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Exclusive Interview with Gary Shapiro – President & CEO, CEA

He may be the author of New York Times best-selling books Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream, but everyone in the tech world know him as the guy behind CES. Yes, we’re talking about Gary Shapiro, the President & CEO of CEA, who spoke to us during CES 2015. What did he make of the event, of the products and the future? How important are tech startups? Read on to find out.\n\n1.    How was International CES 2015 overall, and what are your expectations from 2016?\n\nThe 2015 CES vastly exceeded our expectations. We set records in exhibit space, number of attendees and number of exhibitors.The show inspired and provided nearly every attendee a sense that innovation will provide solutions to a range of global issues from the environment and agriculture to transportation, health and safety. CES is the center of convergence among content, services and products, combining to create amazing new technologies to improve our lives and entertain us. It was incredible to see thought leaders from many diverse communities come together for cross industry collaboration.\n\nYes, planning for the 2016 CES is already underway. We survey our attendees, review their input and use this feedback to produce the most amazing event possible. Our goal is to showcase the top trends, bring the key professionals together and work to ensure that the 2016 CES is the largest, global hands-on showcase of emerging innovation.\n\n \n\n2.    Anything new that was done differently in 2015, from CEA’s point of view, to ease the international visitors and exhibitors flow?\n\nThe 2015 CES showcased more than 20 different product categories. It’s a priority for us to ensure that our attendees from an array of industries can be where they need to be. This year we debuted three venues, Tech East, Tech West and C Space. We had a strategy to make transportation among the venues as seamless as possible and I’m pleased to report that our strategy worked.\n\nThe end result is that, while attendance reached record highs, the new show venues enabled attendees to easily find specific areas of innovation while seeing the relationship among diverse technologies, providing an optimal CES experience across our three venues.\n\nAs for our international attendance, we set a record there as well. We work hard to ensure that our international guests feel welcome and offer a range of services for them, including an international reception,  a business center with meeting rooms and visa assistance.\n\n \n\n3.    Is the area to showcase and highlight products the same, or has it increased?\n\nThe 2015 International CES featured more than 2.2 million net square feet of space, the equipvalent of 41 World Cup soccer fields. This was a new record over the 2.06 million net square feet of space at the 2014 CES. As mentioned previously, 20 product categories could be seen at our three show venues.\n\nCES Tech East, in the LVCC, Westgate and Renaissance, was home to audio, video and wireless, to all things i, gaming, digital imaging and more. CES Tech West, in the Sands, Venetian, Wynn/Encore, featured emerging technologies, including lifestyle tech, digital fitness and health tech, the Internet of Things, sensors, wearables and a record 375 startups in Eureka Park. C Space at ARIA was our new headquarters for marketing, advertising, content and creative communities at the 2015 CES. This area featured  tailored conference programming, custom exhibits, exclusive receptions, after-hour events and networking opportunities.\n\n \n\n4.    First it was the battle against SOPA/PIPA and now it’s Net Neutrality. What’s going to be the defining moment for the Internet in this battle, according to you?\n\nIt’s difficult to pinpoint one defining moment that marks the open Internet debate.  Rather, we need to explore this issue further and come up with solutions that balance the desire for open access with the need to foster continued innovation and competition. Regulatory overreach is the enemy of innovation.\n5.    What do you personally think is the role of CES in the midst of this battle and how assuring is it for the people to get an up-close look at so much tech at CES every year?\n\nThe International CES plays a key role in bringing top leaders in technology and related industries together to see a bright future of how innovation is providing solutions to a range of global issues. CES does a particularly good job of enabling attendees to create relationships, do business and experience the entire technology ecosystem so they can see the relationship among diverse technologies. One of the hottest topics at the 2015 CES was the so-called Internet of Things. Almost every device shown on the exhibit floor had multiple sensors, was digital and connected to the Internet and other devices. As more and more devices incorporate low-cost sensors and connectivity they become capable of monitoring, reporting on and reacting to the environment around them, providing steady streams of data leading to new services and giving us more control over our lives. The International CES is also a great forum for public policy discussions and we have a robust conference program that features 250 conference sessions and 750 speakers.\n\n \n\n6.    The ‘Internet of Things’ has been a big buzzword for some time, how much has that has flown into CES? \n\nThe Internet of Things (IoT) is making it possible to connect anything and everything to the Internet. It’s less a product category and more of an enabling technology that is everywhere at CES from our Smart Home Marketplace to our Sensors Marketplace and more. Manufacturers can now very easily get devices of all types connected to the network with the power to bridge the divide between devices that exist in different contexts using smart devices as the primary bridge. The IoT brings a truly personalized healthcare experience, accessible from the palm of your hand and convenience of home. At home, refrigerators will tell you when you’re out of milk, closets will help you select your clothes based on the weather, collars will monitor the whereabouts of your pet and send alerts to your smartdevice, and much, much more. The cross-context usage scenarios are endless and device manufacturers will explore them all until they find the ones consumers will latch on to. We estimate that we had more than 900 IoT exhibitors at the 2015 CES with big names like Bosch, Lowe’s, Konnect Labs, iDevices, Muzley and Blinksight to just name a few.\n\n \n\n7.    Do you think different Governments around the world with different policies for technology will play spoil-sport in hindering innovation in this industry? \n\nGovernments must choose whether they encourage innovation or protect old industries. I would, of course, encourage any government to promote economic growth through innovation. Startup companies, for example, are the ultimate job creators who start with brilliant ideas, take risks and can ultimately create value for the consumer. Countries that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation will succeed. It’s crucial that governments everywhere pursue national policies that promote innovation. Ultimately that decision is up to each government – Do they want to live in and protect the past, or boldly go into the future?\n\n \n\n8.    Talking of innovation, how do you personally identify a ‘ninja innovator’ and who has been your favourite over the past few years?\n\nA ninja innovator is someone who can adapt quickly, change strategies when necessary, think outside the box, create something different and outwit the established competition. Ninja innovators are those who challenge the status quo and create something new against the odds. I admire Jeff Bezos, Michael Iger, and the present and recent leaders of Ford and Intel.\n\n \n\n9.    Do you see any such innovators coming out of the Startups, this year? Also, why are startups so important to a huge exhibition committee like the CEA? \n\nThe innovation we see coming out of our Eureka Park Marketplace for startups is always inspiring and this year we saw lots in the way of creative uses of sensors and other forms of input (motion sensing for example), alternative power sources (and charging solutions), we also saw some hyper-sensitive uses of virtual reality technology. This home for startups underscores that CES is the ultimate proving ground for innovators of all shapes and sizes.  Eureka Park provides a stage for new companies to market their innovation to venture capitalists, media and buyers. I don’t have stats yet for the 2015 show, but last year our Eureka Park exhibitors were funded at a value of $95.35 million.\n\n \n\n10.    Eureka Park is increasing in size with more  start ups coming in. Its becoming a major attraction for media & visitors, do we see more international startups coming in given the logistics & cost implications.\n\nWe saw so much in the way of innovation at the year’s Eureka Park Marketplace, which spanned 50 percent more space than last year. Ultimately we had more than 375 startup companies participate this year, up from 220 last year and the international component was incredible. We had nearly 30 countries represented in our Eureka Park Marketplace with France, Israel, Canada and the UK leading the way in terms of international representation.\n\n \n\n11.    Your idea of the imminent future what type of tech you think will become a part of our lives that we haven’t yet fully realized?\n\nSensors and wearable devices used in all sorts of creative ways is where our future is headed. The explosion of growth in these two areas speaks volumes for the years ahead. I also think it’s not going to be too long before autonomous driving becomes a real and valuable addition to our daily lives.\n\n \n\n12.    Wearable Tech: Fizzling Out or Here to Rule?\n\nWearable technology is certainly on the rise, and we saw all facets of this category across the 2015 CES show floor from smart clothing to the latest fitness trackers, wrist and eyewear, connected jewelry, and even wearable tech for pets. According to CEA industry forecasts, the wearable technology category is now entering its third generation of design revisions and major players are ready to wade into the category and make major waves. Sales of wearables are expected to reach more than $400 million in 2015. The Wearables Marketplace at the 2015 CES was home to a dozen exhibitors showcasing the collaborations between sensors, low energy Bluetooth, cloud computing and more. We also saw innovations in wearables at the Smart Watch Marketplace, a showcase of the most state-of-the-art wrist-wear transformed into a GPS, music player, health monitor and more. This area more than doubled in size from the footprint at last year’s show covering nearly 2,000 net square feet (nsf) of exhibit space, up from 900 nsf at the 2014 CES. CEA’s U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecast predicts that wholesale projections will grow from 600,000 units and $95 million in revenue for 2013 to 960,000 units and $177 million in revenue for 2014.\n\n \n\n13.    So many Chinese smartphone makers are making themselves heard globally. Which company are you keeping an eye on and why?\n\nThe biggest Chinese cell phone makers operating in the U.S. right now are Huawei and ZTE, both of whom exhibited at the 2015 CES and both of whom are making inroads with US carriers, mostly Tier 2 carriers like Cricket and Metro PCS. Xiaomi is a huge brand in China that has been promising to start marketing in the US but hasn’t released any US hardware. They are the 800 pound gorilla right now. Another Chinese brand is TCL, selling phones under the Alcatel brand name. These companies are producing very capable handsets, but due to name recognition are having some difficulty really breaking through. The devices are usually very sensibly priced and feature-packed. These manufacturers are also willing to try different things. Huawei introduced a phone last year that had a big enough battery to charge other devices. ZTE released a tiny pico projector that was really impressive this year at CES.\n\n \n\n14.    With CeBIT finally arriving in India, do you see a chance that CES can follow suit and also have an Indian segment of the show?\n\nWe are focused now on CES Asia, a new event which serves as the premier event for the consumer technology industry, showcasing the full breadth and depth of innovation in the Asian marketplace. The inaugural CES Asia will take place May 25-27 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center (SNIEC).Key global businesses are participating in this new event to grow and reinforce their brands by showcasing the latest products and technologies to consumer technology industry executives, international buyers, media and a limited number of consumers from China. CES Asia will also feature companies currently doing business in China who want to expand and enhance their business presence in China and across Asia. We encourage Indian companies and business leaders to participate in this inaugural event.\n\n \n\n15.    What has been your favourite app of 2014 and an app that you’d like to see made?\n\nMy favorite app I use must be Uber. I would like to see an app that is more predictive and focuses on my patterns and habits.\n\n \n\n16.    Finally: the one gadget you cannot live without and one that you’d like to invent?\n\nI can’t live without GPS as I get lost often without it. I would like to invent a personal hovercraft.\n\n \n\nALSO READ: Our article on everything worth knowing during CES 2015\n\nCES 2015: Robots and drones hit mainstream\n\nSUHD TVs Take CES 2015 by Storm\n\n9 Weird & Wacky Gadgets from CES 2015\n\n \n\n 





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