Where people actually pay to be tortured
Last year more than 176,000 visitors came to Las Vegas (population 600,000) to stand in line waiting for taxis, food, and a chance to peek at gadgets of all sizes, shapes, colors, and prices. In addition to those 176,000, more than 10,000 taxis were brought in; hotel, restaurant, and shops increased their staff by 50% or more to deal with the surge; power and water consumption doubled; and pollution got so high it’s difficult to measure. All so salespeople can meet with their bosses and customers. During the week, 7,000 press swoop into the overstuffed, and usually chilly, desert town at this time of year. CES gets mentioned 780,000 times on the web, in newspapers and magazines, and on TV.
This year, the promoters of CES said they have been taking steps to tighten entry requirements for the professionals-only event, projecting turnout of a more-manageable 150,000 to 170,000. We don’t even know what that means. How much more manageable is 170,000 than 176,000?
And to add to the fun, and in reaction to Paris and elsewhere, new procedures have been set up, including bag checks, body screening, and increased security personnel—increased personnel, great.
The new rules for CES include: no luggage can be brought into exhibit and conference areas, and no rolling bags of any size (they used to be given out in the press room), this includes luggage, carry-ons, laptop, and computer bags and rolling luggage carts. Bags will be searched—bags and backpacks with many pockets are not helpful. Pockets slow search times, said the officials. Everyone will be subject to metal detector screening and body pat-downs—all 170,000 plus the service people who sell the coffee and hot dogs. All attendees must have an official CES badge and government-issued photo ID before being allowed to enter CES; let’s hope you don’t drop or lose it.
And that’s just getting into the show, and then you have to go home. I remember one year when security was tightened at the airport. The line went all around the airport and doubled back, and then out into the parking lot. It took more than two hours to get to the plane. Flights were missed.
When you arrive, you also stand in a long wraparound line queuing up for a taxi. The average time can be a half hour to an hour—bring someone to talk to.
And then there are the lines for taxis and busses when you leave the show and hope to find a restaurant that will let you in.
The conference occupies 2.4 million square feet, about 24 hectares, and was filled last year by 3,600 exhibitors. It’s a magnet; established companies and startups will climb over their dead mothers to get a stand at CES and a shot to meet some of the 170,00. More than 500 startups are expected to take part at this year’s show, up from 375 in 2015—and these are companies that are worried about making payroll.
I haven’t been to CES for two years, and I hope to never ever have to go again. But then I’m not selling an IoT device, or a 900-inch curved 4K TV, either, so why would I go? To see stuff I can read about on 144 web pages, or see videos of, while sitting in my underwear drinking a latte’? Doesn’t make much sense to me. Why pay airlines, hotels, and restaurants to torture me?