Surviving the Consumer Electronics Show is no small matter. For veterans, the 2015 International CES will be a gadget extravaganza. But for some of the 150,000 people hitting Las Vegas next week, it’s going to be a bad trip like a scene from film The Hangover.
The show opens Sunday for the 5,000 press attending the show, but the 2.06 million square feet of exhibits will open at 10 am Tuesday, Jan. 6. I’ve been to 18 or 19 of these tech fests (I’ve lost count), and every one has been a frenzied affair. VentureBeat writers Mark Sullivan and Harrison Weber will join me there. Here’s my advice for newcomers and veterans alike.
As noted in our interview with Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro, we’re going to see a lot of wearable computers, 4K and 8K TVs, curved monitors, powerful smartphones and tablets, 3D printing, Internet of Things sensors, health and fitness trackers, car gear, drones, virtual reality headsets, iPhone accessories, and even some products that will protect our privacy.
I like to go because it’s a bellwether for the tech economy and a place where companies have to appear if they want to be perceived as cool. There will be more than 3,000 exhibitors, and we’ll see if the show can top last year’s official tally of 160,000. The CEA itself doesn’t make predictions about attendance, but it says it culls its lists to make sure it has qualified people looking at the latest products from the $1 trillion electronics industry.
Apple and Microsoft don’t attend the show, but just about every other tech giant does.
Our survival tips:
Be prepared to share your breathing space with a lot of other people. On your crowded flights, try to travel light. Check in your baggage if you don’t have to get anywhere fast. Be prepared for long cab lines or rental car check-in lines. (We’ll see how new services like Uber and Lyft fare under the pressure of CES). Bring your comfortable shoes, use a backpack with wheels to save your back from 10 hours of carrying unnecessary weight, and try not to stay out too late at the parties. If the parties are what you care about, check out the Karennet party list. Many of them are invite-only.
Smartphone reception is better than it used to be, but it’s still probably prone to interference. Text message is probably a decent way to communicate with coworkers. We always seek out the Wi-Fi havens in the press rooms or wherever we can find them. But carry a MiFi if you can; even hotel Internet connections are likely to be stressed to the limit. If you’re responsible for uploading video, good luck with that.
You can’t get into the show without a badge. But if you’ve registered, you can pick up the badge at various venues like the Venetian or the Las Vegas Convention Center. You can check in your bags at various locations too, and send home your swag via shipping services instead of carting it on the plane. You should print a map of the exhibit floor or rip one out of the show guide. You should also print your tickets, schedule, and RSVPs for events. You need a lot of battery backup for your laptop or smartphone, hand sanitizer, a good camera, Ibuprofen, and vitamins.
And here’s how we expect the news to unfold this week:
Sunday: Lots of embargoed news will break Sunday through Tuesday as tech companies try to steal each other’s thunder and catch some early buzz. The Consumer Electronic Association will offer product sales stats and forecasts for 2015. The event officially kicks off in the afternoon with a press-only CES Unveiled reception, where scores of companies that have won innovation awards will be first to show off. You’ll start seeing posts about cool stuff at that party on Sunday evening.Nvidia will have a late press conference at 8 pm.
Monday: Press Day at CES will have press conferences galore, starting with LG Electronics at 8 am at the Mandalay Bay through to Sony at the Las Vegas Convention Center at 4:45 pm. These events are closed to non-press attendees. The companies staging press conferences have changed over the years. They include Bosch, Monster, Sharp, Panasonic, Dish Network, Asus, Qualcomm, Toyota, Hisense, Samsung, Volkswagen, Epson, and ZTE.
If you didn’t notice, almost all of the major car makers show up now to display their cool car electronics, which are a major selling point for vehicles. Also, more of the Chinese electronics companies are trying to establish a foothold at CES as they move into the U.S. market.
At the keynote, Shapiro will welcome the early crowd. Then, at 6:30 pm, Samsung Electronics’ Boo-Keun Yoon, head of the consumer electronics business, will give the opening keynote speech in a sprawling ballroom at the Venetian Hotel. That’s the post that Microsoft’s former bosses Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer used to host. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Mercedes-Benz, will give a keynote at the Cosmopolitan hotel. Pepcom will close the day with one of many huge product showcases with its invite-only Digital Experience party at the Mirage.
Tuesday: The show floor formally opens in the Las Vegas Convention Center, now dubbed Tech East along with the World Trade Center, the Westgate Las Vegas, and the Renaissance Las Vegas. My colleagues will walk the show floor, and I’ll be starting the first of many interviews and briefings. Ford CEO Mark Fields will give a morning keynote. Intel chief Brian Krzanich will give the afternoon keynote. We’ll catch more product unveilings at the invite-only Showstoppers Party at the Wynn Hotel. I’ll be checking out the startups at the Eureka Park exhibit area in the Venetian, where there will now be 375 startups, compared to 220 last year.
The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) is cavernous. It stretches from the North Hall, where a lot of the car makers and speaker manufacturers gather, to the vast Central Hall and the multi-level South Hall. It’s a couple of miles from one end to the other, so try to space out your appointments. A rookie mistake: not paying attention to the exhibit floor map about where your appointments are. It’s not easy to get from the LVCC to the Sands Expo during the rush period, but the CEA provides shuttle buses for that purpose. Parking is scarce, and you’ll pay $20 or more for it each day.
The Tech West area includes the Sands Expo, The Venetian, the Palazzo, Wynn Las Vegas, and Encore at Wynn. The Sands has a lot of focused marketplaces such as 3D printing, Eureka Park, education tech, family tech, fitness and health, robotics, sensors, smarthomes, wearables, and smartwatches.
This year’s show also has spillover space, dubbed C Space, at the Aria, where there will be a lot of talks on various topics like digital disruption and next-generation consumer TV.
Wednesday: If you’re still up for hearing talks, some of the “super sessions” will still be happening on topics like smart watches, high-resolution audio, and smart homes. Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler will do a q&a with Shapiro on tech issues such as spectrum allocation, broadband adoption, and the open Internet.
Thursday: I’ll finally get a breather from announcements and get my chance to walk the floor. I’ll finish up by that evening and fly out.
Friday: If you hate crowds, this may be the day to show up. We’ll be gone by this point and will be contemplating our picks for the top CES trends, the best products and services, and awesome images from the show. But the show floor will be open from 9 am to 4 pm.