Pandemic forces CEATEC tech show to go completely virtual
Japan Times -- Oct 21
Under normal circumstances at this time of year, hundreds of companies would bring to life the Makuhari Messe venue in the city of Chiba with cutting-edge products from robots to cars and AI to internet-connected devices, for the annual event known as CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies).

But on Tuesday, the major Japanese technology trade show achieved a first of its own by launching completely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, setting a precedent that could become a new normal for trade shows.

CEATEC earned its fame as a major exhibition of consumer electronics such as TVs and home appliances, but it has been shifting its focus to products and services related to the IoT (internet of things), AI and cybersecurity. Its theme this year is “New Normal.”

The decision to hold the event in cyberspace aims to keep people safe from the risk of infection with the COVID-19 virus and to improve efficiency, but the organizers and exhibitors have had to scale a number of hurdles to do it — including handling heavy online traffic and finding ways to effectively demonstrate physical products when “visitors” won’t get the chance to touch or see them.

The show got off to a rough start, having to restrict access to its online venue for the first three hours due to surging traffic.

The website prepared by the organizing committee offers virtual space for 356 exhibitors to make online presentations, and will host a slew of conferences scheduled to be streamed during the four-day event.

The CEATEC website displays materials from participating companies on Tuesday as the event kicks off completely online for the first time. | KYODO
The CEATEC website displays materials from participating companies on Tuesday as the event kicks off completely online for the first time. | KYODO

As CEATEC expects over 200,000 visitors during the event, it has created a robust website capable of handling high volumes of traffic, but there was some difficulty when the server used by visitors during the registration process saw traffic spike to twice the expected load, which made the virtual venue unstable for a few hours, said Shun Yoshida, who manages public relations for the CEATEC Organizing Committee.

The event may not have opened smoothly, but the problems will serve as a valuable lesson for the organizers in planning future CEATEC events.

When it first started sounding out exhibitors, in late January, CEATEC had planned to hold the event in-person as usual, but then decided in May to run it fully online.

Yoshida said the decision was welcomed by many companies because they have established internal guidance encouraging staff to refrain from engaging in large-scale events, and similar activities, because of the virus risk.

But even at that point, the CEATEC team found they “were already behind schedule, with the organizer and exhibitors having to create an online event that had never done before from scratch,” Yoshida said, adding that they hope to draw on what they have learned this time around when organizing future events.

Adapting to an online event was a challenge for participating firms, too.

最新のIT技術や電子機器を紹介するアジア最大級の展示会『CEATEC』が20日から始まりました。新型コロナウイルスの影響で、初のオンライン開催となった今年のテーマは“ニューノーマル=新しい日常”です。 『シャープディスプレイテクノロジー』が開発したのは、透明なディスプレイです。飲食店やオフィスなどあらゆる場所にコロナ対策として設置されているパーテーションの役割だけではなく、空港の窓口や飲食店など様々な場面での活用が期待できるといいます。 シャープディスプレイテクノロジー、木村知洋課長:「社会的距離を確保する機能以外にも、情報を表示したり、映像を表示することで空間演出したり、光を遮ったり採り入れたりというコントロール、新たな価値を従来のパーテーションに加えることができる」 また、シャープは、体温や脈拍数など4つの数値を、体に触れずに測定できる装置も開発しました。 シャープ研究開発事業本部・足立佳久課長:「今後、複数人を同時に測定する方向に展開を考えていまして、イベント会場の前で複数人の健康状態を測ることを目指しています」 慶應義塾大学らによって開発された遠隔操作で患者の検体を採取できる装置は、実用化されれば、患者のくしゃみによる飛沫を浴びることなく、検体が採取できるといいます。 電子部品メーカー『アルプスアルパイン』は、触らない“タッチパネル”を開発しました。指を近付けるだけで操作ができ、コロナ感染の原因の一つとされる、接触感染を防ぐ効果があります。 『アルプスアルパイン』瀬尾昌隆専任部長:「コロナの前から色々リサーチするなかで、タッチパネルに慣れたなかで、でも触りたくないというニーズがある。そういうものをフォーカスして開発してきた。
News sources: Japan Times, ANNnewsCH
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