What Happened at CES 2018?

January 18 2018, 10:00
A lot, quite a lot. More than you think!
With 170,000 or 270,000 visitors (depends how you count), CES must be one of the very few shows where the promoters actually try to play down the numbers regarding visitors, also because in practice, no one really knows. There are so many suites and hotels extending the activities of CES throughout the week, that it becomes hard to understand where it starts and where it ends. 
In fact, there are people registered at the show, wearing those gigantic napkin-like badges with photos in it throughout town, that in fact never actually visit one of the show locations where they are required! Like at the Sands Convention Center or the LVCC. There is hardly a single hotel ballroom or meeting space in town not being used for demonstration rooms or an hospitality suite. And it is possible to do a CES show and actually just walk from suite to suite, hotel to hotel, on "private demos," and exclusive invitation-only events, and never actually "see the show."
CES 2018 officially hosted more than 3,900 exhibitors that spanned more than 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space across Las Vegas - the largest show floor in CES' 51-year history.
CES has long become an annual business gathering far more complex than any other show we attend, including the overwhelming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which in turn is pretty straightforward in terms of business model and market impact. CES, on the other hand, reflects multiple industries and market segments all at once, creating a complex thread of multiple business layers, from licensing IP and technology to manufacturing and services contracting, to the more traditional channel relationships between brands and reps/distributors and retailers, in a multitude of very distinct industries, from IT to white good appliances and automotive technologies. Add to this the normal brand and product marketing efforts of the many consumer electronics segments - from audio to iDevices and smart home - and we get an extremely complex event, which is hard to characterize.
If you look at CES exclusively from one industry angle, you will fail to understand why CES is still so important and why it does attract so many people to Vegas every year. There are people selling CRM software that attend CES every year, close millions of dollars of business, have business meetings at all the famous and exclusive restaurants, spend the night on strip clubs, and return home on a corporate jet, all thanks to its recent cryptocurrency gains... And they never even get close to the Las Vegas Convention Center. (And that's why they didn't even noticed this year's power outage...)
In contrast, there are those poor souls that visit Vegas every year looking for the remaining of an "audio/hifi show" at the Venetian - with those pathetic elevator cues and the awful smell of dirty socks that emanates from some suites - to see a remaining handful of living room speaker/amplifier demonstrations - which would get far more attention at Rocky Mountain, Axpona or any other audio show. I really don't understand, why that "thing" is still there. In those Venetian suites there are many technology providers, and brands who attend just to meet the press and distributors, that could do much better elsewhere (and there are plenty of options).
Anyway, even worse is to meet with the thousands of "media" colleagues from all over the world, which visit CES looking to report on "the latest gadgets" for their click-bait blogs, Youtube channels or tabloid newspapers. They will point their GoPro/iPhone cameras at anything that looks like a robot, and will report on how Artificial Intelligence will dominate our lives, because Samsung released their 28th generation of the Internet-connected-fridge - and no one even bothers to check back at what those same companies introduced last year at CES, which would reveal that 99% of those "gadgets" never actually existed, much less made it to market!
From major international brands to the more than 900 startups participating in Eureka Park (home for CES startups) CES 2018 truly reflected the vibrant global tech industry.http://www.audioxpress.com/tags/ces-2018

CES is a show promoted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). And it is telling that they changed the name to "Technology," because that's what CES is about. Selling new technologies to multiple industries, and demonstrating those industries' vision of applied technology.  It's not the products. It's not the gadgets.
The reason why CES is still thriving as a show, it's because there's increasing business every year on selling technology to those industries. Including now to the automotive sector that used to be about "car-audio" and "infotainment" systems at CES, and is now looking at redefining its very core technology, replacing the combustion engine and introducing autonomous driving, with all the implications that entails.

Now with nearly 300,000 NSF of automotive exhibit space, the vehicle footprint at CES makes it the fifth largest stand-alone automotive show in the U.S. and self-driving vehicles are at the show in a big way.
Of course, the automotive industry doesn't need another "car show", where the goal is to promote and sell the latest models. Instead, at CES, car brands look for the latest ways to generate emotional engagement with consumers, exploring the latest technologies and experiences with and within the car. And at CES they can do it much better - a good example being the case of voice assistants. After all, when we enter a taxi today, the first thing we tell the driver is our destination. So, why would that be any different when we take autonomous-driving rides - like those from Lyft that already circulated in Vegas this year?
And CES 2018 was not "just" the show of voice assistants, AI, or VR, as the "tech-blogs" want you to think. It was the show of the cryptocurrency economy. As I could confirm in those always enlightening chats with taxi and Uber drivers, Las Vegas "gentlemen's clubs" are now accepting cryptocurrency and there are even bitcoin ATMs available...
Much in the same way as the real technology "revolution" at CES last year was ride-sharing companies finally taking over Las Vegas, this year was in fact about the digital economy. Immediately after CES, other trade-shows descend upon Las Vegas, including the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), World of Concrete 2018, and the Adult Entertainment Expo - AVN Adult Expo 2018 (running concurrently...). Compared to CES, those shows are conservative and relatively low-tech moments for the Sin City, even if Uber and Lyft drivers will be as busy as ever.
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