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CES succumbs to Covid-19

The world’s biggest technology expo by floor space has given up plans for a physical event, and will go all-digital in January



A showcase of the Impossible Foods launch from CES 2020. (Picture: Impossible Foods)

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) this week announced that it had given up plans to stage CES 2021, due to run from 6 to 9 January 2021, as a combination of physical and virtual exhibitions and activities.

Instead, it “will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world”.

“Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA. “Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic – and that innovation will also help us reimagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way. By shifting to an all-digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors connect with existing and new audiences.”

As a result, CES 2021 will be a new immersive experience, where “attendees will have a front row seat to discover and see the latest technology” in a “highly personalised experience”.

CES has been a global stage for innovation for more than 50 years and serves as a proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators.

According to the CTA, “This is where the world’s biggest brands do business and meet new partners, and the sharpest innovators hit the stage.”

The CTA says its goal for CES 2021 is “to provide an engaging platform for companies large and small to launch products, build brands and form partnerships, while prioritising health and safety”.

“We plan to return to Las Vegas for CES 2022, combining the best elements of a physical and digital show,” the CTA insisted in its statement.

Almost every major tech event of 2020, beginning with the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in February, has seen its physical version cancelled. MWC was called of just days before the event, leading many planned launches being moved to separate virtual events. Most subsequent conferences and expos have been fully converted into online events.

One of the few that is still on the cards, IFA 2020 in Berlin, is planned as a scaled-down version of the usual event. The largest technology event in the world by visitor numbers, it usually attracts around a quarter-million people. This year, instead of expo halls, it will host a series of launches from stages in front of limited audiences.

IFA’s new plans were announced in the wake of the German government announcing in May that business conferences and expos could resume. However, it will be an invite-only event that will put strict limits on the number of attendees.