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CES kicks off in Las Vegas as COVID-19 cases surge

SNL ImageThe CES logo outside the Consumer Technology Association's Arlington, Va., headquarters.
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

CES, the annual trade show from the Consumer Technology Association, kicks off in Las Vegas this week as the U.S. faces a notable uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The new wave has been fueled by the more contagious omicron variant that emerged following the Thanksgiving holiday. Despite the pandemic, CTA executives are hopeful the show will still deliver an exciting experience for both exhibitors and attendees.

Jean Foster, CTA's senior vice president for marketing and communications, told S&P Global Market Intelligence in an interview that some 50,000 to 75,000 attendees are expected this year, a noticeably smaller number than in years past. CES in 2019, for instance, welcomed 175,212 participants, according to an attendance audit summary from CTA.

"It will be a smaller show in terms of the number of attendees and the number of exhibitors, and that's the right thing to do for this year," Foster said.

Major tech players — including Meta Platforms Inc., T-Mobile US Inc. and Microsoft Corp. — are some of the latest to pull out of in-person CES activities amid the omicron surge. While about 200 exhibitors canceled physical participation at CES, 143 participants signed up to exhibit in-person over the past two weeks, according to a Dec. 30 CTA statement.

The show will also be closing a day early, with the official closure set for Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. PT.

Remote engagement will be playing a major role this year, building on the lessons learned from the 2021 conference, which was held entirely online. A third-party digital venue site will be open to participants, where conference sessions and keynotes will be livestreamed.

As part of its combined in-person and remote coverage of the annual tech trade show, S&P Global Market Intelligence will be focusing on chips, hardware, TV providers and metaverse technologies.

Several CES sessions are devoted to metaverse tech, including augmented reality, virtual reality and 5G, Foster said. CTA executives planned to feature those technologies at CES months in advance of Facebook's rebrand to Meta, but many people will be attending "to try and understand what [the metaverse] is," she later added.

Lawmakers will also be present at the trade show to discuss the intersection of policy and tech matters. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for instance, will convene a Jan. 6 session on the automotive sector and transportation. The following day, Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., will be running an all-women panel of other senators on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The panel will discuss major tech policy priorities set to be tackled in 2022.

Government

Jan. 6 Two informal working groups for the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee — one group covering space services and the other regulatory issues — FCC will hold online meetings.
Industry, legal and think tank events
Jan. 4 The American Enterprise Institute will host a web event titled "Blockchain in the Beltway, crypto at the Capitol: A technology juggernaut and its policy implications."
Jan. 4-7 Citi will hold its AppsEconomy Conference virtually.
Jan. 5-8 CES, an annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association, will take place in Las Vegas.
Jan. 6 New America will hold an online event titled "Mapping the Capitol Attack & Its Aftermath: Tech, Extremism & Jan. 6."

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