The annual in-person CES in Las Vegas — an industry mainstay for 50 years once known by its longer moniker of the Consumer Electronics Show — has been canceled due to surges in COVID-19 infections and will be replaced by an all-digital format, Jan. 6-9, 2021, organizer Consumer Technology Association announced July 28.
“Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “By shifting to an all-digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors connect with existing and new audiences.”
CTA said it plans to return to Las Vegas for CES 2022, combining elements of a physical and digital show.
As recently as June, the CTA had vowed to proceed with at least a partially physical show. At the time, the trade association said in a statement, “We will showcase our exhibitors’ products, technology breakthroughs and ideas to the world, both physically in Las Vegas and digitally. “You can expect to see a wider selection of live-streamed CES content, along with many other engaging digital and virtual opportunities, enabling you to connect with the world’s leading technology innovators, thought leaders and policymakers.”
In January 2020, more than 175,000 industry professionals, including more than 61,000 from outside the United States, convened in Las Vegas for CES 2020.
At the time reports were just filtering in from China about a mysterious new illness centered around the city of Wuhan. It wasn’t until Jan. 11, a day after the 2020 CES ended, that the first death was reported. From the Wall Street Journal: “A new virus implicated in a pneumonia outbreak in central China killed a 61-year-old man there, Chinese health authorities said. … It was the first death of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, where 59 people have been quarantined. Chinese scientists discovered a new strain of coronavirus there this week.”
In last month’s statement, the CTA said it would enable social distancing at the January 2021 CES, including widening aisles in many exhibit areas and providing more space between seats in conference programs and other areas where attendees congregate. Attendees and exhibitors would be encouraged to wear masks and avoid shaking hands.
CTA also said it planned to limit touch points throughout the facilities, including through cashless systems for purchases and transactions. It also was considering employing contactless thermal scans at key venue entry points, in addition to providing enhanced on-site access to health service and medical aid.