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The Other Side of CES

Every January, up to 150,000 people swarm the ­Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where they mainly see salesmen and models touting slick gadgets under bright lights. Most visitors miss the ­surprises that can be found in a plain corner called the “International Gateway,” where manufacturers from Asia display unglamorous components and offbeat items.

Photographs by Gregg Segal
February 21, 2012
In contrast to the International Gateway, the scene on the main floor of CES is glitzy, loud, and crowded. Left, visitors gathered around the Mercedes-Benz booth for a demonstration of a car with interactive displays on its windshield. Right, models danced to hip-hop in the Soul headphones booth.

Ken Siow, the head of sales for Gavio, showed off Wrenz, metal ­stereo ­speakers shaped like birds. Gavio is owned by a Singapore company that designs sleek, ­whimsical accessories. Siow says that by engineering its items itself, Gavio cuts out the usual costly markup on electronics. “I will kick your ass,” he said with a huge laugh, “if you buy something that is a few times higher than what it should be.”

Man Hyun Ryu (right) demonstrated two Windoros for a visitor to the booth of South Korea’s Ilshim Global­. Much as iRobot’s Roomba will vacuum your floor, Ilshim’s Windoro will clean your window as it moves across the glass. Each unit has two pieces held together by magnets—one for the inside of a window and one for the outside. The devices, which are about $450, are available in Japan, Korea, and Europe. They clean one side of a window at a time; Ilshim is developing a version that does both sides. 

One morning, Shi “Terry” Liao lamented the fact that exhibitors in the International Gateway were organized not by the products they sell but by the country they came from. “This hall is just Chinese people,” he grumbled. He had come from Jiangmen to find international distributors for the aluminum woofers made by his employer, Golden Dragon Electronic. Liao emphasized that the speakers were designed to fit under car seats instead of having to go in the trunk like other high-end speakers. That afternoon, things were looking up: buyers from Brazil, South Africa, and the United States were asking him for details and nodding approvingly.

At many booths in the International Gateway, electronics components are laid out to essentially speak for themselves. This is a close-up of stereo gear sold by a Chinese audio-equipment company.

Like many exhibitors in the ­International Gateway, Jennifer Liu, owner of Wealley’s Technology, pointed out the finer points of even the humblest ­components. Wealley’s, which is based in Taiwan, makes data cables and connectors and specializes in sturdy ­wiring that goes behind the walls of buildings.

Michelle Hsu, a sales manager for Wingsonic, explains how the Taiwanese company’s enclosures make it easy to swap out the hard drives in PCs and servers.

Tyler Baccari, the U.S. sales representative for Sunway of Shenzhen, China, and the company’s owner, ­Richard Li, model hats that are equipped with LED lights. Sunway was hired to produce the hats for a Finnish inventor who thought they’d be ideal for long winter nights. Li says the inventor told him: “Everyone deserves the right to see and be seen.”

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