What’s in Store for Director-Centric CES Tour

By Mandy Wright


Emerging Technology Technology Online Article

Why should directors keep up with promising technology? To get to the heart of it: why does NACD’s CES Experience matter for boards? The innovation of products and services is exactly what has made companies flourish since the beginning of time. Deeper than that, learning firsthand about what’s possible in today’s technological environment can focus directors’ minds on what’s to come—not only in the global economy, from various industries, or at peer companies, but potentially from their own organizations, as well.

In order for boards to better help their companies get ahead of the curve, NACD’s CES Experience, in partnership with Grant Thornton, convenes for the third year today, January 6, in Las Vegas. While attendees at the director-tailored event will be privy to a networking dinner and director panel tonight, the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) CES is scheduled to open officially tomorrow and run through January 10.

Later in the week, director attendees will be privy to NACD-exclusive programming, which includes a keynote address by Amy Wilkinson, CEO of Ingenuity and Stanford University lecturer; conversations with Leigh Radford of P&G Ventures and John Penney of Twentieth Century Fox and Starz; pitches from promising start-ups; an early access tour of one of the exhibition centers led by CTA; and an NACD-specific tour of the show floor with Shelly Palmer, the CEO of innovation and technology advisory The Palmer Group.

Technologies that directors can expect to see revolve around smart cities and sustainability, cryptocurrency, marketing and advertising, artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality. They can also count on hearing from big-name speakers such as Michael E. Kassan, chair and CEO of MediaLink; Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever; and Marc Benioff, co-CEO of Salesforce, in a keynote discussion titled, “Good for Business, Good for the Planet: How Companies Drive Positive Impact.”

Here are just a few other items directors should be on the lookout for at this year’s CES.

Plenty of new exhibitors to explore. CES 2020 boasts more than 4,500 exhibitors, with recurring exhibitors such as Bell Textron, Impossible Foods, and NBCUniversal Media. More than 1,550 of these exhibitors, however, will be brand new to the conference, including the likes of Delta Air Lines, DuPont de Nemours, and Humana. Additionally, digital health products will be featured 25 percent more this year compared to last year.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) discussions scattered throughout. For those CES Experience attendees wanting to explore the programming offered by CTA, various D&I sessions, under the banner “Innovation for All,” are on offer over the course of CES 2020. Similar to NACD’s 2019 Global Board Leaders’ Summit, this track of programming will feature shifts in culture and hiring practices. It will also explore how to ensure products are inclusive, key concepts for investing in diversity and diversity initiatives, and how D&I can bolster a company’s finances.

Apple competition: a gaggle of earbuds. According to reporting by Business Insider, 2020 is the year for the wireless earbud. CES attendees can this year expect to see numerous competitors in the earbud market competing with Apple’s second version of its popular AirPods, released in March 2019. And thanks to Qualcomm’s recent QCC5124 system-on-a-chip (SoC) release, meant for development for application in—you guessed it—devices such as earbuds, more companies will perhaps rise to meet Apple’s challenge. This example shows the perennial importance of CES: the sharing of new technologies spurs both innovation and competition.

Policy chat. Amid antitrust investigations into Big Tech, data privacy concerns, and recently installed regulations like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act, ignoring policy implications is not an option. At CES this year, policymakers from the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and more will make appearances to talk about international trade, the increasing number of apprenticeships, and, of course, regulation in the tech sphere.

Like last year, the possibilities of 5G. Technological disruption and innovation don’t always happen as quickly as it seems. 5G wireless technology that promises to vastly improve the pace at which digital devices interact made an appearance in 2019 as businesses such as AT&T Corp. turned on their 5G networks in certain parts of the country. Many companies, however, like Samsung and Verizon, have given a 2020 date for a broader rollout of their 5G capabilities. Thus, CES this year could very well see a variety of 5G-enabled devices. This could range from phones to self-driving cars to medical equipment to augmented reality devices.

Mandy Wright is senior editor of Directorship magazine.