thoughts in my own, personal opinion
A View From The Road Volume 12, Number
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:
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
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
That’s it for CES 2018! Look for my next bog (if not sooner) from
Enterprise Connect 2018 in March.
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.