CEA's New Middle Name Is ‘Technology’

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has morphed into the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), unveiling its new name during a preview of its benchmark Las Vegas trade show. The group's January extravaganza will still be called CES. CTA's members ratified the new name at their annual membership meeting held during the group's Innovate! conference in New York City this week.

It is not yet clear how or if the shift in focus will affect CTA's lobbying positions, which have often conflicted with policies embraced by broadcasters, cable operators and telephone companies on issues ranging from digital TV transition timetables to network neutrality. At the New York meeting this week, CTA also unveiled its "Disruptive Innovation Council," which will focus on "messages to lawmakers, regulators and the general public."

The new Council will "provide support and advocacy to help innovative companies that are disrupting traditional business models and empowering consumers navigate market and policy challenges."

CTA says that the term "electronics ... no longer captures the breadth of the consumer tech industry"  and that the new name "more accurately represents its members, many of whom are non-hardware innovators including BMW, Expedia, Ford, Google, Lyft, Netflix, Pandora, Snapchat, Starz, Uber, WebMD, Yelp and Twentieth Century Fox." (It conveniently avoided the fact that BMW, Ford and others actually do manufacture "hardware," although they are increasingly developers and integrators of system and software technology.)

“Innovation and expansion are hallmarks of the consumer technology industry and our association – and as our industry changes, so must we,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. "CTA also better captures our association’s vision, scope of advocacy, current membership base and brand promise.”

CTA represents more than 2,200 technology companies, 80 percent of which are small businesses and startups, others are among the world’s largest companies.

“As the tech sector has evolved at the lightning speed of innovation, we’ve broadened our membership to include new technologies and intersecting industry sectors,” said Dan Pidgeon, Starpower chairman and CTA Executive Board chair. “App and software development, crowd-sourcing technology, content creation, personalized health care, the sharing economy, music streaming services – companies from all of these sectors and more now look to us as the public voice of industry, a champion for innovation and source of unparalleled market research.”

The name for the CES trade show and conference will not change. CTA said that CES has become "a global brand representing innovation."

CEA's most recent name change came in 1999 when it dropped one word from its previous name, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association. The association began as the Radio Manufacturers Association in 1924, later became the Electronic Industries Association, which included a Consumer Electronics Group.

CTA's new "Disruptive Innovation Council" includes companies such as Google, Uber, Yelp, Expedia, GoPro and Pandora. "Council companies must exhibit a proven success, significant cultural impact and create new markets or solve, or simplify commonly used processes or services," according to the CTA announcements.

“The Internet has enabled nimble, innovative companies to reshape our economic ecosystem," Shapiro explained. "These companies are reinventing legacy markets and creating jobs along with consumer-friendly new opportunities and services."

The new Council's "policy principles" may set it on a collision course with long-standing communications companies and associations, although both sides often espouse similar lofty principles. CTA's principles include:

  • Innovation should not require government permission.
  • Intellectual property laws must balance protecting and incentivizing creators to innovate.
  • Consumer privacy expectations and customized delivery can be achieved with clear disclosure, choice and consent.
  • Consumers should have the right to share opinions on services and products without concern or fear of retaliation.
  • Laws should enable innovation, not require perfection.

The Council is opened to CTA members only.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.