It’s hard to believe CES Asia is only in its third year – its scale is incredible, with booths filling five exhibition halls the size of aircraft hangars, and a program of talks taking over the top floor of the neigbouring Kerry Hotel.
The Chinese tech extravaganza is a counterpart to the flagship CES show held in Las Vegas in January, and its third annual instalment has just drawn to a close with an upbeat exploration of tech that will change and improve the way we live – from the air we breathe to the clothes we wear.
From startups to giants
“Innovation is taking disparate ideas and putting them together in ways that will make people’s lives better,” explained Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, in his opening keynote.
That thread was visible throughout the show's dense program of conferences and events, where industry experts looked to the future and discussed how tech can improve everyday life for people in China and beyond.
Although its main focus was the burgeoning Chinese tech industry, the show also attracted companies from the rest of the continent, the US and Europe, all hoping to extend their reach into the country.
The international flavor was particularly noticeable in the Startup Park, a new addition for 2017, where France had the second largest presence thanks to startup incubator La French Tech. “Every big company started as a small one, and we wanted to give them a home,” explained Gary Shapiro.
Competition was fierce, though; 200 hopeful applicants didn’t make the grade for space on the show floor alongside industry giants like Huawei and Hyundai.
Windows and fresh air
On the first day, Peter Han and Rodney Clark of Microsoft presented a neat summary of all the company’s recent annoucements, showcasing Windows 10 S, HoloLens, and the business-oriented Windows Premium Collection.
Day one also showcased tech designed to alleviate the serious pollution problem in Shanghai and other densely populated cities. This section of the show included a display of self-balancing vehicles (a low-carbon alternative to cars for short journeys), and a presentation of the Meo Blue – an air-quality meter for smart cities.
Drones were a hot topic on day two, as Paul Xi, vice president of Shenzhen-based DJI, joined in a fascinating panel discussion about what the future holds for autonomous craft in our airspace. Although drone deliveries are still a novelty in the US and Europe, they're already an everyday reality in China, and Xi explained how companies like DJI and online megastore JD are writing the new rulebook.
You are what you wear
It wasn't all business though. The second day also took a detailed look at the practicalities of technology in fashion and sport, which was followed by a a showcase of wearables on day three – from motion-tracking sportswear to bioluminescent ballgowns.
After the fashion show, a parade of life-enhancing robots took to the catwalk, including wheeled tour guide Peanut from Keenon Robotics; Roomba's adorable Domgo, which responds to tummy tickles and head pats; the alarmingly lifelike Vincross HEXA spider (presumably connected to the web); and the Mu SpaceBot – an educational wooden bot that comes as a kit for self-assembly.
Next year's CES Asia will take place on 13-15 June, and we’re hoping this year’s success will lead to more product launches and even more star-studded talks.
We'd also love to see an expanded Startup Village with a University Innovation area, following the model of the Las Vegas show. China's tech industry is growing incredibly quickly, and it's the ideal platform to show the rest of the world how a new generation of designers and engineers are innovating to improve lives worldwide.