Thoughts On COFES 2012

I’m getting ready to head back to India after attending COFES 2012 for the last three days here in sunny (and a little rainy) Scottsdale, Arizona. This was my fifth consecutive COFES and the first time as a regular attendee paying the full $2,500 registration fee as opposed to media for whom the fee is waived. I must say that this experience was a very different one from the previous four where I had to cover the event as a blogger, which meant sitting down for the mostly boring or over the top general sessions taking down notes to blog about while tweeting what speakers were saying and what I thought about what they were saying. It also involved getting briefed by vendors in the Technology and Hospitality Suites and meeting other vendors who had scheduled appointments with me on their own.

None of that this year. Actually I’m beginning to think that its a good thing that some of the onstage sessions are what they are because they kind of make you want to hang around in the lobby of the Scottsdale Plaza and around the Cafe Cabana swimming pool area where the Technology Suites are. They say the real value of COFES is in the hallways and I experienced it in full bloom this year. Judging by the what I achieved from this year’s COFES, I don’t I’ll ever attend as media again.

I was to accompany Abe Reichental, President and CEO of 3D Systems. But unfortunately something came up at the last minute and he couldn’t make it. Nevertheless, I bumped into several people this year and had completely unplanned meetings that I believe are going to show up tangible results.

The downside of COFES 2012 was the absolutely crappy WiFi connection. After doing this 13 times year after year I think the Scottsdale Plaza should have figured this by now. They know exactly how many people are attending. I don’t give a shit about bandwidth. That’s their freaking problem. If an attendee is paying a handsome $2,500 for three days just to attend the conference and then another $200+ a day for a hotel room, then they bloody well figure out the internet.

On the first day Tech Soft 3D had their customer conference in one of the ballrooms which included a demo of their cloud solution. Before the demo a cloud skeptic in the audience brought up the question about the lack of internet connectivity in the field. Mike Payne, CEO of Kenesto, a cloud based process automation start up, refuted and made the case that connectivity was no longer an issue. As Mike finished speaking the folks at Tech Soft 3D started the demo and the hotel WiFi crapped on itself. It was horrible. Absolutely disgusting actually. Here we are talking about the future of engineering software and we can’t even get the basics of the present figured out properly.

I am a firm believer in the cloud. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And in the case of cloud computing internet connectivity is the weakest link. COFES 2012 proved this beyond all doubt. I had to resort to paying high international roaming charges just to access my freaking email during the conference. And this is the US of A. You can only imagine the situation in third world countries like India.

Anyways, let’s switch gears to something more pleasant. COFES veteran Peter Marks, who is fighting cancer, has generously donated his entire collection of micrometers to help a kid get through college. These micrometers were on sale at COFES 2012. I picked up this Swiss made gem for $15. Is just over an inch long. This one is a keeper.