‘Cool’ Swiss tech puts on a show in Vegas

This content was published on January 8, 2019 minutes
The Swiss pavilion in Las Vegas House of Switzerland

The cream of Swiss innovation is being presented at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas – for the first time ever. It is hoped the decision will reap financial rewards.

In all, 32 companies, most of them start-ups, feature in the imposing 200m2 Swiss pavilion. The aim is to stand out among the 4,400 exhibitors. The CES event itself, the world’s largest expo for home electronics, is expected to attract more than 180,000 visitors over four days.

Among the innovations on show: a ring that transforms your hand into a computer mouse, an app that lets the audience at the next Paléo music festival create works that will be projected onto festival screens in real time, and a bottle opener that remembers everything that it opens. There’s a huge and diverse range of ideas from finance to biometrics, to video games and drones.

It’s the drones that form the highpoint, with demonstrations showing how the devices can be used by amateurs, but also in a professional context, such as for deliveries and for accessing hard-to-reach places.

Nicolas Bideau surrounded by drones at VivaTech 2018 in Paris. Twitter@NicolasBideau

Swiss companies used to be represented at the CES in a more ad hoc manner, but this year’s #SwissTech pavilion will give them much greater visibility. It is organised by Presence Switzerland, the foreign ministry’s promotional arm, and by government agency Switzerland Global Enterprise, which helps Swiss companies set up abroad. It also has the support of Innosuisse and digitalswitzerland.

Presence Switzerland director Nicolas Bideau replied to our  questions (in writing) just ahead of the grand opening of the CES. The weekly business magazine l’Agefi says that it pushed for the pavilion. Why did this, seemingly obvious, idea of putting everyone together not happen before?

Nicolas Bideau: We’re not really sure who came up with the idea first. It’s true that an l’Agefi article did kick start discussions about why there wasn’t an official presence at the CES. It flagged up how branch representatives, especially groups and experts, were hoping for Switzerland to be represented at this global event. Tech and innovation are key topics for Presence Switzerland when promoting Switzerland’s image abroad. We spoke to Switzerland Global Enterprise about having a project that would cover both our mandates and that would be useful for companies as well. We tried it out at the VivaTech Paris in 2018, which convinced us that it had potential. Which Swiss innovations do you think will cause the most buzz at the CES?

N.B.: In terms of the noise and wind generated, it has to be our “show drones”! Joking aside, these drones really make a big impact on foreign spectators. They sum up a Swiss know-how that is very solution-oriented. If I had to pick one company in particular, it would be FlyJacket [creator of a kind of exoskeleton which allows you to fly a drone using your body movements] which is a very interesting combination of an immersive experience, robotics and drones, developed within the framework of the NCCR robotics national research project. It’s a very Swiss project, because it leverages several types of know-how. How are you feeling now that the event is just about to open? Stage fright?

N.B: I’ve just arrived in Las Vegas and in a couple of minutes’ time I am going to see the stand for the first time. Our space is very different to those of other countries, which is always an advantage. We are, for example, the only ones who have a stage which allows start-ups to do “pitches” or can host the drone show. I really feel it’s the right thing to be here, not only from the reactions back in Switzerland once we announced this, but also from among the Swiss who are here. We really are one of the tech countries, alongside South Korea, France, the United States and Israel.

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