When Booth Becomes Bunker

What happens when power goes out at a convention?

All gadgeted up with nowhere to connect. That was the scene at CES on Wednesday, the handheld electronics convention that lost power right in the middle of its second day. The Las Vegas event is the largest consumer electronics show in the world, attracting about 184,000 attendees and more than 4,000 exhibitors.

CNET, the trade show’s operator, did not have an immediate explanation for loss of power when it occurred at around 11:15 AM. Attendees and exhibitors alike were plunged into darkness and openly lamented the absence of a backup power source for about two hours before it was restored just after 1:00 PM. Booths became bunker-like as companies prioritized their products’ security and safety. No one was hurt and no items were reported stolen. However, scores of tech giants were impacted and may have lost valuable time.

The “isolated” blackout occurred in two main exhibit areas, the North and Central halls at Las Vegas Convention Center, which is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and opened in 1959. LVCC has hosted CES annually since the show’s debut in 1967.

Most visitors were evacuated for the duration of the blackout, although plenty of social media accounts indicated people staying inside at booths, using their phones to communicate—and even continue to exhibit—in some cases. An explanation would come later in the day.

“A preliminary assessment indicates that condensation from heavy rainfall caused a flashover on one of the facility’s transformers,” show organizer CTA (Consumer Technology Association) said in a statement later that afternoon. “We are grateful to NV Energy for their swift assistance, to our customers and their clients for their patience and to the staff for ensuring the safety and security of all attendees and exhibitors.”

Of course, these things happen (the world’s busiest airport fell victim just a few weeks ago, too), and everyone present attempted to manage the situation accordingly. CNET would later fold it nonchalantly into its daily show report, noting on its website: “The biggest tech stories out of CES 2018 include day 2’s massive power outage, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 debuting at Mobile World Congress and the growing trend of color-changing smart lights here at CES 2018.”

Things were back to buzzing Thursday, as the show proceeded without interruption. Attendees aren’t likely to soon forget Wednesday’s blackout, though, where irony reigned. Evidently you can have all the most advanced devices in the world gathered in one place, but be unable to utilize them without a functional transformer.

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