CES 2022: annual tech trade show to open despite Covid-19 concerns

Held in Las Vegas, this year’s show will focus on the metaverse, FoodTech, the space race, drones, smart homes, self-driving vehicles, AI, cryptocurrency and NFTs

The Consumer Electronics Show 2022 – one of the biggest technology trade fairs in the world – is taking place but with fewer big companies participating in person than expected due to a surge Covid-19 cases in the US.

The three-day annual event will go live in a hybrid format, both online and in-person in Las Vegas, on Wednesday and global leaders in consumer electronics will unveil ground-breaking innovations.

This year’s focus is on pioneering technology such as the metaverse, 5G, FoodTech, space technology, drones, self-driving cars, smart homes, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

Qualcomm president and chief executive Cristiano Amon delivers a speech during a press conference at the CES Unveiled in Las Vegas on Tuesday. EPA

Although the event will officially start on Wednesday, a few presentations took place on Tuesday.

Last year, CES was held online due to pandemic-induced shutdowns and the global vaccination drive, which was still in its initial stages.

However, the pandemic brings changes to this year’s conference, such as strict health protocols and a shorter show.

The event, which was originally planned to end on Saturday, will close on Friday as an “additional safety measure to the current health protocols”, said the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs the show.

“As the world’s most influential technology event, CES is steadfast in its pledge to be the gathering place to showcase products and discuss ideas that will ultimately make our lives better,” CTA president and chief executive Gary Shapiro said.

Workers prepare a booth before the CES technology show on Tuesday in Las Vegas. AP

“We are shortening the show to three days and have put in place comprehensive health measures for the safety of all attendees and participants,” said Mr Shapiro.

In the days leading up to the event, many technology companies cancelled their in-person participation and some media outlets also dropped plans to send journalists over health concerns.

Some of the big names that bowed out of the event include Microsoft, Twitter, Alphabet, Intel, BMW, Mercedes, Waymo, T-Mobile, Amazon, General Motors, Meta and Lenovo. They have either completely withdrawn and opted for online-only participation or have reduced their physical presence.

“I am sorry we will miss seeing everyone at CES this year, but we are prioritising the safety of our team and other attendees,” T-Mobile’s chief executive Mike Sievert said on Twitter.

Alphabet-owned Waymo said that based on the rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the company had made "the difficult decision not to participate in person at CES … the safety and well-being of our team is top of mind for us”.

The US on Monday reported more than one million new Covid-19 cases, setting yet another grim global record, as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country.

On Monday, the White House's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said that the peak may be weeks away.

But since a streak of cancellations over the past few weeks, 143 new companies have signed up to exhibit in person, the CTA said.

“Over 2,200 exhibitors are confirmed to exhibit in person at CES 2022. In the last two weeks, 143 additional companies have signed up to exhibit in person.

“Construction of exhibitors’ show floor space is well under way and soon attendees will be able to see and experience the latest tech innovations,” it said.

With 11 official venues, CES spans more than 148 thousand net square metres of exhibit space. Venues are grouped into three geographical areas – Tech East, Tech West and Tech South.

The first CES was held in New York City in 1967. Since then, it has become one of the most critical events for the technology industry, attracting tens of thousands of visitors and serving as a platform to introduce important new products and innovations.

In January 2000, about 170,000 people attended in Las Vegas.

John Deere chief technology officer Jahmi Hindman delivers a speech in front of one of the latest autonomous tractors during a press conference at the CES Unveiled in Las Vegas on Tuesday. EPA

Visitors to CES must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and be prepared to show proof of vaccination status to pick up a badge to gain access to the event.

Badges can be picked up at McCarran International Airport.

CES will give visitors one complimentary Abbott BinaxNOW Covid-19 Antigen Self Test kit, provided by Abbott, when they collect their badge.

CTA has reminded visitors via its website to test for Covid-19 before departing for Las Vegas and within 24 hours of entering a CES venue.

Those that are unable to travel to Las Vegas have the possibility of joining digitally.

Digital registration will grant access to more than 40 live-streamed conference sessions, presentations, select press conferences and the ability to engage with exhibitors at CES. Registration information can be found here.

Updated: January 5th 2022, 8:09 AM