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‘No Evidence’ That Exhibit Power Draw Contributed to CES Blackout, Says LVCC

The “unprecedented amount of rain” that fell on Las Vegas Tuesday was the main culprit responsible for the two-hour power outage that blacked out the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall at the midday peak of Day 2 Wednesday at CES (see 1801100027), said Jeremy Handel, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), which runs the LVCC. The flooding rains, coupled with “the accompanying moisture in the air,” caused “condensation” to form on the LVCC’s “electrical equipment which eventually led to the failure,” said Handel. The National Weather Service reported that a record 1.33 inches of rain inundated Las Vegas Tuesday.

Though Central Hall plays home at CES to the largest tech companies in the world, “we have no evidence” that the huge power draw from the exhibits on the show floor contributed to the blackout, said Handel. “We have worked closely with CES, and our many other full-facility shows, to ensure that we have sufficient power for their more than 2.5 million square feet of exhibits,” said Handel. LVCVA is working with the local power company, NV Energy, “to evaluate the situation and determine next steps to prevent a similar occurrence in the future,” he said.

NV Energy representatives didn’t comment Thursday, but sources friendly to the utility said it had no culpability for the outage. NV Energy supplies high-voltage service to the LVCC, which in turn uses transformers to lower that voltage and send the power to service all the facility’s electrical needs, said the sources. When residual dripping water from Tuesday’s heavy rains caused something to arc in one of the transformers, NV Energy’s high-voltage service sensed the problem and tripped a safety breaker system, they said. The utility responded quickly to help LVCVA identify the problem and suggest ways to get the facility back online, they said.

Though power was restored to Central Hall by 1:30 p.m. PST, tech journalist Grant Clauser tweeted at 2:02 p.m. that Samsung still wasn’t letting anyone enter its booth. Samsung didn’t comment Thursday, nor did other Central Hall exhibiting companies we canvassed, except for Casio. “As with any major event or trade show, we are always prepared for instances like what happened yesterday at CES,” said a Casio spokeswoman. “While it was an unexpected interruption, we found that everyone -- from customers to media -- has been very flexible and we’re rescheduling any missed opportunities. We look forward to a productive conclusion to the show.” CES ends its four-day run Friday at 4 p.m. PST.

Twitter users kept weighing in on the blackout long after the lights came back on. “Wonder how fast they locked all the stands down to keep the toys from disappearing in the dark?” tweeted one. “I have to say that today’s blackout at is a lesson for all of us tech nerds,” tweeted another. “Without power, this connected future we envision isn’t much, eh? Power is the air for tech.”

CES Notebook

CTA President Gary Shapiro hosted the governors of three leading “innovation” states to discuss how they're creating a tech-friendly climate. Shapiro said it was the first time he remembers three governors on the same stage at CES. Rick Snyder, Republican governor of Michigan, said his state “led the world” on innovation through World War II, then lost its way. “We were too successful,” he said. “You can’t take things for granted. The world changed. We didn’t.” The state has cut taxes and regulations and focused on bringing in engineers and IT professionals and other skilled workers, Snyder said. “We are the world’s leader in mobility, in autonomous and connected vehicles,” he said. Snyder said a world of autonomous vehicles will pose new challenges. “What happens to truck drivers, delivery drivers?” he asked. “How do we train them for new careers?” Montana farmers are using lasers, pinpoint applications and other connected technologies, said Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat. There's “scrappy innovation occurring in corners across our state,” he said. A governor has to be prepared to say to local universities, “I want a two-year program, I want to make sure that we’re providing what our employers and what our innovators need,” Bullock said. Also appearing with Shapiro was Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).


Police and other first responders likely will have uses for the IoT, 5G and maybe even autonomous vehicles, said speakers on FirstNet panels at CES Thursday. "We want to connect the in-car platform with the body-worn camera platform" for livestreaming at times, said Chicago Police Department Chief-Technical Services Jonathan Lewin. "We're not going to have the bandwidth, even with FirstNet, to be real-time streaming all the time." The two types of cameras can use wireless to connect, and can upload data, he noted, though "it becomes a fairly significant cost issue to get there. We will. It just takes time." With self-driven automobiles, he said he sees "great potential there both for improved officer safety and for improved public safety" and personally thinks the police could use unstaffed autos. Applications like the ShotSpotter gunshot locating service can "suffer from latency issues," but "we'll take whatever speeds we can get," Lewin said. Other panelists agreed some public-safety applications could use 5G, too. AT&T's partnership with FirstNet means the public safety network "gets to take advantage" of coming improvements on the carrier's network, said Matt Walsh, the company's director-IoT business development.


Net neutrality turmoil and increasing skepticism about tech company dominance are big challenges for an industry that largely has enjoyed strong consumer support and light scrutiny by Congress and regulators, said tech and civil society groups at a CES panel Wednesday on the internet economy. The 2016 election was a game changer in focusing attention on fake news and hate speech, forcing tech companies to make decisions on managing controversial content, said Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “The government is asking the private sector to do things they couldn’t do on their own,” she said. Startup companies are particularly worried about the outcome of net neutrality rules, said Engine Policy Director Rachel Wolbers. While initially skeptical about why startups were so concerned about net neutrality before joining Engine, Wolbers said she “quickly realized how important it is for them to have a level playing field.” The 2015 net neutrality order provided that certainty by putting bright line rules around what ISPs can and can’t do. “We feel like now those rules have been taken away it will be harder for startups to compete,” Wolbers said. Engine is concerned about legislation to curb online sex trafficking that's picking up steam in Congress and raises tricky issues especially for small websites, Wolbers said. The Senate hotlined the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S-1693) Wednesday but Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has long opposed the bill (See 1801030047), put a hold on it, Wolbers said. “The House has a better approach” with the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (HR-1865), which has 173 co-sponsors. “We are hopeful that can be passed,” she said. It’s unclear whether the two measures could be reconciled since they take very different approaches, she said in response to our question on the future for the legislation. SESTA supporters planned a rally Thursday to draw attention to the bill, which has 64 co-sponsors, with Sen. Rob Portman, D-Ohio, leading the push to get the bill onto the Senate floor. Panelists also expressed concern about the increasing skepticism around big tech and calls to evaluate antitrust issues (see 1712150045). TechFreedom Executive Director Austin Carson urged caution on any new regulations or laws aimed specifically at a technology. "If you’re writing a technology-specific law, you’re probably doing it wrong and it will be outdated very soon," he said, citing cybersecurity information sharing legislation as an example of where the market addressed problems during the seven years it took a bill to be passed (see 1512180052).