ISE 2017… The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The good was the ISE show itself; the bad was going through security at the airport with a carry-on bag filled with small electronic devices and the ugly? Well — read on.

Miravue was new to ISE this year so we decided to exhibit in the Discovery Zone (a one-time option for new exhibitors that offers a 2×3 meter prefab booth in a reasonably high traffic area). Initially, I was concerned about being the only person at our booth so I brought a “booth babe” with me (i.e., my wife) who scanned visitor badges and queued people for the next presentation. The exhibit hours were killer (four eight-hour days).

This show was very important to us. We had demonstrated our technology before at CEDIA and received a number of awards but now we were shipping (which is a whole lot better than saying “coming soon”). Our goals for the show were simple… meet with distributor candidates from various countries and show them the product they had been hearing about. We had back-to-back appointments for most of the show. Any impromptu presentations to integrator/dealers, consultants, end-user companies, press, etc. would only be icing on the cake.

Setup on the Monday before the show went off without a hitch. The artwork went up easy (we used temporary adhesive vinyl signs since it’s not our booth) and product setup was a snap (hmm, maybe we should have called our product SnapAV?). I connected a media player and a TV to one Miravue transceiver (to demonstrate a distributed source architecture like with a source at each TV). This is unique to Miravue and demonstrates simultaneous transmit and receive. I then connected a Blu-ray player to a second transceiver and a TV to a third transceiver (to demonstrate a centralized architecture like with traditional racked sources and remote TVs). I added an IP camera to show how we can incorporate direct IP streams. Finally, I added a NAS system (my laptop) with a number of commercial and residential videos to demonstrate casting from portable devices (we can cast media from the local network or streamed over the Internet).

Once this was done, I went through a full demonstration with a gentleman by the name of Mark Hamilton at Avation who wants to distribute our product in Australia and New Zealand and didn’t want to wait for the show to open. I felt very happy when he said, “With that demo, you’re going to own this show!” Everything was ready, so I stored our equipment inside the locked cabinet leaving the TV monitors on top. Little did I know what was in store for me the next day.

I arrived at the show 30 minutes early, plenty of time to remove the equipment from the locked cabinet and get ready for the onslaught. I was still far off when I noticed that the cabinet had been moved. As I approached the booth, it looked like the cabinet doors were open and I wondered if we’d had a break-in. My steps quickened as I became concerned about our equipment. What would I do if it was taken? How would I demonstrate our product to these distributors who were coming to see us? I had spares for everything but it was all locked in that cabinet!

When I made it to the booth, the first thing I noticed was that the cabinet doors were not open but rather the front side of the cabinet had come off and someone had propped it up against the back wall of the booth (so much for locked doors!). Equipment was strewn everywhere and the TV monitors were split open along the top seam showing the electronics inside. It wasn’t long before I noticed that the entire booth frame had been pushed back about 2 feet. This wasn’t a break-in at all! Some piece of heavy equipment (most likely a fork lift or bucket crane used to hang signs) had smashed into the booth knocking over and breaking the cabinet, pushing the booth frame back and ripping out the electrical.

Whoever had done this had simply stood the cabinet back up, put the TV monitors on top and shoved all the equipment they could see back into the cabinet before leaving. Nothing was covered (to provide some security); there was no note of explanation. Needless to say, I was not happy. I flagged down two people wearing ISE jackets and asked if they had any idea what had happened? They told me that it was probably someone with a hand cart or palette jack because all of the heavy equipment had stopped running the previous day at 4 p.m. I was surprised that they could say this with a straight face because it was obvious that is was heavy equipment and not an individual that had caused this damage. (Later I spoke with one of our booth neighbors who told me that there were fork lifts and bucket cranes running all over the place when they left at 8 p.m.) The ISE people said they would check with the convention center (the RAI in Amsterdam), but wanted to know what was damaged. I told them I wouldn’t know the extent of the damage until I put things back together. I asked them to hurry back because I might need their help in getting replacement equipment (TV monitors, Blu-ray player). Sadly, they never came back nor did anyone else until I sought them out.

I carefully snapped the TV monitors back together but had no idea if they would work… there was no backup for these. Then I started reworking the power. Fortunately, I had a backup power strip so I connected it to the power outlet at the back of the booth and plugged my phone in to see if it had power. Then I plugged in the TV monitors and they seemed to work (at least the LG logo came up)! Then I plugged in the two video sources (media player and Blu-ray player) and they powered up (another good sign). However, I couldn’t tell if anything was really working until I re-connected the transceivers. I could see that the transceivers had taken the brunt of the trauma (cables ripped from the device, cases marred, etc.). I wondered if they had actually run over the devices. Unfortunately, my suspicion was confirmed when two of the transceivers didn’t boot… no visible power to the device so I grabbed spares and they powered right up. Later, I found out that an electrical arc from the power strip had fried the boards. Thank goodness only the transceivers and the wireless router were plugged in (remind me never to leave anything plugged in).
The exhibits had been opened for about 90 minutes when I finally got everything sorted out (it took me less time to set it up the booth in the first place!). The router was acting flaky so I wasn’t able to demonstrate casting (which was sad, because it’s so cool). I felt a little silly saying to prospects that our booth had been damaged overnight. I kept thinking, he (or she) probably thinks our stuff doesn’t work. I was able to factory default the router and reconfigure it for the second day and things worked from there (although I had to reboot the router every presentation).

After the show closed and the first day was over, we contacted the RAI and asked that someone come to our booth to repair the cabinet. We waited and someone finally showed up, but he was a booth guy and not a furniture guy. He fixed the booth frame (that I hadn’t noticed was damaged) and then left saying someone else would come from the furniture group. My face of incredulity was obvious. How many times have we heard that before? At this point, someone from the RAI customer service showed up and asked what had happened. I explained it all and he told me that they were not responsible because no one had reported that they did it and no one saw who did it. In his words, it could have been anyone and they wouldn’t be responsible for damage that we can’t confirm was our mistake. Once again, this was said with a straight face. How do they do that? Not too long thereafter, the furniture guy showed up and put the cabinet back together so we could leave things secure. Still, no one from ISE had come back to the booth. The RAI rep said he would speak to ISE (the show organizers).

The next morning there was a representative from both ISE and the RAI at our booth. I had trouble breaking away from presentations but I found a few minutes to once again describe what had happened. This time, no one claimed that it was an individual. The damage was clearly done by heavy equipment. They asked me to submit a claim through my insurance company in the United States and that my insurance company contact their insurance company for the reimbursement. What!? I’m not going to file a claim with my insurance company and pay whatever deductible and have my rates go up because of damage caused by them or their associates… no way! My insurance agent would probably laugh at me if I did this. So I told them I would submit documentation as to what was damaged and the cost. Then it’s in their court.

What will happen? I have no idea. I saw a lot of finger pointing and no one was willing to say sorry or we’ll take care of it or anything. It reminded me of a popular phrase in Italian… something about passing a bottle of wine around the room. The difference is that I love Italy. 🙂

As a side note, have you ever gone through security at an airport with a standard size carry-on bag filled with little electronic devices? Of course, they want you to remove all electronic devices and lay them flat in those grey plastic bins for scanning. I had to use nine bins to make it through. Then I had to repack everything on the other side. The trip back was more complicated because I had to go through security twice (once in Amsterdam and then again after going through passport control and customs in the United States). It’s a good thing they can’t measure my blood pressure because they might think I’m nervous for some nefarious reason. Can you say body cavity search?