CES chief: Chip shortage, not COVID, keeping exhibitors away

Local News

LAS VEGAS (AP) – It’s one of the world’s biggest technology events of the year, CES gadget show is set to return in-person to Las Vegas this January, after a purely digital affair last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But – as with most things – all won’t be as it was before.

Organizers, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), announced in July, only fully vaccinated attendees would be granted access to the four-day bash that’s set to open on January 5th.

Following Nevada state rules, face masks must also be worn at all exhibit booths and indoor exhibit facilities.

But, speaking less than a month before the show, CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro says it’s the global chip shortage, rather than the coronavirus pandemic, that’s keeping more exhibitors away.

“It’s, I think, probably produced more cancellations of exhibitors than anything having to do with COVID(-19) at this point,” he says.

“We’ve heard from exhibitors that are not participating because they just can’t get their product, they can’t get their prototypes together, things like that.”

Demand for semiconductors in everything from game consoles to tablets to webcams has exceeded the ability of chip makers to quickly increase production capacity. The entire auto industry has been impacted.

“There is, based on research we’ve done in the industry, a sense that it’s not going to be solved quickly,” says Shapiro.

“I think people were more optimistic six months ago, when we did our first set of research, than they were six months later. So, it’s an overhang for the industry.”

Despite that, over 2,100 companies are expected to be exhibiting in-person in Las Vegas, including industry giants Amazon, IBM, LG Electronics, Meta, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and more.

In the face of rising new infection rates in many parts of the world and concerns surrounding the new omicron coronavirus variant, the CTA recently announced they would be offering complimentary COVID-19 rapid test kits to all attendees.

“When they get their show registration credentials, they’ll be given the opportunity for free tests and throughout the show, they’ll be able to take them,” says Shapiro.

“So, it’s something that’s just one more layer added on, so people feel comfortable and safe. But when you’re on the show premises themselves, I think people will feel pretty comfortable.”

The automotive sector looks set to be a top trend at the show, with over 200 exhibitors expected to attend, a 30 percent increase on the last in-person show in 2020.

There will also be new categories, including food tech, space tech and NFTs.

“We also have new categories that we have never had before, like food technology, space technology, NFTs, it’s a really wonderful time. And there’s so many parts of the show,” says Shapiro.

“The health technology portion is another portion that’s totally huge because there’s been such a focus on health technology and innovation for the last two years, and here’s a chance to display it. And so, that’s really, really exciting.”

The event’s switch to a digital-only setting last January was a blow for Las Vegas which, like many other U.S. tourist destinations, suffered as people stayed home or vacationed locally.

About 170,000 people attended 2020’s gathering. Shapiro says January’s event “will be much, much lower”.

“The biggest hit we’re seeing from all the COVID is for people that are not vaccinated. And we felt we addressed that problem in July when we made our decision. So, those that are not vaccinated are not coming,” he says.

“We feel very good about providing a pretty safe environment on the show premises.”

The four-day CES gadget show is set to open on January 5th, after two media days on January 3rd and 4th.

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