Hmm…here it is the beginning of February and I am just now getting around to posting about CES. All I can say is that I spent 4 days at home the whole month of January and I spent those days in bed with the worst cold I have ever had.
But those are just excuses…sooo….here goes.
Ahh, the teeming masses of the tech obsessed. A grouping of the nerdgentsia from the world over stuffed into a huge convention space (or two, or three) and overflowing into local hotels as well. All gathered in Vegas to see if dehydration really can kill you.
It can. Especially with enough anti-histamines in your system.
Oh, yeah. CES.
Of course, trying to report and prognosticate on the state of the industry when you return to a double barrel blast of the flu makes timeliness next to impossible. Oh well, onward and upward. (You said no excuses whiner boy!)
Big trends this year from CES? Wearable technology was among the most bandied phrase with smart things ranging from watches to rings to backpacks claiming the digital equivalent of evolved intelligence. CES even had a section of the floor completely dedicated to smart watches this year.
My favorites at the show were the Samsung Galaxy S one side of the spectrum, and the upcoming collaboration between Guess and Martian. Sort of gives you the opportunity to choose geek or chic. Talk amongst yourself.
Battery bricks were in profusion from one end of the show to the other. I could probably count to 1000 on Chinese companies peddling them, or other companies repackaging them, but at least a couple of companies were trying to do something a wee bit innovative.
One of my favorites was the piece from Charge All.
That plug in the upper right hand corner is an AC outlet. While it only outputs 65volts it is still plenty of juice to keep a laptop rolling when you are nowhere near an outlet. At $199 for 18000 milliamp hours it is also pretty darn reasonable. I think I need one of those for my emergency kit. It looks like a life saver.
Portable power interfacing with camping equipment was also a theme of the show.
No really, I mean it.
My favorite of these companies was Power Practical. Most of the energy in a campfire used for cooking is totally wasted. These guys thought, “We can do something about that,” and they made a pot you can cook your dinner in. While it does that it also outputs 5 volts on a female USB plug so you can send some of that waste energy on to where you can store it for later use, or even directly charge your phone or GPS. Quite brilliant actually.
They were also showing a ruggedized battery with an improved formulation so it could go through many more recharge cycles than your typical LiOn battery pack.
Of course, solar conversion is another elegant way to take ambient energy and allow you to harvest it to use to power your technology. Goal Zero was showing some really well-integrated systems of panels and collectors to power just about anything, anywhere. I particularly found their mid size series of products to hit a real sweet spot between what you could harvest and the best ways to use it to drive your tools and toys.
While much of the things shown at CES have made it to the product stage, some of them are technology looking for a product to bring them to life. The most interesting of these to me was called Nanoport.
The prototype that they were showing was based on a magnetic transfer connector using USB2 as the protocol, but one of their business development people let me know that this was primarily a proof of concept to show how it works. The concept of these connectors being used to piggy back video monitors on a phone or tablet is really intriguing. Can’t wait to see where this goes.
Sometimes CES throws you a curveball. I wandered back and forth in the South Hall trying to find Wilson Electronics, before I discovered that they had gotten a facelift and a name change to WeBoost. It might be a mid-life crisis but the technology is as good as ever and the cosmetics have taken a giant leap forward. Time to run the new stuff through its paces on a different cellular carrier and see what the impact is going to look like.
Know Roaming had an interesting bit of technology. The Canadian based company has a sticker that goes on top of the conductive part of your phone’s SIM that is quiescent while you are on your home network but wakes up when you travel abroad. At that point, you connect to their network. Their rates are attractive for calls, typically 10-13 cents a minute for outbound and 7 cents for inbound calls. While these rates are not as good as buying a local SIM in the country you are going to (or playing the T-Mobile game by just texting) if you are going to travel in several different countries, the costs probably wash and you can take care of setting this up before you go on a trip. Couple this with being able to buy data a la carte or an unlimited daily data plan for $7.99 makes the Know Roaming approach flexible and reasonable.
By necessity, a CES show calls for a new bag or pack to run through its paces, and STM was kind enough to provide one of their Drifter Laptop backpacks for me to try out. This midsize pack is big enough for a 15 inch laptop, full size tablet and all of the accoutrements. It sports well placed pockets and good straps and a big open flop top that makes it really easy to work out of on the road, which is the definition of a CES show. Look for a full review here soon.
The last couple of months I have been dragging around a USB keyboard with my every day carry in an attempt to return to making a little bit of music while I am on the road. After destroying a couple of them I finally settled on the Keith McMillen QuNexus keyboard, because it claims to be indestructible, and so far it has lived up to that claim. It is core MIDI compliant so it will hook up to a computer or iPad (with the camera connection kit) and let you make music immediately, no driver required.
My only complaint with the QuNexus was its price. At $149 it is not cheap and most of the time I do not need the CV to MIDI functions. I guess they read my mind because they launched the K Board at CES for $99 (or less, if you know where to look).
No CV gates, but the same backlit, velocity and pressure sensitive keys from the QuNexus for a whole lot less. Go ahead, if they can run over it with a car, it can live through the innards of your computer bag. Oh, and if you are really a pro audio nerd (guilty as charged) you may want to check out the K Mix that they debuted 2 weeks later at the Winter NAMM show. An 8 channel digital mixer/audio interface using the same sensor technology that they use on their keyboards.
MOUNT AND ORGANIZE
How can you not like a product called the Spider Monkey? Octa makes a whole range of mounts for tablets (check out the Lynx as well) but the Spider Monkey is a gumbified snake that you can bend into almost any shape to put your tablet right where you need it. Tres cool.
Mountie is not Canadian (well, I don’t think so anyway) but it is a clever bit of kit to strap your tablet or phone right to the edge of your computer screen. Adjustable and flexible it is perfect for keeping your second screen right where you need it when you are in front of the keyboard. Or couple mountie with Air Display to make it a second screen when you need some more display real estate.
NOT QUITE SURE
Sometimes, I am interested and congratulate the developers on the innovation but I am not completely convinced that it is actually going to be in demand. Indiegogo and Kickstarter both had serious presence at CES but the Link wrist band had a booth all by itself.
Picture a wireless SSD drive built into a wrist band.
Ok, I own a couple of smart watches so I can’t believe I am going to say this…but this may even be too nerdy for me.
So…to sum it up? Cool toys, big noise and lots of geeks crowded into too little space, and that was just the cab line to the convention center. On the whole the show was more about improvements than mind-blowing technological jumps.
There is always next year.