CES 2021 becomes latest COVID-19 ‘cancelled’ event

29 July 2020

29 July 2020

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021 has been moved to an all-digital platform, with organisers cancelling the physical aspect of the event in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While much of the world is moving away from lockdowns as cases fall, the US has yet to emerge from its first-wave of infections. States in the US are recording record numbers of infections and deaths over five-months since COVID-19 first emerged in the country, leading the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organisers of CES, no choice but to cancel the public event.

Instead, embracing its technological focus, CES 2021 will be an online affair, allowing participants to hear from technology innovators, see cutting-edge technologies and the latest product launches, and engage with global brands and startups from around the world.

‘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,’ said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. ‘Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic – and that innovation will also help us reimagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way. 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.’

Organisers have announced that they aim to offer a personalised experience for those wishing to attend the online event, with three key areas available:

  • Keynotes and conferences – All attendees will have a front-row seat for ground-breaking announcements and insights from the world’s tech leaders, completely online.
  • Product showcase – With this digital evolution of the CES show floor, attendees will be able to explore products and services, based on your interests and business, through dynamic product showcases or live demos.
  • Meetings and networking – There will be opportunities to engage with the brands, thought leaders and business connections you care about with live interactions, meetups or roundtable discussions.

Automotive growth

Over the last few years, CES has become a must-attend event for carmakers, with vehicles becoming more technology-driven. This prioritisation has seen some move away from traditional events, which in turn has led to shows such as the IAA, North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) and Mondial Paris reinventing themselves as festivals of mobility.

Manufacturers can display their new systems, autonomous developments and concepts, while suppliers are also keen to show off new ideas in an arena of technological marvels. Over 171,000 people attended the event in 2020. While this is lower than most traditional vehicle shows, the mix of people looking at technology allows carmakers to showcase concepts to a different audience.

Therefore, the cancellation of the physical aspect of CES, together with the cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS), means carmakers will need to wait until September for a big event, the newly-profiled IAA in Munich.