What the Super Bowl and the Final Four are to professional sports fans, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is to gadget freaks. If you’re interested in singing refrigerators, self-propelled Daleks, or an Internet-connected bed, it’s the place to go. But it’s also a place to learn about the more mundane devices — such as smartphones and tablets — that you might find people wanting to stick into your office network, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the week-long event. Not to mention, it’s a great source of ideas for innovative products and services that your company could offer.
The Internet of Things was definitely front-and-center during CES, not just in the exhibit halls but in the keynotes. Cisco CEO John Chambers predicted that 2014 would be the pivot point for the Internet of Things, which he said could amount to a $19 trillion business opportunity. And it’s not just about selling the latest connected gadget, but also about saving money — like millions of dollars on water and energy by using sensors to help control their use.
The Internet of Things wasn’t the only technology demonstrated. All kidding aside about the Doctor Who Dalek, it was one of a number of robots on display, including other ones to clean grills, clean windows, and carry things.
CES also has a reputation for having the “cool” companies present, even if they aren’t just about gadgets. Marissa Mayer gave the keynote, speaking about how she’s refocused Yahoo! as a media and content company with news digests and digital magazines on topics ranging from food to technology. "Media has long been one of Yahoo's key strengths," Fortune quoted her as saying.
Of course, not everything went swimmingly. It all started when snow and record freezing temperatures cancelled thousands of flights, leaving many potential CES attendees stranded at home when they couldn’t get an alternate flight scheduled until after the conference was over. There were long lines for everything, including food. Blockbuster movie director Michael Bay, speaking at a Samsung presentation, cracked under the pressure when a Teleprompter didn’t work and walked offstage.
But Kevin Tofel of GigaOm writes that among all the hubbub and splashy new technology, he’s looking for something else at CES: Simplicity.
“We’ve been in the midst of a “simple” revolution, whether you’ve noticed it or not,” Tofel writes. “People are relying less on traditional computers and more on computing appliances… That doesn’t mean new devices don’t have great advanced features. The difference today is that those features should just work with minimal intervention. Products that are intuitively easier to understand and use are the ones that have the best chance of success for mainstream adoption. Likewise, those products that are complicated to set up, difficult to navigate and control or simply add features for technology’s sake are challenged to find an audience.”
Tofel goes on to cite a number of examples of gadgets where the simplest technology is the one that is most successful or that he finds the most appealing, such as the Instagram photo editing app, the Pebble smart watch, and the Fitbit. “In a sense, to the average non-technical person, this looks like magic,” he writes. “That’s far from what I’ve experienced in another area that’s sure to be hot at this year’s CES: The connected home.”
Ironically, this all happened the same week that Nest, the easy-to-use, simple home thermostat that was the award-winning darling of the 2012 CES, had a fault that — during the same record-setting low temperatures — caused it to turn off the heat in a number of users’ homes. It just goes to demonstrate the importance of reliability and testing behind the glitz and glamor.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
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