The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) ® celebrated its 2019 Consumer Technology (CT) Hall of Fame inductees and two Innovation Entrepreneur Award winners at its annual awards dinner held in New York on November 6. Hosted at SIR Stage37, the event marked 20 years of the CT Hall of Fame program. The program celebrates technology leaders who advance innovation and develop, create, market and promote the technologies, products and services that improve consumers’ lives.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CT Hall of Fame program,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. He praised the 2019 inductees for their efforts to develop technologies and business models that laid the foundation our industry continues to build upon.
“As we honor the past, we also keep an eye to the future to imagine what could be,” he said. “I am proud to honor the accomplishments of these leaders that inspire each of us with their passion for innovation.”
For the first time, CTA also honored its Innovation Entrepreneur Award (IEA) winners at the dinner. The IEA program, created in 2012, is a collaboration between CTA’s Small Business Council and It Is Innovation (i3) magazine that recognizes a leading business and an exceptional startup in the consumer technology industry. The first to be recognized was the “Startup of the Year,” Aurora. The Aurora Driver is a self-driving platform that brings together its software, hardware and data services to power all types of vehicle makes and models.
“Our mission is to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly and broadly,” said Gerardo Interiano, head of government relations at Aurora, who accepted the award. “This self-driving technology will create incredible value in ways of efficiencies, economics and the movement of people and goods, with safety as an incredible byproduct.”
The “Company of the Year” was a leader in the digital health space. Heal developed the first app to pair doctor house calls with remote patient monitoring using its Heal Hub, a simple plug-in device. Heal Chief Medical Officer Dr. Renee Dua and CEO Nick Desai accepted the award. Desai said, “During CES 2018, a middle-aged man in business attire walked up who was clearly an executive. When he found out I was the CEO of Heal, he dropped his bag, wept in tears and gave me a hug because our service saved his son’s life. The consumer electronics we see at that show and that this industry and association champions aren’t products or services at all. They change the way we live our lives.”
The CT Hall of Fame awards ceremony began after dinner. Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot and co-inventor of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, said, “It blows my mind that the number one selling vacuum today is a robot. It’s great to see we are at the beginning of this journey and not the end. Certainly, the robotics that we were promised extend past vacuum cleaning and extend past the simple things we do today.”
Jim Barry spent 18 years as an influential consumer technology reporter and editor, then 22 years as CTA's Digital Answer Man. He was represented by his wife Kate and his daughters Moira and Fiona. Kate said, “Jim loved all the ‘stuff’ he discovered on his travels. He loved the how and why.” She added, “Jim Barry was a proud man, but not boastful. He was just Jim Barry: a writer, dad, friend, and my dear. This honor befits him. This should have been his speech to make, but Moira, Fiona and I are honored to receive it.”
Elizabeth Feinler organized the online information system for ARPANET, the early version of the internet, but was unable to attend due to a medical issue. Pam Golden, a longtime CT Hall of Fame judge, accepted the award on her behalf. She said, “Elizabeth Feinler was an inspiration to everybody, especially women, who came up in the world today, and I don’t think we’d have any dot-coms without her.”
Dr. Shuji Nakamura invented the blue LED, which makes power-efficient "white" LED light bulbs possible, and the blue laser that the Blu-ray Disc format is based on. He said, “In my case, at a small local company in Japan, without any corporation, without any companies, we were able to create that LED blue laser. I’m proud my invention has been part of so many other consumer inventions.”
Owen Young in 1919 founded the first U.S. radio company, RCA, which enabled the commercialization of radio and the creation of the consumer technology business. His granddaughter Shirley Adams said, “From the dirt roads of Van Hornesville, New York, to the sidewalks of world cities, my grandfather demonstrated to his family the love, respect and responsibility that life requires of each of us. We of his Young family stand side by side as we blend the poetry of work with the poetry of life.”
Henry Chiarelli, over the course of his 40-year career, has been a ubiquitous executive for many leading consumer technology, e-commerce and retail businesses, including RadioShack. Chiarelli, who received two standing ovations, said, “I’ve always tried to go out of my way to help everyone be the best they can be. But then I had a realization, because it wasn’t just [my colleagues]. It wasn’t just me. If you have a passion for CTA like me, you have spent most of your life reaching out to your brothers and sisters in this organization making sure they are being the best they can be. This night isn’t about me – it’s about we.”
The inductees for the CT Hall of Fame and honorees for the Innovation Entrepreneur Awards were selected by two separate panels of media and industry professionals, who judged nominations submitted by manufacturers, retailers and industry journalists. Complete inductee bios are in the November issue of It Is Innovation (i3) magazine, as well as online at CTA.tech/i3. Look for profiles on the Innovation Entrepreneur Award winners in the January issue of i3.