The biggest trade show in Las Vegas is the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Since 1978 CES has been a January staple in Las Vegas. I have attended CES from time to time since 1992.

Walking the show floor at CES or any other trade show exposes you to a wealth of market and technical information in a very short period of time. It also allows you to meet business acquaintances without the hassles of scheduling or long meeting time commitments. As an IP attorney, I enjoy learning about new technologies and seeing market trends. I also look for evidence of infringement of my clients’ IP rights, and try to think about how to position my clients’ IP rights to maximize their value. Over the years I have helped clients with competitive intelligence garnered from friendly salespeople. One “no-no” – pitching to the people working a booth. People working a booth are there to sell, and it is bad form to distract them from that and to make them a captive audience to your pitch.

What’s Hot

  • Accessories for smartphones and tablets, especially cases, but also ear buds, head phones and portable speakers. Bluetooth has taken hold in this segment, and seems to be the technology of choice for short range communications.
  • Smart and connected devices, especially in the health and fitness market. I think the “quantified self” enabled by many of these products foreshadows more integrated solutions that not only gather and analyze data, but dynamically change the world around you to enhance your health and reduce dependence on human service providers. I expected to see athletic goods companies like Nike and Reebok at CES, but I was surprised to see mattress companies like Sealy. This shows how electronics have become important even in ordinary consumer goods. Maybe next year we will see clothing companies, too.
  • Telematics – mostly in the form of automotive electronics from big auto companies, but also plenty of products from independent vendors. This was big last year and continued again in 2014. On the other hand, though car audio remains big, it has shrunk a lot.
  • 3D printers, but until somebody finds a killer app for 3D printers (how about custom shaped and colored eyeglasses that accept a standard lens?) the market will remain a niche.
  • China – massive booths from a handful of big Chinese companies, and hordes of small booths from smaller ones.
  • Mobile video, in the form of GoPro type cameras and telepresence devices, which are basically a flat panel display mounted on a Segway-type base. Both seem like niches, but apparently quite lucrative for now.

What’s Not

  • Touting design. In years past, vendors would brag about having great design, like Apple. Now pretty much everyone has good design, and it is expected.
  • Schwag. In the past, you needed an extra suit case to carry all the free t-shirts and other giveaways. In the past, products were judged on technical merit, so schwag introduced some emotion. Now that most products have good design, vendors don’t need schwag for an emotional tug.
  • TVs and flat panels have pretty much compacted into a handful of very big companies, most of whom were bragging about their (yawn) curved and 4k displays. The manufacturers make a ton of money on these products and can afford big trade show displays, but I doubt there will be demand for curved or 4k displays on the same scale of really big displays. 3D displays got very little attention.
  • Personal computer, and accessories and accessories for PCs. The PC business remains strong, but it seems to be heading into a niche, along with printers and personal storage. Microsoft, an old stalwart, is no longer there. Nor was HP. Dell, IBM and Lenovo had meeting rooms but no exhibit space.
  • Home theater and hifi.
  • Solar. CES isn’t the right show for roof-mounted panels, but I was surprised by the absence of solar powered products as in the past.

Some of SoCal IP’s clients exhibiting or having meeting space at CES:

  1. Oculus VR – the Oculus Rift VR goggles are incredible, and I was jazzed to see them prominent in Intel’s massive exhibit area.
  2. Panasonic – one of the biggest exhibit spaces, with incredibly clear, crisp and fast flat panel displays
  3. Epson America – Epson’s Moverio AR glasses are also impressive, and have some very cool uses in medicine and manufacturing.
  4. Logicube – showing their industry leading forensic disk copying systems.
  5. Blue Microphones – Blue Mic is working on a new headphone, and their booth was a teaser
  6. DTS – leveraging its strength in audio codes, DTS was demoing its Headphone X technology to dozens of people at once. With ordinary stereo headphones, Headphone X gives 11 channel surround sound. Super cool.
  7. Interlink Electronics – the leader in force sensors6
  8. iTrax – hi def audio
  9. Performance Designed Products – gaming peripherals