GUEST COMMENTARY:

Thanks to Convention Center expansion, CES is here for the long-term

Thu, Jan 5, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Odds are you’ve heard or said the words “OK, Google,” “Hey, Siri” or “Alexa” this holiday season.

In today’s world, we prize the ease and efficiency of connectivity. Voice-activated technology lets us change the television channel, adjust the thermostat, navigate traffic jams or choose songs to create our own personal radio stations with a simple verbal command.

But as amazing as these advancements are, at CES 2017 — being held this week in Las Vegas — these devices only begin to scratch the surface of just how wonderful technology can be in making our day-to-day lives easier and the world around us a better place.

An overarching theme at this year’s show is the revolutionary impact that 5G – the next generation of mobile network technology – will have on connectivity and mobility across every major business sector.

From the Internet of Things (IoT) to self-driving cars and beyond, connectivity is at the heart of emerging innovation. And 5G will deliver better broadband and home services, faster connectivity for smart cars, more affordable “smart city” infrastructure and more immersive and interactive augmented reality/virtual reality experiences.

Connectivity is everywhere at CES 2017, enabling nearly every product category. In his CES keynote address on Friday, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf is expected to discuss the revolutionary effect of 5G. And major players including Ericsson, Huawei, LG, Samsung, Sprint, Verizon and ZTE will be on site to launch new products and services that harness the power of always-on connectivity.

We’ve come a long way since our first CES in New York in 1967, when 117 exhibitors showcased the latest in transistor radios, stereos and small-screen black-and-white TVs. Fifty years later and 2,500 miles away, CES 2017 will highlight the latest in connected mobility, including self-driving technology, IoT, digital health and “smart city” infrastructure.

CES has always embodied the energy, excitement, wonder and innovative spirit of the tech industry. And this year, expect jaw-dropping exhibits from more than 3,800 companies, including 600 startups, across 24 product categories.

As products increasingly become smarter and more connected, new players come to CES. For instance, Carnival Corp., Under Armour and Nissan are now positioning themselves in the technology space.

The show has grown exponentially since it arrived in Las Vegas in 1978, and now occupies more than 2.6 million net square feet of space, with every square inch showcasing the latest tech innovations. And CES attracts more than 165,000 attendees, including 50,000 from abroad.

Without the planned Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, it’s not clear whether CES would have been able to remain here. The approval by the city and by the Nevada Legislature of the $1.4 billion expansion and modernization of the LVCC, finalized in mid-October, ensures that CES will stay in Vegas for the long-term.

The innovations on display at this year’s show — which include the latest in 4K Ultra HDTVs — are a far cry from the first CES, held five decades ago, coinciding with the first season that the three broadcast-TV networks ran their entire prime-time lineups in color. And that was despite the fact that fewer than half of U.S. households had color TVs at the time.

Since those early days, an estimated 700,000 products have launched at CES, including every major breakthrough technology product — from the VCR and the DVD player to high-resolution audio, tablets and 3D printers. I can’t wait to see the great ideas that bubble out of this year’s show and enter the mainstream market, transforming our lives for the better.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, "Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses," and, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream." His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

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