By Marc Metcalf, senior business recruitment officer, Upstate SC Alliance
The Consumer Technology Association’s annual Consumer Electronics Show, held the second week of January, historically has been a launchpad for tech gadgets that have worked their way into households across America.
Known today as CES, the event has morphed into a destination where automotive and transportation companies flock to find the latest in technologies transforming the mobility industry. It’s a place where manufacturers go to explore opportunities for process and product improvement.
That’s why the Upstate SC Alliance and Charleston Regional Development Alliance partnered to showcase South Carolina at the event.
Our mission? To learn what’s on the horizon in the industry, to explore business connection
opportunities for South Carolina companies, and to showcase the business climate and support that companies can find in South Carolina.
What we learned: The future of mobility
Our team positioned South Carolina, home to three automotive manufacturers — BMW, Volvo and Mercedes Benz — and electric-bus producer Proterra as the intersection of technology and manufacturing.
This sweet spot is a good one to watch.
As transportation options widen into autonomous vehicles and shifts away from the internal
combustion engine, mobility devices — think: planes, trains and automobiles — become less like their locomotive predecessors and more like computers. You’ve probably heard of this as the “digitization of the transportation industry.”
Several keynote presentations and exhibitor booths showcased these transformations, as reported by Cars.com.
Bosch, which has Upstate operations, unveiled a virtual visor that shields a driver’s face from the sun without obstructing views like today’s opaque visors.
BMW deployed 20 i3 hatchbacks across the streets of Vegas to unveil its i3 Urban Suite, which transforms the passenger experience into a luxury lounge with on-screen entertainment and private audio zones. In keeping the luxury theme, the company also debuted a X7 ZeroG Lounger seat with reclining and entertainment capabilities.
Sony got into the automotive action by unveiling a concept car, its Sony Vision-S. The fully electric vehicle offers semi-autonomous driving safety, with visions of scaling to full autonomy.
Bertrandt, an automotive supplier with Upstate operations, showcased its autonomous and electrified innovation platform, HARRI, during the show.
We also saw the rise of solar-powered devices and next-generation charging technologies.
These are only a small number of the innovations we saw that married tech and automotive, and it’s inspiring to see names associated with the Upstate showcase transformative technologies.
The presence of international trade offices and foreign startups was another noteworthy element.
Across the exhibit floors, we met with trade representatives hailing from the technology hubs within Belgium, Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Often, they were joined by small companies looking to grow their businesses.
What we shared: A collaborative environment
Our experience was more than learning: We were there primarily to share what makes South Carolina a strong location for doing business and a great place to live, and to tell the story of our rich manufacturing environment, which is open to process and product optimization technologies. We also talked about the more than 8,501 tech establishments growing within our borders, and shared news about the volume of mobility research happening within our state.
To help with this pursuit, we were joined by Clemson University, the International Transportation Innovation Center, the state Department of Commerce, the SC Power Team, Duke Energy, the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness’ Tech SC, and local industry representatives.
As a regional organization dedicated to positioning the Upstate to excel in the global economy, we’re proud to spearhead efforts like these and excited to see what comes of our new connections in technology.
About the Upstate SC Alliance: Formed in 2000, the Upstate South Carolina Alliance is a public/private regional economic development organization whose mission is to position the Upstate to excel in the global economy through strategic marketing, collaboration, and thought leadership. See more information at www.upstateSCalliance.com.