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Expect the bar to be raised again at the 2014 International CES®, which will showcase the latest technological innovations to thousands of professionals and government leaders from over 150 countries around the world. Produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the annual event will be held from January 7-10, 2014 in Las Vegas, USA, and will build on the success of the 2013 expo.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA what auto trends are reflected at the expo.

Shapiro: Today’s consumers are vastly different than from just a decade ago. For one, auto buyers today are less focused on horsepower and more on connectivity. Aftermarket brand names matter, as does the ability to connect seamlessly with portable devices. Electric cars are also becoming more visible at CES.

AI: How feasible is universal automotive touchscreen infotainment?

Shapiro: I am not convinced that every consumer wants touch screens. The marketplace is a wonderful determinant of whether any technology can and should be universal. Indeed, Ford is adding physical controls back into vehicles. One important enabling technology is – ironically – better voice controls. While knobs, buttons and dials make sense in many applications, voice control can also make automotive infotainment enjoyable, seamless and safe.

AI: How soon do you see such a feature becoming reality?

Shapiro: This is a function of improvements in technology, consumer comfort and market demand. Ford demonstrated early on that tightly integrated technology can influence purchasing decisions. Now, as Smartphone penetration in U.S. households approaches 60%, consumers are more accustomed to touchscreens, and have an expectation that their Smartphone and vehicle will speak the same language.

AI: What are some of the challenges facing automotive electronics?

Shapiro: Simplicity, including a great user interface with consistent results, is likely the most important factor. While we have accepted standards for car-to-device connectivity like Bluetooth and USB, devices at the operating system level don’t always respond to commands naturally and easily.

AI: What trend have you seen in the audio video/pdx-power density digital automotive amplifiers showcased at CES?

Shapiro: Referring specifically to CEA member Alpine Electronics’ line of PDX Power Density Digital Amplifiers, the interesting story here is the miniaturization of technology happening across product categories. Where space is at a premium small size can be a major benefit to auto audio system builders. Alpine figured out how to deliver in an extr emely small package.

AI: How do you see automotive electronics optimizing the connected driver experience?

Shapiro: Possible strategies include: go for a completely integrated system; develop unique proprietary features or a compelling look and feel; to future-proof a car by making it easy to host new devices and features; link in with a well-known brand like Apple or Sony and /or even a broadband provider like AT&T or Verizon or a search engine like Google and benefit from their branding and/or unique services; compete on ease of use or price and provide a simpler feature set. Others may package in a free level of services. Couple any of these strategies with the ability for the user to talk to their devices using natural language, instead of an awkward, device-specific syntax, and success is possible. The most important consideration for any company is to consider safety and develop products and services which keep consumers connected but allow them not to feel they bought an obsolete product the next day. This argues in favor of embracing aftermarket products.

AI: asked Karen Chupka, senior VP of International CES and Corporate Business Strategy, CEA, how big the 2014 International CES is expected to be.

Chupka: We are expecting some 150,000 attendees from 150 different countries to do business at the world’s leading innovation event. Our show floor will likely come in around 1.9 million net square feet of exhibit space again, which is on par with the last few years.

AI: Tell us a little about the green aspect of the 2014 event.

Chupka: We will continue to recycle more than 80,000 square feet of magnetic and vinyl banners – more than 20,000 pounds of magnetic material alone. We will collect all discarded publications and show collateral with a goal to surpass last year’s collection of 50,000 pounds. All of our interior show signs will be produced with an eco-friendly Falon-board material. We hope to increase the reuse/recycle rate of solid waste generated at the show beyond last year’s high of 75%. All exhibit floor aisles, TechZones, registration areas and booth packages will be outfitted with recyclable carpet. We offer booth packages with recyclable panels and graphics printed in soy ink. Our new registration system will enable us to cut back on the number of badges printed. Pre-registrants will receive confirmation codes and use those codes to print badges when they arrive in Las Vegas. Last January, CEA gave two $50,000 donations to local Las Vegas organizations: Green Chips and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). The LVCVA will install several electric vehicle charging stations at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Green Chips plans to use its donation to support a solar installation project at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on Las Vegas Boulevard.

AI: What are some of the CES Innovation Awards that have been given for automotive infotainment/electronics?

Chupka: We have three different categories to highlight the best in automotive electronics: In-Vehicle Navigation Control Telematics, In-Vehicle Audio/Video and In-Vehicle Accessories. Our Best of Innovations Honoree title was awarded to Phoenix gold for its ACX600.5 in the A/V category and Sony Electronics was honored for its XAV-701HD Smartphone Connected AV Receiver for In-Vehicle Accessories.

AI: How important is the automotive sector to the International CES and why?

Chupka: The automobile is just as important as an environment for the consumers as the home is. CEA industry forecasts predict sales of factory-installed vehicle technologies will increase by more than 11% in 2013 to nearly $8.7 billion. Last year we had a record number of automotive manufacturers, with stands covering more than 100,000 square feet, up 5% on the 2012 show. Among the 110 automotive tech companies at the 2013 were OEMs Audi, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus and Subaru.

I: What will be important at the 2014 event as far as automotive electronics are concerned?

Chupka: Expect to see an expansion in the way of connected infotainment systems that deliver a seamless, safe and secure experience to drivers and vehicle occupants. We also expect more driver-assistance features, including autonomous systems like adaptive cruise-control to make the driving task safer and more enjoyable. Driverless car technology is another arena making progressive strides.

AI: What global impact does the event have and why?

Chupka: Our member company involvement ensures that the International CES continues to meet the needs of the ever-changing CE industry. Last year 36,206 attendees came to CES from outside of the United States. Some 20,000 new products are launched at CES every year as our show continues to provide a place for everyone (and every industry) that is part of the global consumer electronics business community.

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