January 12Â marked the first diversity mixer to be held during the International Consumer Electronics Show. The event, dubbed The Hub, and held at the Palms Hotel, stood apart from the shows megawatt, over the top deluge of new product announcements, device demos, and gadget glorification.
Organized by Lindsey C. Holmes, owner of LCH Business, Inc. and with help from adjunct Rutgers University professor of digital media, Kaia Niambi Shivers, the mixer sought to discuss ways to encourage minorities to pursue an education in science and provide a platform to showcase minority companies at a conference where their presence seems to be absent.
“The mixer is about having a forum for us to discuss some actionable steps we can take to incubate minorities and women in consumer electronics,” says Holmes, who was motivated to host the event after a high-level tech executive told her that he did not see a case for minority inclusion at CES. “Minority inclusion at events like CES is imperative to the stimulus of the economy through job creation and innovation, and opens up windows in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field, that many are unaware of.”
While it is rare that black faces are represented in technical fields behind the scenes in the consumer electronics industry, roughly 31% of black discretionary spending, or $39 billion, goes toward the purchase of computers, cell phones and electronics – a lower percentage is spent by non-blacks, according to a survey, commissioned by Black Entertainment Television.
“Technology is used to create a better society…if you are not including everybody in [the generation of] these technologies then society does not progress as it should,” says Shivers.
Albeit rare, black technology inventors are not extinct. Of the 2,000 plus exhibitors at CES, Holmes discovered two companies on the convention floor that she says embody the diversity that the Consumer Electronics Association should show more of.
For example, NoitAvonne, is a black-owned company that created Loop Technology, which when embedded in smart phones and tablets helps mobile workers access the same tools and applications they use in the office. Another black-owned company, Tabelz, manufactures tripod stands for computers and video cameras.
“It was an honor to be at the beginning of a movement! There were various ethnicities represented, as well as women, and everyone felt a personal responsibility to advance the opportunities of people of color within the CE (consumer electronics) space,” said digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong, who is a technology correspondent for the Today show, and one of the 40 attendees at the mixer.Â “This diversity reception was the match that lit the torch of opportunity for creation not consumption, now it’s up to us to carry the torch everywhere we go to fulfill the mission–bringing more diversity to the CE industry.”
Also in attendance was Carol Campbell, the founder of Women in CE, an organization dedicated to advancing career opportunities across the breadth of the consumer electronics industry. Campbell has agreed to incubate The Hub, says Holmes, who hopes to help produce a diversity tech zone at CES. Currently CES provides space for several niche tech zones, including a Mommy Tech Zone, the Digital Health Summit and the Silver Summit, for companies that provide tech solutions for the elderly and aging.
Holmes, also a fledgling inventor, introduced her Barcode Mardi Gras Beads at the event. She says the beads are a fun and engaging way for a business to share content about their products. Two-sided medallions hang from mardi gras beads and feature quick response barcodes on one side and scanning instructions on the other. When scanned with a mobile phone, the barcodes link to content such as web pages, videos, and social media sites.