CES needs to bring global partners to the dance

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

The “global technology event” which is officially – whatever that means – called “International CES” isn’t living up to its name even as well as it did (or not) last year. Exhibitors from Africa, South America, South Asia and Southeast Asia are even thinner on the ground in 2014, judging from the pre-show floor guide.

Last year, 23 companies from ASEAN nations exhibited products, this year the total is only 18. Hanoi-based Tosy is thankfully back – nothing like a dancing robot to perk up the day. The Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand also have a single representative, a plus for the Philippines but a loss for Thailand which fielded 3 exhibits last year. Singapore is still the powerhouse, with 14 companies showing product, a gain of 1.

Indian companies and organisations are losing interest, with only 6 exhibiting versus 10 in 2013. South America is doing better this year, with one bona fide entrant – Comercial Revbox, a trading company from Chile – on the show floor. Last year’s continental rankings had South America tied with Antarctica: zero.

Africa is not doing as well. Vivid Audio, a Johannesburg-based maker of high end audio systems, is back but that’s it. Morocco’s Nemotek isn’t returning and no other African exhibitor is making the trip.

Developing world start-ups sometimes share booth space with better established partners or participate in small company showcases, like Showstoppers or Pepcom, so there’s plenty of opportunities for pleasant surprises.

Last year, 36,000 people – nearly a quarter of the total – from 150 countries came to CES as international visitors, and exhibitors from dozens of northern hemisphere countries could be found on the show floor. CES is an amazing show that well deserves its international tag. It’s not too much to hope that it can eventually close the gap and become a truly global event.