David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
A View From The Road Volume 12, Number 1
CES 2018 – A Transition To Concepts
Greetings from Las Vegas where the 2018 CES just concluded. We won’t know the attendance number for a bit (I’ll update it here when we do) but it’s sure to be over the 180K+ announced last year. This year’s conference was both great and terrible. An essential view into the next 18+ months of technology and a physical, mental and financial strain on all those who attend. The bad logistics this year were particularly bad:
· Security was obviously ramped up following the recent tragic strip shooting, but by the second day of the show the “rent-a-cops” weren’t even bothering to look in bags anymore. That didn’t stop them from creating brand new choke-points that everybody had to pass through.
· There was an approximate two hour power outage thrusting the Central Hall into darkness. At about 11:20 am on Wednesday ( the second day of the show) all the power to the Central hall went out and stayed out for about two hours. People were asked to leave the hall and were kept out for the duration, with many crowding the sidewalks waiting to get back in. Misinformation was spread that all the halls were affected, and it was later corrected to indicate people could go back in to the south and north halls. ( – good because of its author’s obvious good taste in choosing twitter sources to quote.) While no one can expect a power-failure, it was handled poorly by the event staff, as the aforementioned rent-a-cops now had something to do other than pretend to look at bags, and had no training for such an event. People were told to leave, but not everyone did. People were told to wait outside when the other halls were actually open. There was also no emergency lighting in the main hall area (there was in the adjacent corridor.) Worst of all, the LiveSafe app that CES advised everyone to download provided little to no instructions on what was open, where to go, what caused the issue, etc. All that app did for the whole show is tell us that roads were crowded and slippery. Duh.
· The roads were slippery because Las Vegas experienced one of its rare torrential rainstorms, making an already difficult and painfully slow to navigate city (during the CES mobs) even worse. The rain closed a number of outdoor exhibits that weren’t waterproofed, and it is also blamed for the power outage.
The good logistics this year are also worthy of attention:
· The show was the best organized in years. The international pavilions moved from the Westgate to the Sands, Smart Cities in the Westgate, categories of companies closer together than ever before. Kudos to the planning in this case.
· The CES companion App worked better than ever before. One could easily find exhibitors, load maps, mark favorites to be visited. The only complaint there is every time you closed it it restarted from scratch instead of taking you back to where you were. This was nearly perfect.
A number of articles (like this one) have already complained about how hard it is to navigate the show, how much time is wasted going between venues, how Las Vegas isn’t “Smart City” enough for CES, and how the show has outgrown the venue. These comments are misguided. The problem isn’t the venue – as few cities can handle the crush of people as well as Las Vegas. The problem is that the event itself has grown unfocused. People used to bring “products” to CES for people to see and experience. Now they bring concepts. You can’t touch and feel a concept, you can’t take pictures of it. Exhibitors that have nothing but concepts (Smart Cities, AI, IoT) purchase huge booths and bring people into town to talk about concepts, which makes the event essentially an arms race for who can spend the most money on the biggest booth. I don’t need a basketball court sized display to show me a car that a firm isn’t making yet and may never make, because it’s the image they want covered. If CES were divided into two shows, one with things, and another one with ideas it might make the logistics more manageable, and it would certainly waste a lot less of everyone’s time. I doubt that the people that come here to purchase light-up speakers and mobile phone cases really care about electric cars and smart cities. There’s an opportunity here to have this event make more sense for all.
The clear winner of the event this year is Google.
Realizing the vacuum left by a number of big firms that made a big deal about not exhibiting at CES anymore, Google stepped in and owned CES 2018. As Dan Freeman of VDO360 said in the video linked far below, “you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something Google.” Helpers around the floor, concept booth, prize giveaways, billboards all over town and plastered on the monorail, etc. There were even a few two story high ‘gumball machines’ giving out expensive Google gifts. If you were looking for Amazon’s Alexa at the show you’d have to ask “Hey, Google, where’s Alexa?” If you found and asked an Amazon Echo why it was so totally outclassed this year, it would naturally say it didn’t understand the question – but that’s another point entirely. Google showed that a strong presence at CES shouldn’t continue to be overlooked by firms like Apple, Microsoft and others that stopped exhibiting.
The above picture sums up this story – a small Amazon “Treasure Truck” in the shadows of the massive Google presence. The Verge team voted Google “most in show” for pulling-out all the stops.
The reason I cover CES is because too much of the standard news coverage fawns over the wrong things. Take this item for example:
This isn’t just too new to purchase. There are absolutely no plans to manufacture or distribute this display (according to the people I spoke with.) I’d much rather hear about items I can actually buy soon then concept demos only meant to attract a crowd.
If you’re not following me on Twitter (and you really, really should be following me on Twitter) then you didn’t see the attack of the zombie brands at CES2018:
If they could build a Blackberry with a Polaroid camera in it then they’d really have something.
I spent some time with the team from LG, who have taken-over as the de-facto leader in consumer and enterprise displays in the US. Instead of the fantasy roll-up screen above, they showed more of the “wallpaper” OLED displays that they showed last year. It is shipping in multiple sizes for both enterprise and consumer use.
It literally hangs with magnets on any surface, with all the processing and I/O in an external unit – a soundbar for the consumer models, but just a processing engine for the enterprise ones. (It’s always difficult for a picture to convey how thin something is, but I tried.)
I also stopped by the Samsung area to see their new Flip IWB. I was told it will be available “shortly” for a price of $2,695.
I’m skeptical that this “solution for new meeting trend” will change my opinion of the enterprise Interactive Whiteboard space. The whole space is overcrowded, overpriced and over-hyped right now - as I covered in my recent whitepaper. The evidence of demand just isn't there no matter how many vendors want to persuade enterprises otherwise. The unit was in a back-corner of Samsung’s showcase that also had an AMX touchpanel and a Harman camera – quite literally made to sit in the corner like a forgotten child.
I shot a number of video interviews about products at the show – here are a few that are definitely worth watching:
· CES 2018 will go down as the year the universal translator actually worked. I know – I’ve seen three so far at the show. The best of the lot is Travis the Translator – with a full explanation and demo here.
· I spent some time with the CES Innovation Award winning firm MirraViz at CES Unveiled. Their co-founder described for me how their new screen technology allows two video images to be viewed on one screen simultaneously. Click here to see his explanation and a demo.
· One of the nicest series of products I saw was from the German manufacturer Conrad Electronics who are releasing a series of Digital Multimeters under the Voltcraft name in the US. In this world of ‘throw it away when it breaks’ it’s great to see someone updating and reducing costs on digital testing equipment. See my interview with them here.
· I also caught up with the CEO of VDO360 Dan Freeman (who was attending the show) to get his impressions of what he was seeing. You can watch our chat here.
A great example of what not do at CES as you grow a firm was provided by the SimpliSafe team – a pioneer in simpler home safety / alarm / monitoring systems. They win the Einstein award for redesigning their entire system with no plan to upgrade existing customers – who they expect will keep paying them for monthly service using outdated gear.
While they were a pioneer in the space there are now a handful of players competing with similar systems. Way to give-up your advantage by pushing formerly happy customers to competitors.
On the last day of CES I had a nice chat with Jason McGraw who runs the expositions for AVIXA. Click the picture to take a look.
I also made sure to catch the precision, light-up drone display from Intel over the Bellagio fountains. Click the picture below to see a demo of it.
My favorite item from the show floor was from a company called Unis who licensed Pong from Atari and built a coffee-table version with physical paddles and a physical ball – click the picture to see a video I shot of it in action on the show floor.
It has a price tag of about $3k US. Now all you people who claim to never know what to get me have two options – the Solo electric vehicle below and this Pong table. Find out more about it at www.tablepongproject.com
That’s it for CES 2018! Look for my next bog (if not sooner) from Enterprise Connect 2018 in March.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works as an analyst and consultant in the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.
All images and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.