The feature at CES 2016 that has everyone talking isn't a mind-boggling gadget. It's security.
The annual tech confab, occupying the Las Vegas Strip this week, has kicked in new policies to keep the executives, gadget heads, journalists and assorted nerds at the annual tech jamboree safe. The protocol now includes bag checks, metal detectors and pat downs.
To get everyone into venues quickly, the Consumer Technology Association, the organizing body previously known as the Consumer Electronics Association, advised attendees to avoid bags with multiple pockets or rollers, use clear or mesh bags, and carry two bags at most. Security guards with bomb-sniffing dogs patrol the Las Vegas Convention Center entrances, and some reporters have been required to get special stickers to prove their bags were screened.
"We want a safe CES," Gary Shapiro, CTA's chief executive, said in a December statement about the updated security measures. "While we know of no credible threat against CES, we remain vigilant."
The new screening process sounded a lot like getting past the Transportation Security Agency at US airports. For a show with nearly 200,000 backpack-toting journalists and techies, none of the new measures sounded particularly speedy. I, for one, expected lines as long as I've seen outside an Apple Store on iPhone launch day.
Never one to give up trying to get around as quickly as I can, I turned to Scottevest, the maker of jackets with multiple pockets. The Ketchum, Idaho, company started 15 years ago with a basic vest that looked like something your uncle would take on a weeklong fishing trip. Now it offers dozens of products including trench coats, hoodies, hats and pants. Its vest, with 42 pockets, remains its best seller.
"I can't even count how many pockets we've sold," CEO Scott Jordan told me a few weeks before CES.
My task seemed daunting. I would ditch my purse and carry everything I needed in the 18 pockets of Scottevest's black trench coat.
Here's what I lug around at CES:
- Two iPhones
- 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro
- Apple Smart Keyboard
- Apple Pencil
- Reporter's notebook
- Business cards
- Digital voice recorder
- Granola bar
- Allergy pills
- Small hairbrush
- Hand lotion
- Bottled water
- Lip balm
- Small wallet with my ID, credit cards, hotel key and cash
Having enough pocket space sure wasn't the issue. Weight balance was. My first reaction after loading up the jacket: I felt like a Sherpa preparing to lug supplies up Mount Everest. No matter how much work Scottevest puts into ensuring you don't walk around like a hunchback in its jackets, you still can feel weighed down, particularly if you're carrying a laptop or tablet. As Jordan said, "We can't make weight go away. The law of gravity is immutable."
I discovered another issue after filling up my pockets. The jacket had been too large for me with the pockets empty, but I now couldn't button it closed. The shape of the massive iPad Pro screen didn't quite conform to my body shape, and it made the jacket pretty bulky.
At the same time, the jacket felt freeing. It was great not to carry anything on my shoulders, and many people I've met here wanted to see all my pockets and even try on the jacket, once they found out what it was. If I hadn't pointed out all the pockets, the coat looked like, well, a normal jacket.
Turns out I shouldn't have worried about those security checks. People seem to be streaming into the convention center at the same pace as last year, with security guards conducting random checks of bags instead of looking at every single one. Even people who had their bags checked got right through.
Greg Potter, who works for auto-industry trade group Equipment and Tool Institute, had his messenger bag searched and has to pass through a metal detector as he walked into the central hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. But he said the process was quick and painless.
"I didn't really do anything differently" in terms of what to carry to the show, he said. "I gave it a thought, but I realized I don't carry that much with me anyway. It's a long day of walking around."
Next stop, TSA.
Tune into CNET's full coverage from CES here.
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