Sex for Sale in Las Vegas and The Consumer Electronics Show

By Terence Ronson - Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor

27 January 2012

During a two-week period in the middle of January, Las Vegas - sets aside its otherwise upstanding morals to the selling of porn. And, what's more - it's completely legal!

Hundreds of thousands of people descended upon this desert oasis, which has more than a bit of a reputation for being a party town, and perhaps none more so than at this time. This high profile period also attracted thousands of the world's Press who waited patiently in breathless anticipation to unravel what's new and hopefully captures the money shot.

And in case I have confused you with my introduction and the blog's title, I was referring to two events that ran back to back this month in Las Vegas – the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Adult Entertainment Convention (ADULTCON). What is hot and what is not depends on your perspective. Both events attracted massive crowds but my attention was transfixed on the former.

There were lots on offer @CES, and I have to tell you, that as much as I enjoy eating candy, there is only just so much you can take! Some of the CES attendees I met post-event claimed to be suffering from 'SOS' - Sensor Overload Syndrome, and with this being my first CES, I was pretty blown away by the excessive consumerism.

Parts of my body were thankful that the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) ended after four days (you can also see this from some of my photos of people resting in massage chairs) - and perhaps not a moment too soon - for me. Although the show ran through this time frame, officially four days long (TUE-FRI), it felt a lot longer. There were numerous early morning and late night activities surrounding it and wanting to make the most of it, to see, absorb and experience everything. Actually, the event spanned six days for me, as I attended some pre-show events. Quite honestly, I now feel like a used AA battery - drained of all energy.

Often positioned as the world's largest tradeshow, Las Vegas would definitely experience more than a blip on their revenue radar should they ever lose it. The sheer scale of this behemoth is such that it literally envelops everything, with huge revenues to all manner of establishments. One such beneficiary are those involved in the people moving business. Everything from stretched limos to the monorail, to buses and taxis were working flat out with all leave and sick days apparently being cancelled. I was chuffed that on one of the occasions I ordered a car to transport me from my place of lodging to an event, a stretched Hummer turned up. And when I got out at my destination - the venue for an HTNG Board Meeting, people standing outside of the off-strip Platinum Hotel, seemed intrigued who I was. It was a great Kodak moment for me. On the flip side, I was also pleased that on the penultimate evening of the show, I was not one of the estimated 500 people waiting for a cab at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

The importance of the Chinese customer in Las Vegas - Lunar New Year decorations to welcome in the Year of the Dragon

The sheer volume of human traffic must have generated some additional heat. Even though this is wintertime in Vegas, the area immediately around the Convention Center seemed to be a couple of degrees warmer than the rest of the town when aggregating all the hundreds of thousands of sweaty bodies. Of course the amount of BS and hot air originating from the mouths of some of the attendees may have also been a contributing factor to this local phenomenon.

Here are some interesting facts about CES:

  • The Show is in its 44th year
  • There were 3,100 exhibitors showing over 20,000 new products
  • The show covered 1.861 million square feet of exhibit space and used three primary venues: The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), Venetian Hotel and Las Vegas Hotel (formerly The Las Vegas Hilton). Other locations were enrolled as hospitality suites and for Press Events - such as Showstopper at The Wynn, and Keynotes at the Venetian.
  • More than 153,000 Attendees showed up, of which over 34,000 (22%) were International, and 17,000 Press.

Normally one has to pay big bucks to attend CES, but I was fortunate to be accredited with Industry Analyst status classifying me as Press, and granted an all areas access pass. This was extremely helpful since it permitted me preferential queuing for Keynotes like Steve Ballmer's where I was number 9 in line, even though this meant I had to arrive three hours early and then wait to get in. Coincidentally it's worth noting that up until a few months ago the two most powerful people in the Computer industry were both called Steve. Now there's just one - but I'm very sure the memory of the other lived on in spirit...

One of the many interesting experiences I had @CES was actually queuing up for the Ballmer Keynote and seeing people sitting on the floor and working around me. Some grabbed the opportunity to rest, while others networked as a passing magician entertained them, or someone volunteered to clean and polish your smartphone. To avoid line cutting, control was tight, but if you needed a bathroom break, a smartly dressed individual - usually in a Morning Suit would stand in your space until you got back from doing your business. From time to time, folks also passed by and gave away some premiums like a ballpoint pen, logo stickers, hand sanitizer and breath mints, but alas, no energy drinks, water or snacks. I guess they need a little more Hospitality Service training...

Ballmer's Keynote (the last one for a while as Microsoft also takes a break from CES) is available online: Here you can witness his excitement over many things to include the Windows Phone, Windows 8 and what are now termed: Metro apps.

Another interesting Keynote I attended was that of Paul Jacobs - Chairman of the Board and CEO of Qualcomm - who appear to power the mobile Internet. Honestly, it's quite astounding when you are a big company and have almost unlimited marketing funds for the type of show you can put on. You have the chance to utilize stupendous graphics, and have guest appearances by A-listers such as Ryan Seacrest the MC for Ballmer, and Stephen Elop CEO of Nokia plus Kermit from Sesame Street for Qualcomm. We were even treated to a musical rendition of Trending Tweets by The Tweet Choir. All manner of peeps are on-hand to lend support to your cause. It's akin to attending a rock concert with a dash of the Shopping Channel thrown in. Qualcomm's keynote can be watched here

Traipsing the aisles as I did for four straight days, and gratefully losing a couple of Kg in the process - I was both surprised and upset that some companies did not like you to take pictures of their booths or products - after all, why are they there if not to show off and promote their wares?

One such company that P-d me off, was selling ear buds fashioned as jewelry items. The man in charge was quite offensive until I told him I needed the pics as part of my show review. He insisted on getting my name card (I gladly gave him one) so he could receive a copy - so here you are 'my friend' - and I hope you like what I have to say. "You have a cute and innovative product, but I'm sorry to say - your attitude leaves a lot to be desired!" Actually, I partly blame the CES organizers for not correctly briefing booth holders what the different color badges represent, and the design of them. Regardless of whether I could or could not, I shot over 600 photos some of which I'm sharing with you here in this BLOG and have been regularly posting onto Facebook.

As for the badges, pure Press had red color holders, and Industry Analysts (like me) had grey ones - others had less costly clear plastic ones. But another issue was that our badge holders were embossed with the BestBuy logo, so some of the booth holders mistakenly thought we were actually from BestBuy - and you can imagine their sheer delight at the sight of us walking onto their booth, only to have the smile quickly wiped off their faces when told we were not - at least I did. Some others with fewer scruples may have led them on so as to get free swag.... Anyway, perhaps for the 45th CES, the organizers can do a better job at briefing the exhibitors. After all, these things take time to filter through...

Talking about ear buds - headphones of all shapes and sizes were everywhere! But I noticed a lot of men sporting oversized earrings - practically the size of M&M chocolates, some even shiny in texture almost like cufflinks for the ears. I wonder why the ear bud and speaker manufacturers haven't colluded into morphing these into mini loudspeakers and maybe using Bluetooth to beam sound to them - these people could become a whole new generation called "Boomears"...

Foodservice was far from great @CES - and not surprisingly there were long lines selling overpriced junk food like hot dogs, pizza and burgers. Trying to be smart and sensible, I circumvented this and followed the philosophy of BYO and did so with healthy snacks and a water bottle with built-in filter. Maybe next CES along with some buddies we should open a noodle or dim sum stand catering to the numerous Asian participants many of whom I saw typically eating instant noodles. Could be a chance to get rich quick...

As I'm sure you've read in other articles, Apple (the tech industry's superpower) was conspicuous by its absence, but essentially had one of the largest virtual presences because their hardware is everywhere, and companies are designing products and services around their IOS ecosystem and product line.

For example, in the North Hall of LVCC, I estimate that 50% of those companies would not have been there if the iPhone or iPad had not been invented. Although I'm told that in previous years this space catered to such devices as the Palm Pilot and perhaps to a lesser extent, the Blackberry - which incidentally did have a large booth at the show - but sadly no one was on-hand to help fix my crapped out Blackberry BOLD which left me with withdrawal symptoms for 10-days. Not surprising that their top two Exec's have just stepped down.

In fact, I have never seen or even could imagine that there so many ways in which to cover, charge, connect, clean and polish, make water resistant, listen to, enhance, augment, bling and otherwise accessorize your "I" device. It was truly outrageous! Some companies just purely focus on blinging out I-devices and had humongous booths - and one could think disproportionate to the size of what they were selling. I know the market must be big - but when seeing the stands I was astounded by what must be the potential volume and residual profit.

Can't help wonder though if there is some collusion going on between two of the largest Korean CE (Consumer Electronics) manufacturers - Samsung and LG. Why do I say this? Samsung have gained a very strong foothold in the Smartphone and Tablet space, while LG are making spectacular advances with OLED TV. Perhaps somewhere on the golf course or in a downtown Karaoke Bar, policy makers have formed some kind of pact whereby instead of both companies pouring billions of Korean Won into the R&D of all products, they divide the space with one focusing on mobility and the other on TVs... This is pure conjecture on my part, and not substantiated at all. But it does make you wonder.... Doesn't it?

One must not lose sight of the fact that CES tries to cover a broad spectrum of age categories from newborns to silver surfers. Newborns? I hear you say - yes, there were even tech products specifically catering to babies like digital weighing scales that can have various sensors attached to them such as for monitoring heart rate and blood pressure etc. And as for Silver Surfers (60+), I saw one system that handled computer-less email - similar to a fax machine in design.

Late afternoon of Day Two I walked from LVCC to the Wynn for the Showstoppers event - an invitation-only session for Press to review in one location a few hundred of the products on display at CES - a kind of meet-the-press. During the walk I was attracted to an illuminated sign saying Cigar Shop. Well, as you know I have a passion for all things organic and in my esteemed opinion, cigars are the embodiment, so I made a detour and stopped off at Don Pablo Cigars on Las Vegas Boulevard. While enjoying my freshly rolled cigar (they are rolled in-store by expert Dominican Republic rollers) and chatting with owners Eric Boye and Marlene Moreau, in walked a celeb - John Salley - NBA Champion and TV Host.

Anyway, John and I got talking and during the short conversation he mentioned about being a vegan and would in fact be doing a Cooking demonstration the following day with Allison Fishman (Cooking Teacher and Cookbook author) at the Haier booth where he was going to be promoting healthy eating and using their induction cooker - watch the entertaining video here: Thanks John for also remembering me during your interview.

A specific device that caught my attention @CES was the Pico projector - these are small tabletop LCD projectors that since their first launch a few short years ago have made leaps and bounds in regards picture clarity and pricing. Several vendors had these on display, and one such company had six connected together in three pairs of two with images stitched together so that they formed a video wall - it was very kool! Gotta get me a new one of those - mine is a 1st GEN.

More than one company exhibited Transparent TVs - which are basically clear glass screens which you could look through when the power was OFF, but when ON, showed a regular TV picture. I believe they do this by sending a signal from the sides. I have some difficulty in understanding how to position these (in Hotels) unless you have a beautiful wall behind it, and would allow you to see through under certain circumstances. Having said that, this is one item that's not on my short-term wish list.

Some of the vendors operating in the music space and there were quite a few employed DJ's on their booths, and you could witness them at first hand mixing and scratching - combining state-of-the-art MP3s and traditional LPs. Perhaps in another life I could envisage myself doing that...It looked like a lot of fun. Oh yeah and try this one for size. Imagine a Guitar that's really an iPad case, and where you would normally pluck the strings, an iPad has been inserted (into the Guitar) and you actually run your fingers over the iPad screen which then simulates the sound through the Guitars externally connected amplifier.

Gesturing and speech control was fairly prevalent at the show - and some companies demonstrated controlling a computer with either brainwaves or the movement of your eyes. Whilst an interesting idea especially for the physically challenged, I question the wisdom and practicality of these devices as this could turn us into even more of a couch potato.

A few of the other interesting gizmos included a small 360 degree camera that fits onto the back of a smartphone - these could be particularly useful if you wanted to video a Board Meeting, or perhaps both sides of an Interview using just one camera.

Another was the 4G LTE Modem, which can create a mobile hotspot and as one vendor said to me; "very popular amongst business travellers since the user can avoid paying (exorbitant) Hotel Broadband charges". On that note, I believe Bandwidth usage in Hotels will decrease as (SMART) Guests BYOI (Bring Your Own Internet) with these 4G LTE Modems. And as people increasingly tether smartphones (it is rumored Apple is going to release a Gigabit Wi-Fi enabled device very soon) then this will be another game changer.

Prototype cars had a special place @CES, with models by Ford, Audi, Kia and Mercedes-Benz. Some other companies exhibited elements of new car designs to include head-up displays and integration with devices like the iPhone (see what I mean about Apple being there even if they weren't). Electric and hybrid seem to be the way of the future for cars.

Some of the companies in the car audio section showed off such powerful sound systems that the surrounding floor shook so violently you'd think an earthquake just hit Las Vegas.

Another celebrity hit the stands -Justin Bieber made a guest appearance to show off a dancing robot that mimics his moves. This would no doubt be popular with the teenybopper crowd. Sadly, I missed that event. Sob Sob.

Thin is in: Meaning we saw a slew of new Notebooks akin to the MBA (MacBook Air) - often classified as Ultrabooks, which actually is a category that does not officially exist - more of a marketing term used by some vendors like INTEL...

Some of the popular Tech shows staged live broadcasts from CES to include: TWIT, CNET, Engadget and Gizmodo.... Unfortunately, no one took up the golden opportunity to interview me. Maybe next time... Hint Hint.

A little lightheartedness - I thought of re-classifying CES to:

  1. Consumer Exploitation Show
  2. Consumer Experience Show
  3. Connect Everything Show
  4. Capitalize Emotions Show
  5. Consume or Conserve Electricity Show

Some of the TECH trends you could glean from CES:

  • Mobility - SMARTer Phones + Tablets
  • Wireless Connectivity between devices and to the Internet + Gigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac
  • OLED TV - 2D and 3D - with 8K resolution
  • Gaming on mobile devices + TV
  • Surface and Touch technology
  • Human interface - Voice control and Gesturing
  • Home automation
  • Large headphones a.k.a. Cans
  • Car Automation - to include mobile connectivity and driver assistance
  • Blinging your devices
  • MedTech
  • Collaboration via the Cloud
  • 3D Printing

For me, and I also guess for a lot of others, it was not hard to decide what was the best thing at the show - and I subsequently found out that this was also the case for the voting panel of CES - it was the LG 55-inch OLED TV. Quite stunning and I can envisage this being in the homes of many people in the not to distant future - as well as some Hotels.

Now that CES is over, and I've said my goodbyes to Las Vegas, this is one time when I hope the famous saying does not come true - "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"....

Hasta la vista!

Note: Links in this article do not support or endorse any product or service and are meant for illustration purposes only

© Terence Ronson ISHC

Pertlink Limited commenced operations on October 23rd 2000, and as IT Consultants exclusively caters to clients connected with the hospitality industry, helping them work through the maze of new technologies. Not only is Pertlink strategically placed to serve the industry from its headquarters in Hong Kong, it has been internationally recognized by numerous organizations as a global reach company helping the industry through its unique and unparalleled network of people who have vast expertise in the Hotel and IT industries. The team behind Pertlink, whose collective knowledge will be an asset to any company - will help maximize a Hotel's guest experience making it a positive one through the way technology is developed, marketed and used in the Hotel industry.

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Pertlink Limited

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Terence Ronson

Terence Ronson is the Managing Director of Pertlink Limited. Now residing in Manila after almost two decades in Hong Kong, Terence launched his diversified hospitality career as a chef, later holding various general management positions with well-known hotels in the UK and Asia. In the mid-80s he developed his penchant for technology, and in 2000 started Pertlink Ltd., (Hong Kong) a hospitality technology consultancy, becoming as well the Technology Editor for HOTELS Asia Pacific and authoring since then numerous industry-related articles. In 2001, CNN's eBizasia program featured him for his innovative work at Rosedale on the Park Hong Kong, the first cyber boutique Hotel. It was at that point he originated the first hotel app – HOTELINMYHAND. Terence also helped Langham Place Hong Kong win many accolades for its technology deployment as well as various other well-known hotels across Southeast Asia. In China, Terence was heavily involved in establishing and delivering the IT strategy for Jumeirah Himalayas (Shanghai), Puli (Shanghai), Sofitel Wanda (Beijing), and Guoman (Shanghai). He also participated in the development of the technology vision for Disney Shanghai and Tangula Luxury Train. Terence often chairs and speaks at global industry events and sits on various advisory boards, in addition to holding a Visiting Lecturer position at Hong Kong Polytechnic. He is a CHTP (Certified Hospitality Technology Professional) and runs an active hotel technology blog.

Terence Ronson

Managing Director