The Show Will Go On, Says CES Amid Omicron Concerns
While 42 exhibitors have so far canceled their in-person appearances at the show, CES is blazing ahead this week.
After a virtual event last year, CES, the annual consumer electronics trade show, is due to return to Las Vegas in January 2022. However, the Omicron variant has led to an increasing number of cancelations from key exhibitors.
In the past, CES has thrived on in-person demonstrations of new technology. Image used courtesy of Steve Marcus/Reuters
Despite this, organizers are pressing ahead with an in-person event, hoping that 2022 will be the year to bring the industry back together in spite of the global pandemic.
The Scope of CES 2022
CES 2022, the 52nd edition of the event, is due to take place between Monday, January 3rd, and Saturday, January 8th at the Las Vegas Convention Centre (LVCC) in Nevada. The event will showcase 2,200 companies alongside hundreds of thought leaders and key industry audiences. Amongst them, 195 of the Fortune Global 500, 77 of the Interbrand 100, 66 of the top retailers, and attendees from 159 countries.
While not an all-digital event this time, the show will still have a digital element. The organizers hope that in-person attendance will be high, but have created a hybrid format that will enable those unable to attend to watch the press conferences and keynotes live online.
Outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). Image (modified) from Michael Gray [CC BY-SA 2.0]
In addition to making digital preparations for those unable to attend, CES is putting health and safety at the heart of the conference, with organizers actively tracking news and science around the Omicron variant. Attendees will need proof of a COVID-19 vaccination before being permitted entry and will be required to wear a mask. CES is also placing protection screens at various locations indoors and will include on-site COVID testing. There are additional provisions surrounding ventilation systems, social distancing, and hand sanitization.
As Always, Expect a Swarm of New Devices
CES has expressed confidence that its 2022 show will display a new wave of technology to influence this next year, spanning topics like intelligent automation and the evolution of the metaverse. There will no doubt be a swarm of new devices, including cutting-edge TV technology from the likes of LG, Samsung, and Sony, as well as new laptops, smartphones, wearables, and more.
The media days will take place on January 3rd and 4th, which is when the vast majority of the new product and technology announcements from the consumer electronics world will be announced.
The Agenda for the Show
As mentioned, this year’s show is a hybrid event with a physical show in Las Vegas and a digital component for those who don’t attend in person. Digital attendees will have access to live broadcasts and on-demand streams via the CES 2022 media hub, which will run in parallel with the in-person program.
The digital event will deliver access to more than 50 conference sessions and keynotes. Whether attending in person or digitally, visitors should be able to navigate with ease, access maps, and engage with exhibitors using the CES 2022 App.
Attendees can use the CES 2022 App to tailor their hybrid experience. Image used courtesy of CES
Meanwhile, the in-person show will be smaller than previous years with the 2,200 confirmed exhibitors amounting to only half the number at the last in-person CES in 2020. This drop in numbers is a result of international travel restrictions, supply chain issues, and personal preferences surrounding the risk of infection. Many exhibitors also plan to send fewer staff to the show.
How is the Omicron Variant Affecting Turnout?
Despite the best-laid plans, the surging Omicron variant has caused several major companies to pull out of in-person attendance. The first big names to pull out before Christmas were Amazon, Meta Platforms, Pinterest and Twitter. However, more have since followed suit, including Google, Microsoft, Intel, OnePlus, and AMD.
Some companies, like T-Mobile, will be significantly limiting their in-person presence. Samsung is monitoring the situation closely but is yet to make a firm decision—namely, whether it decreases its on-site presence and strengthens its online experiences. Those who have pulled out are exploring how they can participate virtually and are keen to find ways to connect with their clients and partners. Meanwhile, some companies had already planned primarily digital showcases. NVIDIA's press conference, for example, will be virtual-only.
Sample of the keynote speakers at CES this year. Image used courtesy of CES
However, in spite of the cancelations, several big names continue to push ahead with plans for the event. Sony and Qualcomm are still scheduled to attend, as are some smaller technology companies, such as virtual reality headset developer HTC Vive.
Jamie Kaplan, senior director of CES communications, stated that while there have been several exhibitor cancelations, they make up less than 10% of the total show floor. According to CES, while 42 exhibitors have so far canceled their in-person appearances at the show, 60 new exhibitors have been added in recent days. Ultimately, while safety protocols are paramount and digital experiences fundamental, in the eyes of CES, the show must go on.