The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is one of the biggest consumer technology trade shows on the planet. But it’s not just for consumers.
Many small and medium-sized enterprises buy consumer technologies for the workplace; indeed, small business owners often use the same equipment for business and personal use. And even big business is heavily influenced by consumer tech trends — hence, the consumerization of IT and BYOD.
So CES is a good indicator of what’s to come — not just for tech geeks and savvy consumers, but also for businesses looking to stay on the cutting edge (or to find solutions that will save money and make their lives easier).
Here’s a sampling of some of the tech trends at CES this year that will affect consumers and small businesses alike:
Mobility is still a hot topic, but at this year’s CES there was a lot of buzz around wearables. Lenovo, for example, announced its VIBE Band VB10, which offers battery life of seven days — even with always-on Bluetooth connectivity for tweeting and chatting on the go.
But we’re moving beyond smart watches and wristbands to all sorts of innovative connectivity devices, such as the Ring from a Japanese start-up called Logbar. The Ring can be hooked up to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, allowing the wearer to control “things” connected to the Internet of Things with simple hand gestures. Like other wearable technologies at the show, it offers impressive battery life — up to three days of continuous use or 18 days standby time.
If this is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be easier to connect to networks for simple tasks, such as chatting and checking messages — even via a ring on your finger. And if this is the year that wearables finally take off, then SMEs will have to consider how they could help their business, but also how they could affect their BYOD policies (as well as their security and privacy policies).
The IoT is much more than a buzzword these days, and various tech vendors (such as Belkin, with its WeMo line) at CES showed how embedded sensors are turning “dumb” devices into smart ones that are Wi-Fi-enabled and controllable via mobile devices.
While there are lots of “cool” but rather useless connected devices, those that will provide true business value to SMEs will connect with other systems, analyze data and provide for better decision-making. The IoT also has the potential to automate tasks that waste time and resources.
Another technology of note was the “personal” cloud. Storage vendor Seagate is offering its Personal Cloud drive for consumers to store photos, videos and music. But personal clouds, or infrastructure-as-a-service, will also appeal to SOHO and small businesses for storing files and customer information.
With so many devices connecting to the Internet (including Wi-Fi-enabled washing machines from LG) and the proliferation of personal clouds, security and privacy are ever-growing concerns, especially for SMEs.
Sure, privacy is not as sexy as 3-D printed pizza (seriously!) or glasses-free 3-D TV, but privacy products are growing in popularity, thanks to the rise in hacks, data breaches and identity theft. PIA, for example, allows consumers to set up their own private networks, and Silent Pocket, a line of wallets, blocks radio waves to prevent tracking and identity theft.
While wearables and IoT-connected devices may seem more “gadgety” than “business-y,” SMEs should watch for connected devices that will make their current infrastructure — from smartphones to tablets and laptops — more useful, and create more connectivity inside and outside the office.
And a 3-D pizza printer might be a nice addition to the office, too.