Friday, November 03, 2006

Wrapping up at SEMA 2006

Well, all good things must come to an end and the same goes for SEMA 2006.

The bulk of the show is now complete and most KVHers are heading for home or their next road trip. Sacrificing themselves so the rest of us can escape the city of Lost Vegas will be regional sales managers Ben Bettelli and Ken Lokey, who are staying behind to staff the booth for the final day of the show. Once the show closes down, they'll then take care of dismantling the display (initially assembled by trade show coordinator Kevin Dean and Ben - big round of applause for the set-up and take-down crews, folks!) and get it all shipped home.

In the meantime, we'll be getting ready for the METS European marine trade show in Amsterdam, the RVIA national RV show in Louisville, the Paris Boat Show, the New York Boat Show, the London Boat Show, and finally the Consumer Electronics Show back here in Sin City this January 2007. So goes the never-ending cycle of trade shows. It's almost like watching a National Geographic special about the circle of life or something, just without the cheetahs chasing down and eating the antelope.

Joking aside, SEMA 2006 was a very positive event for KVH. We gained major visibility for two new products thanks to SEMA-related national press, the feedback about the A7 was tremendous, and people really appreciated the value and capabilities of the TracNet 100. Plus, we exceeded all expectations as to the number of vehicles (more than 30) equipped with TracVision and TracNet systems. Take a look at our SEMA show page for photos and a partial list of the KVH-equipped project cars on site this week.

Having products in the GM and Ford booths is a major credibility builder. Just as important though are the project car designers who often set the standard for the industry, fielding new technology that other designers, technicians, installers, buyers, etc., may bring into their own stores and projects down the line. On behalf of KVH, thanks very much to the talented project teams who helped showcase our products.

Thanks also to our talented web design team, without whom this first-ever KVH blog wouldn't have been possible. Stay tuned for our next show blog (hopefully) coming to you live from Amsterdam and METS in 10 days.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mobile Internet meets high fashion

I'm not ashamed to admit it – I enjoyed "The Devil Wears Prada" and my wife got me hooked on "Project Runway" – so I was actually somewhat curious to see what a fashion designer would do with something rather far afield of clothing: a Cadillac SRX. In this case, the vehicle in question was a new 2007 model year SRX featured as a project vehicle in the GM booth and designed by Dana Buchman in an effort to attract women to the new crossover SUV. Of course, my interest was piqued when it was announced that the Dana Buchman Cadillac SRX was equipped with the the ultimate in fashion accessories, a KVH TracNet 100 mobile Internet system, a feature that set it apart from the three other GM vehicles with TracVision and large TVs also on display here.

The Dana Buchman Cadillac SRX

According to Cadillac's Doug Schumacker, who appeared on the Into Tomorrow broadcast earlier today, the Dana Buchman project vehicle was intended to give the New York fashion designer an opportunity to design the interior of the car, including all amenities and add-ons, and create a stylish vehicle for a professional woman. When he mentioned to her that wireless, in-motion Internet was a reality for cars (TracNet, take a bow), she was amazed that such a thing was available, thought "it was the best thing since sliced bread", and decided that it had to be a part of the SRX project.

Sleek, could only be MSN TV on the in-car video screen via TracNet 100

Well, it's not an outfit made of plants or recycled materials as featured on Project Runway but this is one stylish ride. I'll let Alex Nunez from Autoblog cover the details but as you can see from the photos above and below, it's comfortable, easy on the eyes, and the mobile Internet access is central to the vehicle's interior and its passengers.

Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum would approve

Please don't squeeze the Charmin

OK, I've obviously just dated myself with the title to this blog entry. If you're too young to know who Mr. Whipple was, I recommend Google or Wikipedia. For the rest of you, we'll move on. You young'uns can catch up after completing your research.

All of our demo/show vehicles include a full body graphic wrap with an awesome design created by our Graphics team and then printed and installed by pros who specialize in covering cars with what are essentially huge stickers. The wraps look great, get our message across, and survive bad weather and cross-country drives. What they might not survive are the car-wrapping aficianados who attend shows like SEMA.

Gee, that's pretty. Can we pull it off?

I think the problem is that the wrap and design are almost too good. Every day this week, we've had a small number of people drawn to our booth not for the TracVision or TracNet but for the wrap. You can tell who these people are – they're the ones bent over double, peering closely at the graphics and debating among themselves if it's a paint job, a wrap, vinyl stickers, or the result of hallucinations caused by too much high-caffeine Starbucks (a side note - I don't think we'd survive these shows if not for the Starbucks conveniently located in the convention center). Sadly, what happens next is all too predictable.

"I think it's a wrap."
"No, honey, it's vinyl."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is. See, I can peel part of this letter off." never fails.

Sure, the wrap had a few scratches here and there when the car arrived, the product of a year's worth of media road shows and sales trips. But no roadside debris can cause the havoc that results from SEMA trade show attendees. Every little edge that can be picked has been picked. Every stretch has been poked. I'm sure they're all nice people but I feel a compelling need to channel my internal Mr. Whipple when they show up in the booth.

"Excuse me, but please don't squeeze the demo vehicle."

World-class service in the heart of Sin City

Freightliner, our buddies with the oversized pickups, have been putting their TracNet 100 to good use. Installed in the blue Freightliner with the dump truck bed and parked next to their mobile office, TracNet 100 is serving as the Internet hub for their entire show operation. Every report was that they were loving it...until this morning when we got a call that their data rates had slowed to a crawl. A crawl? We've got two TracNet 100s in our booth and have been flying around the Internet for days. To borrow a phrase from "Sesame Street", this blog is brought to you by the letter "TracNet." Likewise, Freightliner had been working without hitch until this morning. What happened?

Dave Walker, sitting in the spacious Freightliner cab, preparing to secure their TracNet WiFi network

Enter Dave Walker, technical training manager, jack of all trades, and international man of mystery. Within moments of arrival at the scene of the conundrum, Dave had it figured out: poachers.

Yes, you read that right. Poachers. Bandwidth bandits. Uncouth varmints who seek out unsecured WiFi hot spots and hop on for free Internet access. For every poacher who logs on, the bandwidth available to the network's owners is reduced. Apparently, the TracNet 100's Internet service was so fast and the integrated WiFi so strong that people throughout the outdoor pavilion were enjoying Internet access at Freightliner's expense.

Luckily, there's an easy fix as anyone with a home WiFi network knows. Simply add a password for access. Within a matter of minutes, Dave had secured the Freightliner WiFi network and their available bandwidth leapt through the roof.

Problem solved and Freightliner's team is web surfing and e-mailing happily.

As for you bandwidth bandits out there, allow me to introduce you to the TracNet 100 dealer near you.

From the "You Learn Something New Every Day" Department

Mad Mike and the Pimp My Ride team apparently converted a car to a grizzly bear theme and equipped it to shoot salmon out of a cannon. No word if the projectiles were real salmon or if this was an environmentally conscious attempt to help with seasonal spawning...

WKVH-FM Radio...all the hits, all the time

International radio has come to KVH's booth today as "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" began taping this weekend's episode just a short time ago. This is the third time Dave and his team have joined us at a show - SEMA 2005, the 2006 Miami boat show, and this year. The show is broadcast on XM and Sirius satellite radio, on over-the-air broadcast stations nationwide, as well as Armed Forces Radio. A nice bonus from this episode – Graveline is donating MP3 players to members of the U.S. armed forces and five servicemen and women in Iraq, South Korea, and Afghanistan were announced as this week's winners. Make sure to check out Into Tomorrow's other efforts to support our troops.

The taping, which is being played over speakers live here in the hall and will be broadcast around the world in just a few days, will be going on for three more hours but we've already been entertained by Martin and Jim, who helped kick off the show talking about the TracVision A7. I think Dave G is a bit jealous...he's got a TracVision A5 and he seems to be drooling a bit over the new gear. However, he's got a new TracNet 100 that he just had installed last week so he's happy.

This conversation may be recorded for quality assurance...Martin, Jim, and Dave on the air.

Mad Mike also made a repeat appearance, spending about 20 minutes on the show with Dave before camping out in our booth's "office" for a few minutes of quiet before plunging back out into the fan-filled hallways.
Dave and Mad Mike sharing tips about their TracVisions

Later today, Doug Schumacker from Cadillac will be chatting with Dave followed by Ian Palmer and Chris Watson doing an Abbott and Costello routine. Or maybe talking about TracNet. We're not sure yet.

Would you like some national news coverage with your breakfast?

Getting some ink in a major newspaper always helps the bland hotel breakfast taste a bit better. Here's an excerpt from today's Wall Street Journal and its article about cutting-edge electronics featured at the SEMA show:

November 2, 2006
Wall Street Journal, page D1
"Pimp My Ride – On the Inside"

"A number of the new products provided new ways to watch television and play devices like personal digital assistants and iPods in vehicles. KVH TracVision's new A7 mobile satellite television system allows viewers to access local channels for the first time, in addition to the 185 channels from DirecTV. When the vehicle leaves the designated market area for that local broadcast affiliate, the system will switch to regular DirecTV service. KVH's mobile satellite television system costs $2,995, with DirecTV service costing extra."

Goodbye Wednesday!

Day 2 ended with a bang as Mad Mike was on top of his game with the fans and the KVH team here in Vegas during his second autograph session.

Smile for the camera and let me tell you how much I love my TracVision!

The KVH SEMA team (l to r): communications mgr Chris Watson, CEO Martin Kits van Heyningen, east coast regional sales mgr Ken Lokey, VP marketing Jim Dodez, Mad Mike, business development director Bob Riedford, executive VP sales Ian Palmer, technical training mgr Dave Walker, OEM key account mgr Joe Hendershot, and west coast regional sales mgr Ben Bettelli

And all through the fun of Mad Mike's visit, we still enjoyed a steady stream of show attendees visiting the booth for information about our products.

Joe Hendershot (l) and Ian Palmer (r) talk business with a visitor to the KVH booth

Martin Kits van Heyningen discusses the TracVision A7 with prospective dealers

As the show wound down at 5PM, tomorrow's visitor to our booth, old friend and radio host Dave Graveline stopped by with his production crew to say hi and drop off some promotional materials. They'll be back bright and early on Thursday to set up for the taping of the "Into Tomorrow" show. Joining Dave over the course of the three-hour broadcast will be Martin, Jim, Ian, Chris, Doug Schumacker from Cadillac, and of course, Mad Mike, along with many other SEMA exhibitors. But more on that tomorrow...

Slick installs in the GM booth

The designers of the project vehicles in the GM booth are definitely showcasing some cool new ideas for TracVision installation. We're all used to seeing the the TracVision A5 and A7 being visible on the roof rack or mounted to the roof, or even partially embedded like on our Cadillac Escalade show vehicle. However, when I learned that the red Yukon Denali in the GM booth was sporting a TracVision, I was rather perplexed when I got there and didn't see the antenna. There was a big screen in the tailgate showing DIRECTV but no antenna to be seen. Despite the project car information plaque confirming that the vehicle did indeed have a KVH satellite TV dish, I was wondering if the designers had been just a bit rushed at the end and didn't have a chance to get it installed before the show opened. Finally I climbed up onto the vehicle and found out just how wrong I was:

From ground level, the TracVision dome is entirely below the level of the roof rack side rails on this Yukon Denali, making it effectively invisible

Sweet! It's details like this that get cars into the auto makers' displays at shows like this.

Finding a home on the big trucks

Anyone who thinks that they have a heavy-duty, oversized pickup truck will need to reassess their vehicle's place in the world in just a moment.

Our TracVision systems have often found homes on long-haul and large trucks. A year or so ago we profiled a husband and wife owner/operator team who put more than 1.2 million miles on their truck and their TracVision without missing a beat. hese have usually been our RV systems and we've seen a few already here at SEMA.

However, Freightliner Sportchassis, which offers "heavy duty" pickup trucks based on tractor trailer cabs, has gone all out. There are a reported 14 Freightliner Sportchassis vehicles at the show and all of them are equipped with TracVision A7 (with at least one also sporting TracNet 100).

One of the Freightliner Sportchassis "pickup trucks" equipped with TracVision (see arrow)

Yeah, heavy duty pickup trucks are one thing but these vehicles apparently eat smaller trucks as appetizers. The really scary thing? There are 14 of these unbelievable trucks here at SEMA and we've only managed to find 8 of them. How on earth do you miss seeing something that big?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mad Mike Meets the Fans

He loves meeting the fans. You get that sense as "Mad Mike" walks through the SEMA halls and arrives at the KVH booth with a big smile, a firm handshake, and an abundance of enthusiasm. That same infectious enthusiasm he shows on camera or when calling us asking for a TracVision for the next wreck to be overhauled on Pimp My Ride or a celebrity auction golf cart definitely came through when he met the fans who started lining up before 11 AM.

The first 1 hour autograph session just wrapped up and there were plenty of people on hand to get their photos taken with him, pick up an autographed photo (complete with KVH, TracVision, and TracNet logos), and exit through the KVH booth where they had a chance to see the TracVision and TracNet systems. And I'd be lying if I said that the guys working the KVH booth didn't also line up for some autographed pictures for friends, family, and coworkers. Really, the photos weren't for us...honest.

Mad Mike and his team will be back again in a few hours for more autographs.

A tip for trade show exhibitors

Here's a handy tip for future trade show exhibitors:

Avoid locking the car keys in the demo vehicle as it can hamper your promotional efforts!

Luckily, the tailgate was still open (though the 40-inch flat screen was up as well). Sadly, we were laughing too hard to remember to get a picture as one of our sales guys contorted himself to squirm through the tiny gap between the TV and the side of the Escalade. (Sorry but I promised not to reveal the name of the person who locked the keys in the car and then sacrificed his body to save the day.)

Now, we're back up and running with the doors unlocked and only a few pulled muscles as evidence of this morning's misadventure.

Kicking off Day 2

SEMA welcomed us again with the sound of stereos with thumping base (well, pounding base is probably more accurate). The KVH team is recovered from Day 1, which was tremendously busy and saw us fielding good, steady traffic in the booth, meetings with dealers and sales reps, as well as bouncing back and forth between our display and the GM booth. It's not really a booth, actually...more like a carpeted parking lot with some amazing vehicles, three of which are showing of TracVision A7 and live DIRECTV while one is equipped with TracNet 100 and Microsoft's MSN TV service.

The media is also out in force and our message of live mobile media continues to get us positive attention. Following yesterday's USA Today story, it looks like we may also be part of a Wall Street Journal article about SEMA tentatively scheduled to run on Thursday (coming soon to a newsstand near you). We also got some airtime on Car and Driver Radio as well as the SEMA edition of "Make It Hot", a celebrity car customization show.

KVH communications manager Chris Watson (the 6-foot tall short guy on the right) brings “Making It Hot” audience members up to speed on TracVision A7.

Now, we're ready to go for Day 2. Top on the list of today's events – two autograph sessions with "Mad Mike" from Pimp My Ride.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

SEMA Day 1 - Midday update

We're halfway through Day 1 and it's reminiscent of past SEMA shows. For those of you who haven't attended one of these shows, just imagine 100,000 visitors, thousands of cars, and lots and lots of noise, all completely filling a 3.2 million square foot convention center. Everything you could possible need for cars will be found here and conveniently, many of the cars that are being used to promote other products happen to also be equipped with ours!

The GMC Sierra NFL Crew Cab in the General Motors Display

After walking most of those 3.2 million square feet, our intrepid crew has found more than 20 vehicles equipped with TracVision systems or the new TracNet 100.

The Superlift Suspension vehicle with TracVision A7 - it is featured on 300,000 posters and will be a giveaway in the promotion for the new Hooters credit card

Despite the unbelievable amount of customization seen on the vehicles at the show, our Cadillac Escalade demo vehicle is holding its own and we're seeing excellent traffic here in our booth.

Our Cadillac Escalade demo vehicle, with 40-inch flat screen tailgating screen, 4 headrest monitors, TracVision A7, and TracNet 100

We're located in Booth #10643, which puts us square in the middle of the mobile electronics pavilion. Of course, the bulk of the mobile electronics involve stereo systems and many, many speakers, giving rise to the lots and lots of noise I mentioned earlier. There's nothing quite like multiple companies all vying to prove they can output the most bass. It's hard to talk in less than a shout sometimes. Anyone have an asprin?

GM here in force; showcasing KVH on 3 vehicles

In the run up to SEMA, designers and vehicle customizers around the country applied to get demo TracVision systems and live DIRECTV to include in their SEMA show vehicles. In the end, we selected six firms and seven vehicles to receive TracVision A7 systems (and one TracNet 100). However, we're already finding many more vehicles that are showcasing live DIRECTV in the car using our TracVision systems. Among the most notable are three vehicles prominently featured in the GM pavilion. We'll be posting photos of the vehicles from the show floor later but Autoblog already has photos and the technical scoop on each of these wild vehicles – the GMC Sierra NFL Crew Cab tailgating vehicle, the 2007 Chevy Major League Suburban, and the GMC Yukon Denali XL 2500 "Big Max".

Good morning from SEMA 2006

Good morning from the 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show.

Over the course of the next few days, we'll be providing updates, photos, and news from the show via this new blog (KVH's first) as well as the daily updates section on our SEMA show page.

While the show doesn't open until 9:00 AM Pacific time, the day has already started off with some good news. USA Today took a look at the availability of mobile Internet in cars and featured our TracNet 100 mobile Internet system in an article today on the front page of the Money section.

Monday, October 30, 2006

KVH Brings High-tech to the 2006 SEMA Show

Where: Booth #10642, North Hall, Las Vegas Convention Center
When: October 31 – November 3, 2006

The 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show kicks off on Tuesday, October 31, 2006, in Las Vegas, NV, and KVH will be there in force, showing off the all-new TracVision A7 satellite TV system and the exciting TracNet 100 mobile Internet receiver in our Cadillac Escalade show vehicle.

And don’t miss the chance to meet "Mad Mike", the star of MTV’s hit show, “Pimp My Ride” and proud owner of both a TracVision A7 and a TracNet system, as he signs autographs and shares his mobile electronics tips. Plus, “Mad Mike” will join the KVH team and other guests for a live taping of the internationally broadcast radio program, "Into Tomorrow" with host Dave Graveline.