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March Magic Memories: Gary Shapiro

The Forrest Four-Cast: November 10, 2017

How do you describe your job at CES?
The Consumer Technology Association owns and produces CES® — the world’s largest and greatest tech event. For four days in Las Vegas each January, I zip from media interviews, to dazzling keynotes from some of the most illuminating voices in tech, to meetings with business and government officials from around the world, and of course, to the CES show floor, where the serendipity of discovery always amazes me. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at my life at CES.

What are you most passionate about at present?
I’m passionate about innovation. Technology will help solve today’s biggest challenges — from health care to transportation, sustainability, agriculture and public safety. Self-driving cars will eliminate traffic fatalities caused by human error. Drones deliver equipment and supplies to hard to reach places after natural disasters. The cost of health care is going to come down dramatically as we get more sophisticated in diagnosis, in telemedicine and in predictive analysis. We see the power of human ingenuity every day — it’s in the news, it’s on our TVs. It’s in our TVs! It’s what makes me excited about going to work every day.

What’s the last great book you read?
The Power Broker,” by Robert Caro, about Robert Moses.

What do you expect to be the biggest trends at CES this year?
The Internet of Things (IoT), 5G connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI) will come together in a big way at CES 2018 as we explore the future of smart cities. CTA projects global spending on smart cities will reach $34.35 billion by 2020. And 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. We’re excited to host a dedicated Smart Cities program at CES, allowing companies operating in the smart city space to get together and discuss the future.

How has CES evolved over the years?
Fifty years ago, the first CES featured the latest in televisions and radios. Today, the show is the forefront of life changing consumer technologies including self-driving cars, drones, smart home technology and the latest in immersive entertainment. Every major tech company and industry now take part in CES in some way. Over the years CES has experienced tremendous growth and continues to evolve as the go-to business event for the tech sector. Eighty-seven percent of Fortune 100 companies attended CES 2017. We featured keynotes from Under Armour’s Kevin Plank on the future of health and fitness tech; NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, on latest advancements in AI, and Carnival CEO Arnold Donald on building smart cities at sea. In 2018, we’re excited to welcome to the keynote stage Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Huawei’s Richard Yu. And look out for more announcements as we gear up for the 2018 show. Today, CES is so much more than an electronics show; It’s a must-attend event for business leaders and policymakers to see the tech trends impacting the way we live, work and play.

For people who haven’t been to CES before, what would surprise them most about attending?
I think people who have never been to CES expect cars, robots and smart home technology. But what surprises many first-timers is how quickly CES has become a hub for international business leaders. Virtually every industry is somehow involved in or affected by the technology sector. CES not only showcases innovative technologies, it provides business and industry leaders a glimpse into the future of the global economy.

What advice would you give newbies to CES?
My advice to first-timers: Wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of water, pack extra business cards and remember to charge your fitness tracker. CES attendees have a lot of ground to cover if they want to check out all 4,000 exhibitors spanning over 2.5 million net square feet of exhibit space in four days.

How is SXSW similar to/different than CES?
CES is a business event focused on technology and the future. The average CES attendee has 33 meetings on site — they get their business in order for the year over four days in early January. We have fun — it’s Las Vegas, after all — but we convene more than 180,000 decision makers from around the world to see the latest innovations first-hand and to do business. Both events are great venues to discover, connect and learn and attract a passionate audience. That’s why we attend and produce our Innovation Policy Day at SX each year.

What inspired you to start attending/speaking at SXSW?
Austin is a technology hub in the heartland where innovation is thriving, and I love being able to experience this at SXSW. Last year, I conducted interviews on innovation with everyone from the Newseum Institute to NPR, participated in a panel discussion on how tech companies can give back to communities, and hosted CTA’s fifth annual Innovation Policy Day, a series of tech policy-focused discussions. I enjoy these speaking invitations because they help me share stories about how tech is enhancing our lives and highlight the policies we need for innovation to thrive.

SXSW is a very big part of the identity of Austin — and vice versa. Do you think SXSW could happen anywhere else?
Nowhere else. SXSW is integral to the community of Austin, just as CES is inextricably linked to Las Vegas. What keeps your show going year after year has to do with the overall experience: the music, the food, the quirkiness and individuality of SX and Austin. I’m a firm believer in the five-sense experience that trade shows and festivals offer attendees. CES is the same way — full of innovative products, enticing sounds and immersive entertainment. CES exudes excitement and optimism.

Other installments of the March Magic series include interviews with Chris Messina, Yuval Yarden, Jenny 8. Lee, Aziz Gilani and whurley.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

Help SXSW help the Red Cross with Hurricane Harvey relief by donating here.

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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