CES 2019News

Chatting up Consumer Technology Association head honcho Gary Shapiro

You dig numbers — or more to the point (and the pocketbook), dollars? Then try these:

  • Depositing an estimated $262.2 million in greenbacks into Las Vegas coffers in just four days this week.
  • Pouring $5.4 billion — that’s with a “B” — into this city over 41 years.

Hefty enough economic contribution to our fair town, don’t ya think? And it all comes courtesy of the annual CES convention, the grandpappy — i.e., largest — of consumer tech shows, which has taken over Las Vegas this week at the Las Vegas Convention Center and multiple other venues around the city.

Before the mega-confab pulled into our midst, Las Vegas Newswire had the opportunity to chat with Gary Shapiro (author of the new book, Ninja Future), who is president/chief executive officer of the show’s producer, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Las Vegas Newswire: What new technologies will CES unveil this time around?

Gary Shapiro: Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to be the ingredient technology at CES. And you’ll hear a lot about 5G (cellular networks) technology. Every 10 years since 1980, we’ve leapt forward in terms of our wireless infrastructure. CES is the only place globally where people can come and see the entire ecosystem for 5G and the next telecommunications wave, where you’ll have amazing wireless broadband speeds and allow us as a country and a world to develop things quickly. The same with AI. And the third thing is the auto with self-driving but also with smart cities.

LVN:  This year, CTA estimated that CES will attract around 180,000 attendees. Could it go even higher?

GS: And we’ll be exceeding 2.9 million (square feet) in exhibit space. But a lot of the federal government officials have canceled because of the shutdown and that’s kind of a shame. But for the last three years because of the traffic and hotel room costs, we have worked very hard to keep that number closer to 180,000 than 200,000. We could get a lot more people coming, but we are making it more difficult for people to come because Las Vegas infrastructure cannot handle it, and we want a great experience for everyone who is there. 

LVN: Looking back on Las Vegas’ relationship with CES, how did this marriage begin?

GS: It started before my time, but the show had been in January and June in Chicago. One January it was so cold no one would leave their hotel rooms. So, we were the first major business event to move to Las Vegas, in 1978. It really was a risk and somewhat controversial at the time because people didn’t think business was done in Las Vegas. It was a place for gambling and divorces.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, is interviewed at the opening press conference for the World Trade Centers Association (WCTA) General Assembly at Paris Las Vegas on Sunday, April 2, 2017. (Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Like the World Trade Center (Las Vegas) designation is so important for the Las Vegas Convention Center. The World Trade Center is a global symbol of business and trade. (The Center is a partnership between the CTA and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which produces Las Vegas Newswire.)

The leisure audience is nice, but the business audience is more stable and we work very hard to make sure Las Vegas can be a business destination. And if you look at shows like CES and NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) and others, it has the world’s largest collection of innovative companies and technology in one area from around the world.

LVN: What has made Las Vegas such an attractive host to CES for more than four decades?

GS: I am the biggest cheerleader in the world for Las Vegas because Las Vegas has three of the world’s largest convention centers. It has more hotel rooms than any other American city. It has an amazing workforce that is dedicated to hospitality. It trains people who know how to build things and get the job done quickly and with great skill, whether they be electricians or carpenters or stagehands. It has first class restaurants. It is a destination. Every event in Las Vegas that I’m aware of has done better in Las Vegas. We think Las Vegas is fantastic. There is no comparison for us.

LVN: Do you foresee the relationship continuing unabated?

GS: Las Vegas is critical to our future. Our existence as an organization, as an event, is bet on Las Vegas. There is self-interest, yes, but we care about Las Vegas. We have an office there now that we established in the last year. We’re hosting the world’s largest business event there.

We also owe Las Vegas. Whether it’s the drivers, the waiters, the servers, the bartenders, the casino people, the performers, the stagehands, the union people, the Convention Center employees — their attitude makes a difference. Las Vegas has a culture of hospitality and going out of their way to appreciate the businesses that are investing there. I’ve had extraordinarily good experiences in my 30-plus years of dealing with Las Vegas and its citizens. Generally, Las Vegas has been extremely responsive from the average citizen to the top political leadership.

LVN: In addition to the economic benefits CES has brought to Las Vegas, why has it been so important to CES to give back to our community in other ways?

GS: We value the Las Vegas community tremendously so we’re always doing things any way we can help. Every year we give six figure’s worth of donations to the Las Vegas community. One year we paid to have solar power of the iconic (“Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada”) sign. We’ve given to the Las Vegas (Metropolitan) Police, the first responders. We’ve provided specially trained dogs to the police. We’ve installed permanent nursing stations in the (Las Vegas) Convention Center. We have a very lengthy list. We also spent a lot on supporting recycling efforts in Las Vegas and various school efforts and gardens. We do things in the local schools to train students as entrepreneurs. It’s a very lengthy list. 

LVN: What are some of the product launches over the years that are most memorable to you?

GS: When I started out the compact disc player was there, and that was real exciting. The VCR was launching, and shifting into high definition television was such an important launch at CES, which I helped engineer. I convinced the companies it would be a good thing to collectively launch at CES to create a statement and send a message to broadcasters that this was serious. Probably the best launch in the world was between CES and NAB in Las Vegas, the whole HDTV concept.

LVN: Do you have a sense of pride, seeing all the technological advances that have come to pass with boosts from CES?

GS: I’ve never invented anything. It’s the entrepreneurs and the innovators I credit. My job is to make sure we create the events and the policies so that innovation can occur. That’s what our whole organization is dedicated to. The way the marketplace has evolved is that people are doing business across vertical industries and CES benefits from that. Knock wood, it’s such a large event, it’s tough to find an event even half its size.

LVN: Has there been a change over the years in the types of participants in CES?

GS: We work very hard to position the show as a convergence of different industries coming together into one. And we benefit from the fact that, as we’ve been saying for a long time, every company is a technology company. We’re getting CEOs from around the world. John Deere is exhibiting. You have insurance companies there, and airlines. The CEOs come because they are technology leaders and strategy leaders and you have more CEOs from around the world in Las Vegas than any time I can imagine and that’s a great thing for Las Vegas.

LVN: Congratulations on the recent publication of your third book, Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation. (Shapiro’s previous books are The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream, and Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses.) What is the word “Ninja” meant to represent in the title and how does it figure into the book’s overall theme?

GS: This is my second Ninja book and the publisher really loved the name of it. “Ninja” is a very attractive word. The reason I chose “ninja” the first time is it reflects the Japanese fighters of a few hundred years ago, which were phenomenally successful despite being outgunned and outmanned and against amazing odds. They always trained hard and were prepared, but were flexible enough to deal with the reality that things change on a dime in ways you cannot anticipate. That is the theme of both of the books and that determines my view: The success of an individual or an entity, whether it be government or a business, you have to be flexible.

LVN: How specifically does that correlate to technology in 2019 and beyond?

GS: I combine that with the fact that I have a black belt in karate and some of the disciplines there. And some of the things you have to do to be a ninja and ways you can do things differently, combined with my knowledge of technology, given the ringside seat I have.

Here are things we know will happen: We know there will be advances in robotics and self-driving cars and drones and 5G and artificial intelligence. Different companies will emerge. And there is such a bright future with health care, which is growing very rapidly. E-gaming is growing and there will be flatter, better screens everywhere. All these core technologies and systems we know are coming — smart cities and so many examples. And I talk about ways to take advantage of that.

LVN: What is your message to the Las Vegas community as this year’s CES descends on the city?

GS: Help us any way you can. Stay off the roads unless you really have to be there. And continue the great attitude toward our attendees because it’s really important. Oh — and thank you for helping to make our show great.


To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.



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