I'm looking back at the week at CES and there are a number of technologies that could bleed over into business. This shouldn't be a surprise because we are in the midst of something called the "consumerization of IT" after all. Let's go over some of the more interesting technologies.
HzO WaterBlock and Liquipel
Both of these products could make electronic equipment survive in the field better. Basically, they are water repellents for hardware. HzO WaterBlock is applied during manufacturing to waterproof a device at the component level and Liquipel is a coating that can be applied to the exterior of the device to both protect it from scratches and make it water-resistant. Particularly useful in areas where there is high humidity or where an employee might get caught out in the rain, these two technologies could prevent thousands of dollars of equipment damage that occurs today in the field.
spnKiX - Motorized Shoes
You may think this is a stretch but at $650, spnKiX are a fraction of the cost of a Segway, which is a common fixture for security on many plant sites. While they would need to be hardened for business use much like the Segway was for those who have to hike all over the campus, these would be far cheaper than the $10,000+ Segway and they pretty much leave your hands free. I could see them used by runners in warehouses on top of the obvious security patrol as a faster and less tiring way to get around large sites.
The Dell XPS 13, which was launched at the show, has a TPM, imaging services and asset tagging options on top of signature features like a lighted keyboard, high-nit screen and graphite base that should make it popular with users. This showcases that vendors are increasingly targeting business with this new class of notebook and given how employees have been demanding Apple products of late, these may become a better (in terms of IT support) alternative.
Larger In-Vehicle Displays
NVIDIA was showcasing the 17-inch in-vehicle display from the Tesla S, but now think of a display like this in a delivery or service truck that could run apps, some of them business apps. Rather than having to take the now-common path of attaching a laptop or tablet inside the vehicle, it may, eventually, be possible to just install the relevant business applications in the vehicle to provide the technology that way. Think of route maps and scheduling, police information or simply better traffic routing coupled with Google Street view to more quickly find locations. This stuff could prove rather handy cutting down time now lost on the road.
OnLive showcased that its cloud-based gaming technology could be used to provide a full cloud-based high-performance Windows experience on anything that can run an OnLive client. That includes iOS and Android devices as well as potentially some of these new large vehicle displays. Think of the benefits of full Windows on an iPad or providing the corporate Windows load from the cloud on an employee's BYOB hardware. Granted this will likely eventually require that OnLive partner with someone like an IBM or Dell to roll the service out, but it provides a faster path to the cloud future that many of us think we are focused on and it is far cheaper, in theory, than Citrix.
Windows 8: Kinect, Gaze
CES was kind of a premature coming-out party for Windows 8, but it pointed the way to a future where tablets and notebooks would not only run the same OS and apps, but they might be able to morph between forms much like the Asus Transformer Prime does today. But the interesting thing about the Windows 8 announcement was Kinect for Windows, which will be shipping next month. This could be very interesting as it might make a fascinating tool for presentations and retrofit touch onto an existing piece of hardware. One other interesting Windows 8 technology was Gaze or the ability to use your eyes as pointing devices.
I think we are just scratching the surface of exploring new ways of interacting with technology with Siri from Apple showcasing one change, and Kinect and Gaze another.
Wrapping Up: IBM Automation
Originally, it was business technology like PCs making it into consumer markets and now we are clearly on the reverse path. I'm likely just touching the surface of the things that could make our business lives far different.
One of the areas where the technology is going both ways is smarter buildings. IBM was showcasing its smarter home initiative, which dovetails with its smarter city work and suggests a future where everything talks to everything else in order to minimize energy waste and maximize utility. This was probably the showcase that was closest to a future balance between home and business technology where you'll be unable to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. It's all part of a brave new world I guess. It looks like tech will increasingly be a good career choice.