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Electronic Design

International CES Takes Center Stage In January

The second week of January is a special time for the consumer electronics (CE) industry. This is when the International CES®, the largest tradeshow of its kind, rolls into Las Vegas with more than 130,000 attendees, including 6000 or so engineers.

If you’ve attended this spectacle before, you probably listened to Bill Gates of Microsoft give the preshow keynote on a Sunday night at The Venetian. International CES will start on a Thursday this year, though, so the preshow keynote will be on Wednesday night.

I first attended International CES back in 1981 when I was a new technical editor at Popular Electronics magazine. The show was big even then, but it’s so much bigger now. As this show has grown, so have the official show venues.

You can find most of the exhibits at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), especially those of the big CE companies like Sony, Microsoft, Motorola, Panasonic, and Samsung. The keynotes have found a home in The Venetian. Many exhibits will be right next door at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. And, the International Gateway and International Insider Series will be held at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Due to its expansive layout, planning is a must. Start with the maps on the International CES Web site,, which will help you understand the layout of each venue. You should secure a map of the Las Vegas strip as well. You also can find a good interactive map at the Las Vegas Monorail Web site,, which shows the locations of the monorail stops and the major hotels on the strip.

How do you tackle a show as large as CES? We’ll try to make you an informed International CES show attendee in the following pages, but here are some tips to get you started. As mentioned, this year the keynotes begin on a Wednesday evening— January 7. Microsoft will kick off the show again this year, this time with CEO Steve Ballmer making the presentation. Considering Microsoft’s key role in the industry, you will need to get in line early. If you show up at the last minute, all the seats may be gone.

While the keynotes will be held in The Venetian, the TechZones will be housed in a few different locations, mainly the LVCC, South Hall and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. You can take the free Sands/Venetian Express from the Sands/ Venetian to the LVCC, running every 10 minutes. But buses have to wait in traffic like any other vehicle, so a five-minute trip can easily stretch to fifteen or twenty.

Another option is the monorail. While we don’t recommend it for the Sands/Venetian, it does stop at the LVCC and the Hilton. Order monorail tickets in advance on by December 24 to receive a 20% discount and get a one-day ticket for the monorail for $9.60. New this year is a seven-day convention pass for $60.

The monorail is a great option for getting straight to the LVCC if you are staying at one of the hotels with a monorail stop, but there are also free hotel shuttle busses from official CES hotels to both the LVCC and the Sands/ Venetian. These shuttles can take you to the show every morning and home every night.

Start your Thursday with the opening keynote at The Venetian. Then, depending on what you want to see, you may want to head to the LVCC or over to the Sands, which you can walk to from The Venetian. One of the main attractions at the Sands is the emerging technology exhibits.

The International CES organizers believe engineers attending the show will find these exhibits particularly interesting, and I agree. The list of TechZones looks intriguing, and there should be something to satisfy the interests of everyone. While you’re at the Sands, I’d also recommend visiting the Innovations 2009 Design and Engineering Showcase.

Keynotes, exhibits, and TechZones are the foundation of the show, but there’s more for engineers to see at the 2009 International CES. For example, a gala event each year is the Technology & Engineering Emmy® Awards. Keep in mind that this event will be on the same evening as the preshow keynote, January 7. More information can be found at

I also recommend “Going Green: More Than a Label,” moderated by Ron Schneiderman of Electronic Design. The session will be Thursday at noon in the LVCC North Hall, Room N254.

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