Why the Vegas tech showdown matters to government

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Photo: CEA/International CES Crowds flock to the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show held annually in Las Vegas. (Photo: CEA/International CES)

More than 150,000 people from more than 150 countries this week will convene in Las Vegas. Hosted by the Consumer Electronics Association, the International Consumer Electronics Show draws one of the largest gatherings of businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs, startups, government officials, CEOs and members of the media. Some highlights from this year’s event so far? Self-driving cars, smart toothbrushes and mini personal drones.

So why might federal agencies be interested in jetting to Sin City for this event?

There are very few areas of government that technology doesn’t touch, whether it’s a new device in the office to expedite workflow or tools in the field.

Laura Hubbard, senior manager of industry and policy communications at CEA, said it is common for government officials to attend because they are able to see the policy implications of technology.

“I think it’s important for members [of Congress] on the policy side to see how business decisions they make impact business, and see what the business community is doing,” Hubbard told FedScoop on Jan. 7.

Attendees visit exhibitors' booths on the show floor at the 2014 International CES. Photo: CEA/International CES Attendees visit exhibitors’ booths on the show floor at the 2014 International CES. (Photo: CEA/International CES)

Government officials can attend a number of policy sessions focused on tech policy. A popular event at CES is the innovation policy summit. Hubbard said in these types of environments, lawmakers and government officials can hear from the tech side and vice versa.

This year, there are nine auto manufacturers at the event, and for organizations such as the Transportation Department or the Transportation Security Administration, it’s an opportunity to get a sneak peek of emerging technology. Same goes for sessions about energy-saving technology, which are useful to the Energy Department or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hubbard said these agencies are typically present at CES.

CES can also be a good opportunity for agencies, such as the General Services Administration, that do substantial buying and selling for the federal government to see new technologies emerging in the consumer electronic marketplace. Hubbard said in the past, representatives from GSA have been at the event, and GSA confirmed it has one employee attending this year.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker took a tour of the exhibit floor Wednesday and participated in the “America is Open for Business and Innovation” super session, during which she had a conversation with CEA CEO Gary Shapiro.

Other government folks in attendance at CES this year include Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Brill spoke to an audience Wednesday about the effects of patent reform and its impact on innovation and the economy.

“When innovators can’t find relevant patents, or if the scope of a competitors’ patent is unclear, it is much more difficult to license and cross-license patents in a manner that promotes innovation and competition,” Brill said.

The rest of the week at CES 2014 is looking to be equally eventful, with sessions such as “Last Gadget Standing” and a “Mobile Apps Showdown.”

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Agencies, Applications & Software, apps, Congress, Departments, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, House of Representatives, Innovation, Julie Brill, Laura Hubbard, Penny Pritzker, Senate, Social Media, Tech
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