The name of the giant technology show in Las Vegas this week is CES (the CONSUMER Electronics Show), so by definition the technologies being demonstrated by the thousands of vendors and tested by the 180,000 people expected to attend will be consumer focused. But that doesn't mean that some of these technologies won’t impact my business - and yours - in the near future.
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Here are ten such technologies that I'm going to check out, because any one of them may help me run my business better and more profitably in the coming years.
Verizon's 5G Network
2019 will be the year of 5G and Verizon - as well as competitors like AT&T - which will be showcasing their capabilities in advance of their coming rollouts to many parts of the country. Yes, it will be more expensive, but the higher cost should result in faster applications, less latency, better videos and an infrastructure that will better support newer techs coming down the road (like virtual and augmented reality, Internet of Things-based sensors and devices and voice-enabled applications). All of that will mean more productivity in my business.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Chips
Back in the day it was pretty much chips made by Intel that drove laptops and PCs. Today the landscape has changed and the leader in chip-making for new devices like phones and tablets is, in my opinion, Qualcomm.
A lot of this has been accomplished by their Snapdragon chip line. Now the company is invading Intel's turf by introducing a new line of chips designed specifically for PCs and laptops called the Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform that, according to Raymond Wong at Mashable, is "significant because Qualcomm's designed it from scratch just for PCs — specifically, thin-and-light laptops and 2-in-1s that are meant to be always-on and always-connected."
Like 5G, anything that helps my clients - most of whom continue to rely on laptops and PCs - work faster and gain more productivity is a win for my business.
Vuzix Blade’s Smart Glasses
They're baaaack! After Google mostly withdrew from its Google Glass efforts a few years ago, companies like Vuzix have stepped in to fill the gap. At $999, these glasses still have limited capability. But the future looks bright with expected Alexa integration and capabilities for any business with workers on the road or in remote locations (or doing dangerous stuff that requires two hands) to send back transmissions real time for assistance, advice and input by others.
In his review, CNET's Scott Stein admits that the glasses make him look like "a cyberpunk dad, or maybe an art gallery owner" but also predicts that the glasses could be used to assist the hard of hearing and will be part of a future “in which assistive smart glasses could be as easy to use as wearing a device that pairs like a smartwatch."
LG's CLOi SuitBot
Some tech firms are building products to help employers offer their factory workers -- and any workers doing heavy lifting or operating heavy tools -- greater strength and mobility.
LG's CLOi SuitBot is one of those products. According to a company press release, the suit supports the user’s waist and augments their own muscle power to reduce the risk of injury and fatigue when performing physically demanding tasks -- such as lifting and lowering heavy loads. I say put a strip on it and make your employees pretend they're Robert Downey Jr., or whatever super-hero character that will take their minds off the boring stuff they’re doing for you.
Ainstein's Building Automation Technologies
Welcome to the world of Internet of Things. The radar-based technology company Ainstein will be demonstrating a bunch of upgraded applications on its already-popular IoT-based platform that show off how sensors can be placed around your offices (or commercial buildings) that will communicate with Alexa and sense movements and temperatures with corresponding actions. The company points to the dramatic financial savings that can be realized by using their sensors to reduce energy costs, improve safety, enhance security and better manage shared spaces and meeting rooms.
Samsung’s Foldable Phones
It hasn't been confirmed that Samsung will be demonstrating these new devices but rest assured: they're coming sometime soon. I'm more excited, not by the foldable phones of today, but what the capabilities of these devices will be in the years to come. As a business traveler, I'd love to get rid of my laptop and fold out the phone I'm carrying in my pocket to a big enough size to work on at my destination. With improved battery life and increased storage, I predict that the foldable phones of the future will challenge the very existence of tablets, laptops and PCs.
Segway’s Loomo Office Delivery Robot
It's an ominous sign for the employee break room. Segway's new Loomo Office Delivery Robot will be able to transport replaceable containers with packages, mail, coffee and food around entire buildings. There's also a "dynamic obstacle avoidance" system and the robot will be able to navigate slopes of up to 8 degrees. Want a cup of tea? Just order one and Loomo will bring it to you.
Employees may miss catching up on Game of Thrones at the water cooler. But employers like me will love how this little device can reduce potential downtime.
Honda’s Autonomous Work Vehicle
My business is service oriented, so no employees of mine were hurt during the writing of this article. But many companies - big and small - perform services on farms, construction sites or other non-office environments. Honda, like many others at CES, will be showing off its latest autonomous vehicle which uses GPS technology and sensors, but with a twist: they’re asking for your help. The company, according to this report on Trucks.com, is looking for "new partners to collaborate with on new tasks for the vehicle and to further develop its technology and sensors for better off-road autonomy." Maybe your business can negotiate a good deal for a piece of equipment that can improve services and safety.
Miso Robotic's Flippy
For my restaurant and retail clients struggling with finding and paying people competitively here's a suggestion: replace them with robots. Yeah, it's a touchy subject. But obviously the good people at Miso Robotics don't care. They just want to provide products – like their hamburger-flipping robot called Flippy - to interested business owners who are looking to cut costs without sacrificing services. Unfortunately, you won't be able see Flippy in action at CES, but David Zito, the CEO and co-founder of the company ,is joining a panel of other companies who are promoting the use of robotics to work in restaurants for a discussion later in the week aptly called “Robots Cook Up Faster Food.”
WISER Systems’ IoT Asset Tracker
A business is all about its assets, be it vehicles, equipment or inventory. Today's IoT technologies are quickly enabling many companies to more efficiently track these assets, their condition and usage. Want an example? Then check out the live demonstrations that will be going on at WISER System's booth as they show off their new real-time 3D asset tracking capabilities and a mobile user interface that the company says "will provide instantaneous asset visibility and movement history on a facility map or interior floor plan."
It's all proof that the Consumer Electronics Show isn't all about consumers, right?
Gene Marks CPA is a small business expert and analyst and the author of five best selling books on business management including "The Manufacturer's Book of Lists," "In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash" and "Outfoxing The Small Business Owner." Gene is President of The Marks Group PC, a ten person technology and management consulting firm that serves more than six hundred companies around the country. Gene was formerly a senior manager at the international accounting firm of KPMG. You can follow him on Twitter @genemarks.