CES properly got underway on Tuesday with 4,500 companies demoing their products and services to the 175,000+ attendees. I started the day based at the UK Pavilion where 20 UK start-ups are exhibiting thanks to the Trade Access Programme. The UK delegation is supported by strong DIT support and branding with the Minister Graham Stuart MP also in attendance.
Building on yesterday’s automotive-laden announcements, I headed to North Hall where many of them are housed. The scale of automotive’s presence at CES is something that has long been commented on but needs to be experienced to be appreciated. And I’m not just talking about cars… there’s drones as well… and given the Vegas traffic, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these services operating sooner rather than later!
In the policy and innovation track, there were a series of panel debates from Commissioners from both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Whilst it was strange to see regulators openly discuss and debate issues from a political viewpoint (not without its merit), the issues were familiar.
With the FTC focused on competition and privacy issues, there was no surprise to see the Commissioners diverge in views on whether and how any challenges thrown up by ‘big tech’ should be addressed. However, there was far greater agreement on the need for a federal privacy law with the view that it would ensure interoperability between states, give companies greater certainty and provide assurance on international data flows.
During the FCC session there was a sense of déjà vu as spectrum, barrier busting of planning issues and the skills needed to deploy fibre and 5G infrastructure were major topics. The major difference to the UK debate was that technology neutrality, rather than a focus on Full Fibre and 5G as we have in the UK. This seems to stem from the practicalities of deploying fibre in highly rural areas and a more optimistic consideration of what 5G and future satellite services can deliver.
Throughout the keynotes on Tuesday, there was also a theme of business purpose and identifying areas where tech can help aid inclusion and boost creativity. Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association announced a new Global Tech Challenge with WorldBank focused on addressing health services, climate change and the digital gender divide and discussed the Future of Work with Ivanka Trump. In one of the final keynotes of the day, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, and newly appointed Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, explored how purpose can help create better businesses. Benioff outlined the importance of sticking to the business principles unwaveringly to ensure your customers and your employees know exactly what you stand for.
The day wrapped up with an evening reception hosted by the Minister where the energy and enthusiasm around UK tech could really be felt. I’m sure there is a lot more of this to come in the next few days.