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CES: Drones, Wearables and Proximity Technology

Big consumer electronics convention is set to open

Expect tons of national media coverage this week about the next waves of technology gizmos coming into our lives — from “wearables” and “connected cars” to drones and the “Internet of Things,” as well as some phrases we haven’t even heard yet.

It’s time again for the International CES, produced by the Consumer Electronics Association. It runs Jan. 6–9 and sprawls across several venues in Las Vegas. Last year’s show attracted a reported 160,000 attendees.

Radio World News Editor and Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson will be reporting on site, watching for how radio, streaming and personal audio fit into all of this.

Some sample show highlights: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez will both be featured speakers. “In addition, for the first time in CES history, the full slate of commissioners from both agencies will participate in a roundtable discussion on critical regulatory, law enforcement and policy issues facing the technology industry,” organizers said in an announcement.

The show will feature a “Vehicle Intelligence Marketplace” with 10 automotive manufacturers taking part; automotive exhibit space is up 17 percent from last year, show officials say. There will also be a new “Unmanned Systems Marketplace” that features drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other such systems controlled by onboard computers or from the ground.

A new event at CES is called C Space, it focuses on “creative communicators, brand marketers, advertising agencies, digital publishers and social networks.” It’s held at the Aria; shuttle bus will take attendees there. Among those participating will be iHeartMedia’s Bob Pittman and Ryan Seacrest.

Ten startups will compete live at the convention for the opportunity to pitch Sir Richard Branson on his private island, in an “Extreme Tech Challenge.” Separately, TV show “Shark Tank” will host an open call for entrepreneurs.

CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves will keynote the Brand Matters sessions, talking about “how the evolution of hardware and software enables more dynamic content creation and distribution.”

More themes include high-resolution audio, the networking of everyday objects and how mobile technology is changing society. Patent litigation reform is likely to be discussed again; the image at right is from a press conference last year. CEA has been vocal about the negative impact of so-called patent “trolls.”

Here’s an interesting angle for the techies among us: The show will employ a new navigation system, using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. The system, accessible through a CES app, will provide directions to certain exhibit locations. On the app, users can select a CES destination, such as a booth; the app will show directions from the current position using BLE beacons placed throughout the floor. The tech partner is Radius Networks; its co-founder was quoted saying that in the past year, “proximity technology and the Internet of Things have taken off.”

According to a convention press release, a bunch of celebrities and athletes will make appearances ranging from Nick Cannon and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to Dr. Phil McGraw, Neil Young and Shaquille O’Neal.

The Consumer Electronics Association represents the U.S. consumer electronics industry, which it estimates pulled in $211 billion in revenue last year.

And for some great pictures of past CES shows, see this interesting roundup by Mashable.