CES 2016 Part 1

PrintI had the opportunity to attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show this year in Las Vegas as well as the CES Government (CESG) conference that took place just before the big show. The obvious reaction one has to a trip like this is, “Seriously? That’s a boondoggle if I’ve ever heard of one!” However, trusted people who had attended in the past assured me that wasn’t the case and I was happy to find they were right. CESG was a fantastic event and the CES was eye-opening to say the least.

I have broken my comments down into two separate posts. This first one will cover CESG and the second will include my personal highlights of CES…

Part 1: CES Government

The CES Government (CESG) conference is organized by the Government Business Executive Forum (GBEF) in collaboration with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) which produces CES. This year, CESG attracted an outstanding group of government and industry leaders. Speakers included Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MN) and my own US House Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA) as well as C-level leaders from DHS, FCC, VA, USDA, and DOT among others. Panels also included former senior government and elected officials including Hon. Tom Davis, former GSA and VA CFO Kathleen Turco, and former federal CIO Dr. Barry West (now President of Mason Harriman Group). The theme was “Cyber, Analytics, Internet of Everything.”

I hesitate to single out any particular presentations since they were all outstanding, so just to recap a few of them, they included:

  • Educational pre-conference panel focused on FITARA, organized by new GBEF member Mason Harriman Group. The panel brought together current and former members of several agencies (VA, OMB, DHS, FDIC) as well as one of the architects of FITARA, Rich Beutel. The panel covered a number of emerging best practices in FITARA implementation as well as a demo of cost modeling using some slick software called CostPerform. The first hand experiential guidance and recommendations from so many C-level government execs and industry subject matter experts was tremendously insightful.
  • Talk from Rep. Zinke (R-MN), former commander of Seal Team Six, focused on what America can do when it operates like a team. As he stated: “It’s not about red or blue, but red, white and blue.”
  • FCC CIO David Bray discussing the rapid growth of the Internet in the next seven years as the Internet of Things (IoT) comes to fruition. “If the Internet today is the size of a beach ball, the Internet in seven years will be the size of the sun.” He also described some innovative approaches for the government to consider in acquiring new technology products and services, possibly to include computer algorithms for proposal evaluations. Interesting…
  • Speech by Rep. Comstock (R-VA) inviting industry to bring innovative ideas directly to Congress.
  • Compelling if somewhat frightening lunchtime talk by national security SME and original member of music group Steely Dan, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on the topic of “Who owns my spirit?” in the midst of the emerging threat of hacking not only people’s private information but also their very DNA.
  • Tag-team analysis from former GOP House leader Hon. Tom Davis and Democratic lobbyist Steven Ryan, Esq. on the 2016 Presidential and Congressional elections.
  • NGA Director Robert Cardillo’s talk on real-time national security analysis.

Some recurring themes included discussion of the challenges government faces around, on one hand, cost controls, and on the other hand, threats – particularly cyber threats. Both kinds of challenges require collaboration across government agencies and between government and industry. Of course, we hear this kind of thing all the time. A difference here and what set this event apart from similar gatherings in the DC area was the level of attention that the government folks seemed to be able to provide, presumably because the office was 2,400 miles away! Often these kinds of attendees appear for that 9am panel at a DC event, and then immediately disappear to the call of duty. At CESG, most everyone stayed in the ballroom from session to session, chatted during breaks, and attended the networking events. This led to greater involvement, attention, and I would say intellectual investment from everyone compared to most other government-industry events I have attended. I think it’s a great one for government and industry leaders to include in their calendars, and I look forward to CESG 2017.

Watch for Part 2 of this post covering the “toys” of the CES 2016 exhibit halls!

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