CES Shifts Its Focus To Innovations Changing The Tech Industry

By Andrea Chang
Los Angeles Times.

As CES ballooned into an overwhelming crush of products, press events and panels in recent years, longtime attendees grumbled that the consumer-electronics show was just too much stuff and not enough substance.

Bejeweled smartphone cases shared space with vibrating forks, Wi-Fi-connected washing machines were displayed alongside the latest pair of celebrity-backed headphones. The weeklong convention lacked focus, and the reasons for skipping it began to mount.

This year’s CES is slated to be the biggest ever, taking up more than 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space, about a 7 percent increase from a year earlier, when it officially kicks off Wednesday after two days of media previews. Despite its gargantuan footprint, show organizers say the convention will be more manageable and relevant.

There will be less emphasis on the typical CES electronics like televisions, tablets and smartphones, and more attention paid to industry-changing innovations such as connected, electric and driverless cars; the Internet of Things; drones; virtual reality and gaming; and entertainment tech. To reflect that shift, the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES, recently changed its name to the Consumer Technology Association, a small but symbolic move.

After several years of muted interest, that’s spurring renewed optimism about the annual trade show, held every January in Las Vegas. CES is one of the world’s biggest technology gatherings, and an estimated 150,000 to 170,000 people are expected to attend.

Don’t expect to see a groundbreaking new product category among the 3,600 exhibitors. But as fledgling tech sectors have matured, the incremental advancements should be more compelling.

Once again, automakers will command a heavy presence at CES, which in recent years has become almost as much of a car show as a consumer electronics one. Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, said auto-tech companies will occupy more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, up from 150,000 square feet last year.

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