My first CES: What I saw, learned and questioned

ces-logoLast week, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the first time. I work in Business Development and Innovation at the Ad Council and was excited to discover innovative companies — potential partners that are using tech to inspire positive change and improve lives.

I’ve always dreamed of going to CES, a conference my dad went to when I was growing up. Today, it’s one of the biggest conferences in the world, with over 175,000 people gathering to learn about the latest in tech and innovation. It’s a hot spot for brands and marketers to stay up to date on the latest tech and discover new ways to bring innovation to their companies.

After spending five days at the conference, I want to share what I learned, both from an innovation and practical perspective.

Tech that blew my mind

Smart fridges: Samsung had an entire section for its smart-home tech, and I was impressed by its new fridge, Family Hub 2.0. It has built-in cameras that identify the food on the shelves. You can add an expiration date, and the fridge will remind you when the food is about to go bad. I couldn’t help but think about how this tech will reduce unnecessary food waste.

There are numerous opportunities for brands to be involved here. The fridge could recognize you’re getting low on yogurt and send you a message right to your phone, which is synced to the fridge from a smart-home app. The price of Family Hub 2.0 starts at $5,799, with no specific release date yet.

samsung-refrigerator

AR glasses: I demoed the first generation of Vuzix eyeware to get a feel for hands-free mobile commuting. When you’re wearing the glasses, you can see information such as your text messages, heart rate or GPS projected in front of you like a hologram. The GPS function would have been great to have while trying to navigate the CES conference floor!

I also could pick up and move virtual objects placed in front of me like I was playing a video game. I love the idea of not needing to look down at my phone anymore, and I imagine this will help prevent distracted driving.

It’s also an incredible opportunity for retail marketers who want to drive foot traffic into their stores. Users could get an alert on their lens that a sale is going on the moment they walk by your storefront and be led right to the shirts on sale.

ar-glasses

The Beam: Suitable Technologies launched a product that will change conference calls forever. It’s an eye-level, free-standing machine with a camera and wheels to make it mobile. It allows a person who’s remote to feel like they are present and right in the room.

I had a conversation with a Suitable Technologies rep while he was in San Francisco, and we walked around the conference room together. I work remotely in San Francisco and would love to use the Beam to have face-to-face meetings and participate in any NYC staff events that I’m unable to attend.

The Beam also has the ability to share your screen, which is convenient for conference calls. It’s such a great product to have at any marketing event — if someone wants more information about your company, they can just talk to the Beam.


Wearable Breast Pump: Willow introduced a wearable breast pump this year that will completely transform mothers’ lives. No external tubes, chords or dangling bottles.

With an all-in-one design, Willow works quietly inside the bra, collects breast milk in an internal bag, and tracks the volume through an app. You can move freely and do things while you pump. This will be super-liberating for working and traveling mothers.

Playbrush: Children are not brushing their teeth properly (two minutes, twice a day) and it’s resulting in various health issues. I found the new Playbrush gadget to be a brilliant invention for children’s oral health.

A rubber piece goes on the end of your child’s toothbrush and activates a digital game (via an app) that is synced to the movement. It ensures they brush their entire mouth for two minutes at the right speeds. (I took a video of the demo here).

I couldn’t help but think about how a variation of this tech could apply to other consumer behaviors such as lifting weights properly.


The best CES party

Twitter #Afterdark at Rose. Rabbit. Lie (Cosmopolitan): This party had everything you wanted — fabulous music (DJ Skee was on the 1s and 2s); great networking (I ran into most of my colleagues, which allowed for introductions to new people. I saw people I haven’t seen in a few years and loved reconnecting!); tasty late-night munchies (chicken and waffles — need I say more?), social photo booth (it’s Twitter after all #awesome); and lots of space to move around.

What saved me

Planning ahead: The day before leaving for CES, I dedicated time to looking at the official CES schedule and cross-referenced it with all the separate popup events, panels and parties, as well as meetings we had planned. I spent almost two hours putting together a massive Excel document that listed everything I wanted to do by the hour. While it was a tedious exercise, I found it very helpful to use as a guide every day.

Booking a walking tour: Most media companies have exclusive CES walking tours scheduled for their clients. You’re hooked up to headphones and follow a tech expert around the conference center.

I had the opportunity to attend CNet’s walking tour with Publicis Media Groupe. CNet Editor in Chief Connie Guglielmo walked us through different exhibits, highlighting the most innovative tech launching in 2017.

Taking breaks: As hectic as it was to fit in my afternoon meditation, I am so happy I made the time to do it. I would find a comfy chair in the hotel lobby and shut my eyes for 20 minutes. Meditation is five times deeper than sleep and was exactly what I needed after being on my feet all day. It gave me energy to keep going.

I wish I had known

Eureka Park/Venetian Sands Conference Center is the highlight of CES: I waited until the very last day to visit Sands and wish I had spent more time there. Eureka Park is where all the up-and-coming startups showcase their big ideas, and I found it fascinating.

It’s a massive conference room with entrepreneurs in booth after booth pitching their products. It’s hard for marketers not to be inspired here. I was so impressed by the health and food tech concepts.

It’s COLD in the desert!: At one point, my weather app said 34 degrees, and that was early afternoon and sunny. I definitely didn’t dress warmly enough and wish I’d brought a better jacket.

Speaking of apparel, I saw some people wearing hats or blazers with their company logo — a smart but subtle way to expose your brand at CES. The air is also really dry, so make sure you have ChapStick handy!

It takes forever to get around: Book a hotel that’s closest to where you’re going to spend most of your time. In hindsight, I would have booked at either Aria (where most of the media talks were happening) or the Venetian (which is where the coolest tech was).

CES takes place at various locations, and while the strip is only four miles long, it can take up to 45 minutes to get from one hotel to another. The cab lines at each hotel are pretty long, and it wasn’t always easy to get an Uber.

Five days in Vegas is a long time: Even though the conference lasts five days, you don’t need to attend all five for it to be a successful trip. The average length of stay is three days, with the most important days being Thursday and Friday. By day five, I was exhausted and ready to come home.

Don’t forget

Experience Las Vegas: The city has a lot to offer, and I believe it’s healthy to give yourself some down time while on a work trip. My colleague and I decided to spend our last night watching the Cirque du Soleil performance of “KÀ.” It was one of the best performances I’ve experienced and a great way to cap off a successful work trip.

I hope this CES recap is useful for marketers interested in attending CES in the future. My Twitter handle is @lauriekeith. I’d love to connect with you there and answer any questions.