Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 | 2 a.m.
Harjinder Bhade is looking forward to the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week, despite coronavirus concerns that prompted some companies to back out.
Bhade, chief technology officer for Blink Charging, a Florida company that makes electric vehicle chargers, said CES offered unique marketing and networking opportunities.
“As our products are physical products, we feel it’s very important to demonstrate those products for our customers and potential customers,” said Bhade, whose company will have about a dozen representatives at the show.
Some big companies — AT&T, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, Panasonic, Meta and T-Mobile among them — have announced plans to cancel or scale back their live participation in CES.
The Consumer Technology Association, which organizes the show, declined to say how many companies have backed out.
“We know it will be a smaller show this year, for obvious reasons,” said Jean Foster, senior vice president at the association. The latest sign of its dwindling size was Friday’s announcement that CES would run one day shorter than originally planned.
The show will run Wednesday through Friday at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other locations around the Strip.
The sprawling exhibition floors open as the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant has heightened concerns about the safety of indoor events and travel.
The CTA by late December was anticipating between 50,000 and 75,000 attendees for this week’s conference, down from more than 170,000 who came for the last in-person gathering two years ago.
Bhade said company officials were aware of the potential health risks associated with the virus and large indoor gatherings.
“We understand that the virus — and the new variant — is out there. We’re taking all the necessary precautions. Everyone is vaccinated and will be wearing the proper masks,” he said.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for all CES participants, according to show organizers. Show attendees will have their status checked when they pick up their CES badges.
The Clear Health Pass app — the same app required for entry into Allegiant Stadium for Raiders games — will be used to collect proof of vaccination for U.S. attendees. Foreigners, who must show proof of vaccination to gain entry into the United States, must present either a digital or hard copy of their vaccine record when picking up their badges.
CES officials are recommending that attendees take a COVID-19 test prior to their departure to Las Vegas. Additionally, those attending CES will be given a complimentary COVID-19 self-test kit containing two tests when they pick up their show badges. Officials are encouraging attendees to use their first nasal swab test within 24 hours prior to entering an official show venue and to use the second one within at least 24 hours (and no more than 48 hours) between the tests.
On-site rapid molecular testing will be available for anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms while at a CES event. The CES medical team will be able to offer recommendations for attendees’ specific conditions. Anyone testing positive will be shuttled to their hotel, where the hotel’s quarantine policy will take effect.
Masks, per state requirements, will be required at all indoor CES event locations and exhibit areas.
Andrey Bolshakov, founder of autonomous truck maker Evocargo, said his company was committed to attending CES in person.
“As the main markets for us are Europe and the U.S., CES provides an important opportunity to showcase our technologies for the first time,” said Bolshakov, whose company is headquartered in the United Arab Emirates.
Tech industry analyst Carolina Milanesi has regularly attended CES for a decade to keep an eye on tech companies and trends. But health concerns led her to mull over whether she’d go this time.
She made a final decision in mid-December to attend but plans to do things differently — visiting the exhibition halls but skipping big speaking events she can watch from her hotel room.
“I haven’t decided yet on the cocktail hours,” she said. “That’s a big reason to go to CES and meet people face to face. With a glass in your hand, people get a little more comfortable discussing things.”
Bhade said he wanted potential customers to “come talk to us in person to touch and feel our products and to have that real physical experience.”
“There’s nothing like having face-to-face meetings and allowing customers to see the different angles and the feel of a product,” he said.
The last physical CES in January 2020 pumped an estimated $300 million into the Las Vegas economy. Last year’s event was held entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“CES is may be the most significant event economically of the year in terms of conventions” in Las Vegas, said Alan Feldman, a former casino executive who is a fellow at the International Gaming Institute at UNLV.
Even a significantly reduced event will be “something to look forward to” for local hotels, restaurants, casinos, retailers and entertainment crews, Feldman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.