One of the favourite topics of Europeans at CES is to ask why we all fly 6,000 miles to Las Vegas, when we could see each other more locally if we wanted.
I have been to all the major global tech shows except Computex – I am a little like George the hypochondriac from the book “Three Men in a boat” who suffered from every malady except housemaid’s knee. I have to say that CES is in a class of its own. Its alchemy is a combination of the numbers of people – 170,000 this year, a record, the proximity to Silicon Valley, the razzamatazz of Vegas, and the amazing organisation such as getting 5,000 people to snake their way up the Venetian Hotel for a talk.
This year my highlights were the keynotes – we were literally gasping during Brian Krzanich’s speech as he made us soar with drones, jive to virtual instruments and run with interactive sports and performance tracking devices. In Reed Hastings’s talk, CEO and co-founder of Netflix, we lived the entertainment revolution, as he announced that, during his talk, the Netflix service had been opened in 130 new countries. I was there on this day, I will be able to tell my grandchildren when they ask what television was. 2 years ago it was the unforgettable speech of John Chambers, then CEO of Cisco, in which he awakened me and many others to the immensity of the IoT Revolution.
Beyond that there are the stands and the endless walking. CES is hard work. I did an average of 15,000 steps (nearly 8 miles) per day and 5 times my norm. I visited the large stands in the Convention Centre and saw the latest generation of TV screens with amazing displays, the hordes of people queuing to try on the VR devices, and the evolution of technology in the LG Smart Home and Panasonic Smart Town. But it was Hall G which blew my mind, with hundreds of start-ups in the Eureka Park. I hadn’t left myself enough time to do justice to all the companies that were there. Fortunately I had been at CES Unveiled, a press and analyst event on the Monday night where a mere 180 companies had been on show. French Tech was present in force with a packet of start-ups – 66 in total or a quarter of those in Eureka Park, and their Finance Minister was present too – Emmanuel Macron. No sign of George Osborne or Brit tech on anything like the same scale.
In CES we had many one-on-one meetings taking the opportunity to see our clients’ stands. We also held a Retail CEO breakfast for our clients with Hans Carpels, President of Euronics, giving a masterly overview of his plans for 2016 and the state of European TCG Retail. It helped us keep our feet on the ground and remember that we make our money when these technology products are sold – and this year CONTEXT provided a 2016 outlook for two emerging technologies– 3D Printing and Smart Home.
CES is where you get to see people and technology all in one place, and, in the end, we do not forget that this is why we come 6,000 miles.