Get Ready for CES: The Supply Chain Side of Industry Tradeshows

With the beginning of the new year coming quickly, I've started thinking about the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The anticipation around CES is very much about what trends will be prominent, what end products might be showcased, and the Keynotes that will take place and shape how we think about the coming year. In preparation for those long but exciting days, I've been thinking back on some of the major 2014 shows that Smith teams have attended and how the takeaways from those events inform our expectations for CES 2015 and the year ahead.

Looking back at the major tradeshows, there is likely little argument that the trend of ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) was at the forefront. Thinking back even to CES 2013 and to CES 2014, we saw the theme of connectivity and the central role of chip solutions in supporting “interconnection,” what we now tag as the IoT. Collaboration, connectivity, increased multitasking, and big data all were showcased and are still at the heart of the ongoing expansion of the IoT and the drive toward ubiquitous computing.

The theme of ubiquity over the past few years didn't just belong to CES, of course, and it certainly wasn't confined to end products, chip sets, and solutions. One of the more striking moments I can think of — one that is now almost expected at industry shows — is the inclusion of the connected car and the appearance of automotive OEMs and dedicated keynotes and show floor space. I can still recall being surprised a few years ago at seeing automobiles at CES and other shows. Now they are front and center and a strategic part of connected solutions. This market growth and diversification is important for the industry, and automotive electronics continues to provide a steady stream of innovative solutions.

Connecting shows
Connected life, or smart life, is really the personalized packaging, the consumer electronics (CE) marketing of the IoT. At CES, the industry gathers to showcase the CE offerings that are likely to be promoted during the year, with the public viewing happening through journalists' eyes. In many ways, CES can be understood to cover the end of the supply chain — the distribution of finished products. It is where OEMs and the big-box stores gather to make decisions about what will be on the retail shelves. With that focus in mind, and given the market growth in wearables this year, we expect to see even more medical, health, and fitness solutions and end devices on display at CES. The challenge of wearables brings out some of the more interesting chip solutions because of the small footprint and challenges of low power that these end devices demand. Showcasing innovative CE products, from cars to wearables and everything in between, is part and parcel of CES.

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) has grown and now goes toe to toe with CES in terms of the showcasing of solutions and professionals. Unlike CES, the MWC has a more narrowed focus on the mobile world, from devices to the latest solution sets dedicated to mobility. It is held in Barcelona, Spain, and is very much an international gathering, like CES. The focus on mobile products and solutions, given the central role they play in the IoT, has helped promote the event and the attendance. The MWC still covers the full the supply chain, from components at the beginning to trading and finally to the distribution of finished products at the end.

To continue the generalization, Computex is where we see the focus on the middle of the supply chain: trading. This show is still primarily geared toward the “traditional” computer industry but with the other technology and related products. It is at the point of the related products where we see a good mix of chip manufacturers like Intel, AMD, and Nvidia, along with computer manufacturers like Asus, Acer, and Lenovo. As a distributor, we are particularly keyed into the large set of peripheral, memory, and CPU traders who attend. Trading and sourcing are truly a major part of this annual show. Computex is now the largest ICT tradeshow in Asia and the second-largest in the world, with roughly 130,000 attendees.

The most recent show, Electronica in Munich, Germany, came to a close last month. Electronica only happens every other year, and though it has always stayed close to its European electronics roots, it is very much a global event. It geared at what could be generalized as the beginning of the supply chain; the focus is on components, systems, and applications. The finished products being showcased are generally focused on test and measurement, automation, power generation, and related sectors of the supply chain. As with all the major semiconductor and electronics shows now, the auto industry is well represented and displays very leading-edge electronics solutions.

This year during our attendance, it was very clear how far and wide Electronica reaches simply by looking at the equal floor space for automation, automotive, industrial, measurement, computing, lighting, and consumer electronics. Electronica attracts almost every major chip manufacturer, along with all the top franchised distributors, making for a very intense and highly productive event. It is here that the decision makers, developers, and component buyers, all in attendance and with the objective of getting business done, negotiate major supply contracts.

The foreshadowing
Electronica was just last month, and the emphasis on mobility was clear — the central role of smart life solutions for home and wearables extending the IoT, and the growing role of automotive electronics in the next-generation vehicle experience. Now we're seeing pre-announcements for what CES 2015 will hold. The theme of the IoT, connectivity, data manipulation, and especially more steps toward ubiquitous computing will be front and center. It is no stretch to say that the devices will fall heavily in the wearables category, but with a resurgence in portable computing devices competing with tablets and hybrids, some innovative products will certainly be on display. We know, of course, that automotive solutions will be front and center as the automotive OEMs promote their market leadership at electronics shows as heavily as at auto shows now. The news to come will be what the chip solutions are and how designs are going to move us forward and promote the growing class of new CE devices that have the industry in a sustainable growth pattern.

8 comments on “Get Ready for CES: The Supply Chain Side of Industry Tradeshows

  1. Ariella
    December 29, 2014

    Sounds exciting. It's interesting that Germany hosts these type of events. It also hosts EuroMold in the fall.

  2. Himanshugupta
    December 29, 2014

    It is long drawn debate that the software capabilities are far behind the hardware and i think we are making this gap even further by providing solutions on a chip level rather than creating softwares to do the same. After personal computing and storage driving the semicon industry for a good last decade, it is now the connected solutions and big data that are driving the industry. It will be worth watching how this whole thing will shape up in coming 2-3 yrs.

  3. Todd Traylor
    December 29, 2014

    @Himanshugupta – You highlight an important point. As I have argued, hardware performance is now limited by bandwidth, network speed, or internet connectivity – not software or internal hardware issues. For years, some THING in a computer was the “slow” part, the bottleneck, the underperforming component. But now, CPU's (both Intel and AMD) exceed everything else needed to make a system “run faster.” The CPU is waiting for the HDD to spin, or the memory to load, or the video card to process. Yes, SSD's can fix the HDD issue, a memory upgrade helps everything, and a top end video card can process frames faster, but the “system” is now waiting for something that the user can not improve, upgrade, or increase performance on: internet speed. A perfectly built system with robust software now “slows” due to the inability to send and retrieve bytes, not because of hardware shortcomings or software inadequacies. Just as you mention, big data and connected solutions are the target now. The chip folks and hardware people have caught up with their technology for devices, but the infrastructure could use a tune-up to turn the internet highway into the autobahn that hardware and software companies, along with consumers, need and want…

  4. shirleydevis
    December 30, 2014

    Impressive you have posted..Your post have the information that is helpful for me.I would like you to keep up the good work.Thanks

  5. ahdand
    December 30, 2014

    @shirleydavis: Yes impressive stuff indeed. I have some stuff that can be added to this list. I will post it later

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 30, 2014

    Himanshugupta, you said: “After personal computing and storage driving the semicon industry for a good last decade, it is now the connected solutions and big data that are driving the industry.”

    I totally agree–and would add wearables and Internet of Things devices to that list. We are going to be connected in ways we only just imagine now.

  7. Taimoor Zubar
    December 30, 2014

    “It is long drawn debate that the software capabilities are far behind the hardware and i think we are making this gap even further by providing solutions on a chip level rather than creating softwares to do the same.”

    @Himanshugupta: The fact that the solutions are being provided on the chip should make a stronger case for hardware getting the importance because in this case the solution becomes chip (hardware) dependent. Do you not think that the hardware manufacturers are getting more attention for this reason?

  8. Taimoor Zubar
    December 30, 2014

    I think IoT has already become the next big thing and it's not surprising to see that it is becoming the theme for technology shows as well. It seems to be the natural move from computing solutions that were location based to smart phones that could provide the same features wirelessly towards IoT devices which aim to connect all existing physical entities in the entities in the environment. I do believe it will remain the next big thing for a few years to come.

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