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Big tech shows return

Yesterday’s announcement that CES will return to Las Vegas follows news of in-person events for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and IFA in Berlin, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) decision that CES 2022 will take place as a hybrid event in Las Vegas from 5 to 8 January next year is the cherry on top of the cake for the world’s major technology shows.

It follows the news on 7 April that GSMA, the Mobile World Congress organisers, and the Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Spain, will allow all MWC21 exhibitors, attendees, sponsors, and partners to enter Spain to attend the in-person event from 28 June to 1 July. A week later, IFA Berlin announced that it would take place as a “full-scale, real-life event” from 3 to 7 September this year.

MWC was the first of the big events to be cancelled, at the end of February 2020, as the emerging Covid-19 pandemic saw one major exhibitor after another withdrawing in the two weeks leading up to the event. That led to a domino effect as every in-person event for the rest of the year went virtual, culminating in CES 2021 becoming one of the largest virtual tech expos yet. That has spurred the industry to embrace virtual as a key element of physical events.

“Following a successful all-digital CES 2021, CTA will convene the tech industry in-person and digitally, giving a global audience access to major brands and startups, as well as the world’s most-influential leaders and industry advocates,” the CTA said this week.

It confirmed that around a thousand companies had already committed to showcasing their new technologies in Las Vegas, while others are continuing to sign up. It said attendees can expect to see global brands including Amazon, AMD, AT&T, Daimler AG, Dell, Google, Hyundai, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Sony. 

The most positive news for the event is that it is likely to host numerous newcomers. The likes of Caterpillar, Indy Autonomous Challenge and Sierra Space are planning to make a Las Vegas debut in 2022, as consumer technology becomes central to all industry sectors. The Eureka Park startup zone will return, with startups representing countries around the world, including large delegations from France, Italy, the Netherlands and South Korea.

“Hundreds of executives have told us how much they need CES to meet new and existing customers, find partners, reach media and discover innovation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA.

Digital audiences will experience the spirit of the live event in Las Vegas in a refined version of the 2020 virtual event. A CES anchor desk, which debuted at CES 2021, will travel to Las Vegas and connect the digital audience with exhibitors, conference sessions, keynotes and product announcements from the live event. A sign of the evolution of the expo concept is that new content will also be added once CES departs Las Vegas, enabling attendees and exhibitors to continue connecting and exploring.

“Our customers are enthusiastic about returning to a live event in Las Vegas,” said Karen Chupka, EVP, CES, CTA. “Global brands and startups have shared that plans are already well underway and are committed to sharing the magic of an in-person CES with even more people from around the world.”

Health regulations will play a critical role in the success of these events. CTA says it will review guidelines for coronavirus safety measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to state and local guidelines. It will follow applicable federal, state and local laws, adapting CES plans accordingly and sharing updates with its audiences.

GSMA has made similar statements, developing a health and safety plan, called Committed Community, for MWC21 Barcelona.

“Developed in coordination with and approved by Catalan health authorities, the plan relies on several partners with specialised expertise,” said the GSMA. “The GSMA and Fira de Barcelona are delighted to share that Quirónprevención is the official medical services provider for MWC Barcelona 2021. The internationally trusted company is headquartered in Barcelona. It will work with the GSMA, Fira de Barcelona, and all MWC21 stakeholders to ensure everyone’s health and safety involved for MWC21. Quirónprevención will staff the onsite medical testing facilities and coordinate with Catalan health authorities.”

While there is a current denial of entry to Spain for any national from a country outside the EU, exceptions apply to specific groups of people, including “highly qualified workers”. The Spanish government now includes MWC21 Barcelona registrants in this category.

“The health and safety of everyone involved in MWC Barcelona, both in Spain and beyond, continues to be our utmost priority as we navigate rapidly shifting circumstances,” said GSMA CEO John Hoffman. “This decision is a resounding vote of confidence in the careful planning undertaken to date, and our strong partnership with the Host City Parties. We will continue to work closely with our partners to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Like CES, MWC21 Barcelona will be a hybrid event for the first time. It will offer pass holders access to virtual exhibitions and networking with global decision-makers via video, before, during and after the show. Keynote speeches, conference sessions, partner programmes and summits will be live-streamed and available on-demand. A portal will also enable attendees to interact directly with each other as well as with exhibitors in real-time.

IFA, too, is heavily focused on safety. Organisers say they are in constant contact with public health authorities as they develop concepts that will ensure the safety of visitors and exhibitors.

“The global vaccination effort is gaining huge momentum, while tough lockdowns are finally beginning to pay off – which gives us confidence that we can invite the world to come to Berlin in September for IFA 2021,” says Jens Heithecker, IFA executive director and executive vice president of Messe Berlin, the expo venue. “Of course, with all our precautions to ensure everybody’s good health, we don’t expect IFA Berlin 2021 to set new records.”

Last year saw a deliberately small-scale “special edition” of IFA Berlin, with invitation-only real-life presentations and meetings accessible to all via a virtual exhibition and event space. The organisers say they are now seeing huge interest from brands, manufacturers and retailers across all industry sectors, “who want to come to Berlin and see products and innovation in action once again”. As a result, some exhibition segments are seeing unprecedented levels of interest and are already more than 80% reserved.

“IFA Berlin is the world’s most inspiring tech event, and completely unique in its depth and breadth of showcasing the global technology industry – from start-ups to the biggest consumer electronics brands in the world,” says Martin Ecknig, CEO of Messe Berlin. “The message we hear from our industry is loud and clear: ‘Tech is Back in Berlin’ and ready to meet with retailers, media and consumers – safely, but in real life.”

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