STAR TECH — THE NEXT GENERATION: CES and its electronic innovations return for 2020 ‘family affair’ while anticipating future confabs at expanded Las Vegas Convention Center
At the heart of the sprawling CES is a relatively small organization based in Arlington, Va., its employees considering the annual trip to Las Vegas to be a family affair.
“We have almost … 185 people come to Las Vegas to work on the show,” says Jean Foster, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which owns and produces CES (Jan. 7-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues around town — see sidebar CES Facts and Figures.)
“We also have a program, Share the Love, where we bring in family members of our employees,” Foster adds. “We pay for them to come to Vegas; they get a stipend, they get accommodations, and they also work the show for us.”
The CTA, a standards and trade organization which represents more than 2,200 consumer technology companies in the U.S., projects that 170,000 people will attend CES 2020. Approximately 4,500 companies will have exhibits—about one-third arriving in Las Vegas from beyond North America.
Las Vegas is a uniquely equipped destination to accommodate a show of this size with its massive convention center, many other immense meeting spaces and inventory of hotel rooms. Weather and travel considerations also play prominent roles.
“Apart from the flood we had a couple of years ago that was a challenge for us, the weather tends to be pretty good at that time of the year,” she says. “Travel is very convenient. Airlines, both North American and international, put on additional flights just for the duration of the show.”
Each technology introduced at CES attracts fresh audiences and draws new visitors to Las Vegas.
“Two years ago, we launched a focus around Smart Cities. So that brings in an audience that probably previously didn’t come to the show — people like city planners,” Foster says. “Digital health is (another) big, fast-growing area for us. We grew 25 percent last year in digital health, and we expect that growth to continue this year. That brings in the whole healthcare community.”
Accommodating CES’ growth is one of the reasons the Las Vegas Convention Center is expanding. After the new West Hall comes online for CES 2021, older areas of the convention center will go offline to be renovated. CTA will plot the logistics until the full complement of the additional space is available after 2023, Foster says, adding:
“It’s a beautiful space. What that will allow us to do long-term is to increase the footprint of the show. We’re actually at capacity at the moment, so we can’t really expand the show as it is. We’re always looking for new spaces. The number of the exhibitors continues to grow.”
CTA divides the show by technology or product segments. Among those divisions: North Hall houses automotive and transportation technology, while Westgate Las Vegas hosts Smart Cities technology, and the Sands Expo displays digital health technology.
This year, CTA will escort exhibitors on hardhat tours of the new area to plan how the additional space will be used. “We’ll work with our long-term exhibitors,” Foster says. “We’ll walk them through and get a feel for those that either want to stay where they are today or maybe want to move into the new location. But we would very much be looking to group similar technologies in that space.”
With product launches bursting from the CES floor annually, Foster notes that it’s difficult to predict what will draw the most attention. “Sometimes we know what’s coming, and sometimes we also get surprised.”
She expects artificial intelligence and the 5G-communication infrastructure to be key technologies that will dominate all aspects of this year’s show. Businesses and industries that aren’t necessarily front of mind when it comes to tech always come to CES with surprises.
“All the major automotive manufacturers are going to be there showing the latest in car technology and concept cars,” Foster says, pointing out that while John Deere’s massive tractors will wow conventiongoers, the company really positions itself as a tech innovator. “They’re focused on artificial intelligence and data and analytics in their technology for agriculture.”
Highlighting a robust keynote and conference program — topped by an appearance by presidential advisor Ivanka Trump — is the Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable on Jan. 7. Representatives from Apple, Facebook, Proctor & Gamble and the FTC will discuss building privacy at scale, regulation and what consumers want when it comes to privacy. This marks the first year since 1992 that Apple will have a formal appearance at CES.
When the show packs up, CTA traditionally leaves a gift to the city or the convention center. In recent years, it has provided funds to improve security, law enforcement and the environment, even donating two Labrador Retrievers to enhance security efforts. At CES 2019, more than 1,400 tons of materials and more than 1.7 million square feet of carpet were recycled or reused after the show. CES 2019 exhibitors also donated more than 312,000 pounds of materials to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Opportunity Village, Teachers Exchange and HELP of Southern Nevada.
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