from around the world. Many attendees are going to see colleagues and partners for the first time in over 21 months.We already have more than 1,700 companies committed to exhibit and thousands of attendees registered from around the world. So, it’s looking to be a phenomenal event next month. There will be people who are unable to travel to the United States for whatever reason and we will have a digital venue for CES 2022. Any attendees that are on the digital venue will still be able to experience CES and the influence by connecting with exhibitors and attendees. There will also be an opportunity to watch live keynotes.What safety protocols are going to be there in CES 2022?Moon: The safety and security of everyone is always going to be an important focus for us. We announced very early on that all attendees whether they are exhibiting companies, media, international participants must all be able to provide proof of vaccination.Again, we announced that very early so everyone planning on coming for CES can plan for their travel. Anyone participating has to be fully vaccinated and has to be a vaccine that is approved or approved for emergency use by the FTA or WHO (World Health Organisation). For the domestic attendees here in the US we have partnered with a company called Clear and they will administer the proof of vaccination for domestic, US attendees.Additionally, we are going to announce shortly a third-party platform for international attendees, to be able to submit the proof of vaccination in a similar way. So, we want to make the process as easy as possible and welcoming prior to coming to the show in Las Vegas.In terms of masks, we are going to follow state and local guidelines and what the CDC mandates. And just so you are aware, as of August 2021 the State of Navada does require that masks be worn when indoor in public spaces.We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation and there will be additional protocols that we’ll share with everyone before CES.What are the expectations about the crowd this time? Also, With the new Omicron variant having been announced, is there a chance that the event could get delayed/ affected?Moon: We will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate and announce if there are going to be additional protocols closer to the event. We do have 1,700 companies exhibiting, our registration is in the tens of thousands right now and again that is from around the world. The safety of everyone that is planning to attend is going to remain a top priority.We are actively tracking the news that is coming out, the science around the Omicron variant and again we will continue to follow the guidance from the CDC and WHO and we will follow the federal state and local government requirements to plan on the safest event possible. It is probably a little too early to determine the impact of the variant but we will continue to watch it and adjust our health and safety plans as necessary.What are the early insights you can give us on trends in products that will be on display in 2022?Moon: We announced several categories for CES 2022 that we are excited about in addition to ones that are shown at CES before. Food tech, space tech, and NFT’s are the three new areas at CES. It has allowed new companies like Sierra Space, which is going to be showing a space plan at CES for the first time and they are first-time exhibitors as well. In the food tech space, Beyond Honeycomb, a start-up from South Korea is going to be featuring an AI-enabled robot that can recreate your favourite restaurant meal. Coinbase and Autograph which are two very well-known companies in the NFT industry are also exhibiting. Those are the three new areas at CES.Another category industry that continues to be strong is the automotive category, vehicle technology. It has increased over 12 percent compared to our event in 2020 and we have over 200 exhibiting companies in the automotive and vehicle technology category.There are a couple of new companies that are coming — one is called TuSimple and they have a self-driving semi-truck. Another first-time exhibitor is Vietnamese car manufacturer VinFast, which is showcasing a line of electric vehicles at CES.Additionally, CTA has announced keynotes from GM, Samsung, T-Mobile, and Abbott which is the first health-related keynote in CES history. GM has already confirmed that it is going to be using CES for the global unveiling of its electric vehicles.How you are seeing the global shortage of electronic parts/chips, the manufacturers are witnessing now is going to affect the show this time?Moon: I think in terms of the crisis not only the pandemic but the supply chain that we have heard about in many industries has been affected. From what we have seen, the pandemic has accelerated innovation at a quick pace, all of our lives have changed because of it from work to school, healthcare, exercising, entertainment, food and transportation. But we are encouraged by the number of announcements that we are expecting to hear and the number of innovations we are going to see at CES.How are you seeing the developments of VR related technologies. Metaverse is a new topic this time. So, how are you seeing these?Moon: We are all curious about that because it’s the new industry, the hot keyword. But Facebook, now known as Meta is an official exhibitor at CES. So, they are going to make big announcements of course at the show. This is going to be their first major in-person event. But the metaverse has the potential to change a lot of things we do — the way we do business, we are visiting friends, shopping and networking. But the biggest thing they are talking about is creating a virtual universe that’s accessed by the VR and AR technology. How interesting for you to see the expansion of CES into new categories – Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), space, and food technology, among other technologies emerging this year?Moon: If you look at the history of CES it was an event that started more than 50 years ago with radios, television, and then as evolution kept going with DVD players. And now we are talking about automotive technology at CES and digital health and NFTs and food tech and space tech. It is extremely exciting and that’s why it’s such an important event and why so many industries come together because there are so many different business partnerships that happen, media opportunities.Are there any product categories like VR for example, that have gotten a boost thanks to the pandemic?Moon: Digital health coming out of the pandemic is going to be huge. Many of these companies were at the forefront of leading all this technology to get us through it. And so, the digital health category from the exhibit side has grown significantly this year at CES 2022 the conference program is strong as well. So, I think that is another area at CES that is important and we are going to see a lot of innovations and announcements.Any other general announcement for tech enthusiasts?There will be much more to come over the next few weeks. The keynotes are extremely exciting again with GM, Samsung, T-Mobile, and Abbott. Also, reiterating the new areas at CES that we are excited about — with NFTs, space tech, and food tech. Our C-space category has grown tremendously and is focused on entertainment content in the marketing community. That is going to be very strong as well.So, CES in all of the categories that we are known to have will continue and then we will add these new ones that we talked about and so, it’s shaping up to be a phenomenal event.