Shapiro: CTA Launching Pro-Innovation Country Rankings

Plans to roll out at CES show with plenty of International flavor

The Consumer Technology Association is planning to start ranking countries on a pro-innovation scale similar to one it has been applying to states.

That is according to CTA President Gary Shapiro, who briefed reporters on the upcoming CES show in Las Vegas at CTA's Innovation House digs in Washington Monday (Oct.; 30)  a wingtip's throw from the Capitol.

The goal is to have that ranking ready by the show this January. Countries will be ranked according to a host of things, including press and religious freedom, broadband speeds, jobs, policies on self-driving cars, and much more.

The ranking is meant to be both carrot and stick. For example, Shapiro said state governors have called CTA to ask how they can raise their rankings.

While CTA has diverged with the Trump Administration over issues like immigration and the travel ban, Shapiro said the President was rightly concerned about the security of the country, and that otherwise they were generally on the same page when it came to the tech agenda, including corporate tax policies, repatriation of businesses, a White House tech apprenticeship program, and the Administration's talking-up of driverless cars and drones.

Shapiro said that he expected the Trump Administration would be supportive of the CES show. He pointed out that President Barack Obama in eight years had never sent a letter welcoming international attendees--there were some 60,000 last year. But asked if he would be angling for a Trump "tweet" of welcome, he said he wasn't going there.

Shapiro said Trump was good on tax policy and job creation, pointing out there were now more full-time jobs than at any other time in American history. CTA recently created a VP or jobs position, one he said would probably not have been created were it not for a Trump presidency.

Shapiro praised FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for balancing mandates with setting a tone, and that he did not have any gripes about any of his actions thus far, though CTA is not in the middle of the broadcast media ownership debate that has been smoldering for a while caught fire last week after Pai proposed major changes.

Shapiro is also in synch with Pai's promise to clear out the regulatory underbrush in general.

The FCC will vote on the ATSC 3.0 standard, which will deliver 4K signals over-the-air. Asked if that would spur new set sales, Shapiro said those sales are already "pretty dominant." But he added that the degree to which it spurs more sales depends on the FCC "blessing it" next week, which he expects will happen, and then on how much the broadcasters promote it, and how much manufacturers believe broadcasters will promote it.

CES attendees will get their own chances to talk policy with the makers of said policy at the show, with something like 200 U.S. and international officials expected to attend, he said.

Among the new sights and sounds will be a focus on smart cities, sports tech, and an AI marketplace.

The Eureka Park area for startups looking to get noticed will expand from last year’s 600 to 800, with folks like "shark" Mark Cuban, and massive retailer Walmart, represented as well.

As an example of the success of the showcase, Shapiro pointed to the $200,000 deal that BenjiLock creator Robbie Cabral, "an immigrant," he added, had struck with the Sharks just this month. He was an innovation award at CES last year.

Asked if that increase to 800 would-be Cabrals was due to international interest, Shapiro said the U.S. was still the biggest contingent, with France probably number two--Shapiro was just back from a trip to Paris and a French appetite for tech he suggested was far from being sated. He suggested Germany, Israel and the Dutch would be competing for the third spot.

Better Safe

Shapiro acknowledged the tragic shootings in Las Vegas, but said that security was nothing new for the association. And while there was at least one report--since retracted said Shapiro--that CTA was instituting a photo ID policy in response, he said that had been in the works for a couple of years.

Shapiro said that since 9/11, staffers have gotten security training, and CTA has also employed consultants. It has been working with federal (FBI and Homeland Security), state and local police in Las Vegas given the size of the event (somewhere between 150,000 and close to 200,000).

He said no exhibitors following the shootings said they did not want to come to the show. In fact, he said CTA had been contacted by at least one international exhibitor who thought CTA was based in Las Vegas and wanted to make sure its staffers were safe.