Consumer technology enthusiasts the world over will have no shortage of gadgets to gawk at this week as the annual Consumer Electronics Show gets underway in Las Vegas.
With a few notable exceptions, the Washington region isn’t known for its consumer electronics companies. Still, more than 50 companies and organizations from Maryland, Virginia and the District are listed as exhibitors, and scores more are expected to attend.
Some local companies have been attending the event for years, others are making the tech pilgrimage for the first time. Regardless, each company has its own reasons for attending the show and goals to accomplish during the week-long event.
International CES continues to grow its physical footprint and roster of attendees, having long ago become the largest trade show in the world. Organizers expect this year’s 3,600 exhibitors to occupy 2.2 million square feet of convention center space, though a spokeswoman said those numbers could change.
Produced each January by the Arlington-based Consumer Electronics Association, CES maintains its dominance and relevance in part by expanding the range of industries that fall within its purview. Attendees at the event will see start-ups and multinational corporations alike peddling everything from mobile apps to automobiles.
Indeed, the diverse roster of area exhibitors includes Baltimore-based sports clothier Under Armour, which recently entered the wearable technology market, as well as Arlington-based language software company Rosetta Stone and Herndon-based automaker Volkswagen Group of America.
Many young companies attend CES seeking attention. The large crowds offer an opportunity to convert passersby into customers. What’s more, other companies often use the show to meet business partners or scope out the next big innovations.
For several years, Manpreet Singh attended CES to meet with executives from the companies he covered while working as a financial analyst. But since co-founding TalkLocal, a company that connects customers with plumbers, electricians and other service providers, he has not been back to the show.
This year, TalkLocal will be on display in Eureka Park, an exhibition space designed specifically for start-ups. Attending CES can be an expensive proposition for a fledgling company — airfare, hotels, meals, entrance fees, etc. — so Singh admits he was “really hesitant” at first.
Still, Singh said the opportunity for international exposure and a chance to meet face-to-face with partners that are typically based on the West Coast outweighed the costs. Plus, he got good deals on plane tickets and hotel rooms, he said.
District-based Spend Consciously will also take part in the start-up exhibit this year. The company has built a Web site where consumers can rank social issues that matter to them, such as gay rights or environmental stewardship, then find companies who espouse those same values.
Founder and chief executive Matthew Colbert said simply attending CES has always been a personal goal, but making the most of it professionally presents a greater challenge. Indeed, with thousands of technologies on display, standing out becomes a challenge.
“Whether we get lost in the crowd will be a real eye-opener for us,” Colbert said.
“What I’m most excited about is being out there and able to meet people,” he added. “The thought of 200,000 people strolling to our table, or even 10 percent of that, is a huge opportunity.”
Twelve years after Rockville-based Hillcrest Labs first attended CES, the maker of motion sensor software still finds the event beneficial. The company builds sensors for smart televisions, smartphones, tablets and wearable devices.
Chief executive Daniel Simpkins said CES brings out the kind of top-tier executives that companies most want to meet with, including those from foreign countries, where Hillcrest Labs pulls in the vast majority of its revenue.
“CES represents the one time of the year when most of the decision makers in the markets we serve come together,” Simpkins said. “That’s a real value for us.”
McLean-based Neustar reduced the number of events the company will attend in 2015 to 35, down from 80 events in 2014. Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Joy Rosner said the company kept CES on the list because it offers a chance to meet so many potential customers in one place.
Neustar is best known for offering number portability services, allowing people to switch from one mobile provider to another without losing their number. But the company has expanded its products in recent years, and Rosner said it plans to showcase software at CES that allows marketers to better identify potential customers.
Neustar will also be featured in a panel discussion on consumer privacy, an issue central to the company’s corporate ethos. Establishing the company as an authority on privacy, especially at such a high-profile event, could pay dividends down the road, Rosner said.
“Setting it up so we can have meaningful dialogue will help us be better in our marketing, but also in building relationships that help us close deals,” she said.
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