LAS VEGAS -- International CES 2013 is the proving ground for tech vendors who are making inroads in the consumer electronics world. From smart forks to smart watches, these vendors are helping consumers integrate their lives through technology -- with or without their permission. But does what happens in the consumer sector matter to CIOs?
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Of course it does. Putting aside the question of the consumerization of IT, CIOs must remain abreast of how enterprise-grade tech is now being applied -- and is accessible -- to pretty much anyone with a credit card. With more and more devices talking to each other -- and to a CIO's network -- there are countless more security risks that must be addressed. Clever CIOs are keeping an eye both up and down the ladder of technology.
Our Senior Site Editor Wendy Schuchart spent a week at International CES in Las Vegas with eyes peeled for technologies that may interest -- or alarm -- midmarket CIOs. Editorial Director Scot Petersen got the latest scoop straight from the show floor in this SearchCIO-Midmarket.com podcast.
Welcome to the SearchCIO-Midmarket podcast. I'm Scot Petersen, editorial director of the CIO group at TechTarget. I'm here today with Wendy Schuchart, senior site editor with CIO and Midmarket. She's at the International CES 2013 conference in Las Vegas. I wanted to take a few minutes of her time to talk about what's going on at the show this week. Wendy, how have you been holding up this week during the onslaught of International CES?
Wendy Schuchart: I have to tell you that this is a gigantic show. Everybody who is anybody is here this week. I've heard estimates between 160,000 to 190,000 people on-site. Everybody from automotive makers to, obviously, the big names in tech, and many international vendors as well. There's an entire hall devoted to international vendors.
I went to CES before, about four years ago, and it was pretty bad. Has it gotten any easier to get around?
Schuchart: It is literally impossible to go anywhere, simply because of the crush of humanity. The conference has done a very good job to provide a network of shuttle buses to help the attendees get around, though, but it's still a lot. To help the listeners put this into perspective, International CES is so massive that they've taken literally every conference center in Las Vegas for [it].
What do you think are the top technologies, consumer or enterprise, that you saw there this week?
Schuchart: The biggest trend that I'm seeing is a blurring of the lines between consumer and enterprise. One of the biggest, hottest trends that everybody is talking about is a "smartwatch." The smartwatch has been released by several different vendors. Essentially it is a watch that is blurring the lines with a smartphone.
So, many of these watches either integrate [with] or talk to your smartphone. You physically don't have to have your smartphone on your person, you can wear the watch and it will notify you when you have a call, when you have a text; some of them play music, some of them, you can actually have touchscreens. It's almost like desktop virtualization, except it's smartphone virtualization on your wrist.
You can go to your apps with the I'm Watch, for instance. There is a concern, though, from the consumers that I've been talking to that it's just another device -- so it's just another thing that they have to charge and whatnot. Some of the vendors are still trying to figure out the fine points. If they have a very feature-rich environment, now you've got a watch that you have to recharge every night. Or do they have a less feature-rich environment, similar to the Cookoo watch that has a nine-month battery life while connected to your smartphone, but you can't, for instance, take a call on your wrist like James Bond.
You can really take a call on a watch?
Schuchart: You can take a call on a watch, you can read an email. I'm not sure if you can type an email on it. I wouldn't say that [the screen] is as small as a postage stamp, but it's probably as small as the iPod Nano. You can definitely read email on some of them, but most of them just notify you or have proximity warnings. So, if you're walking out of a restaurant and you left your phone behind, it will warn you of that.
What were some of the industries that you saw that had interesting developments?
Schuchart: There's a big push in the health IT area. For instance, as baby boomers are aging and as people are caring for aging parents, there's a big concern how people are going to be able to work during the day while they've got aging parents at home. There's growing leaps in this area; so, for instance, they've taken the old concept of the tiny little sensors that we might put on a data center that warn us if the data center is getting too warm or if someone has gone into the data center. They've applied that to caring for your aging parent.
Perhaps you put a sensor on the refrigerator door, and if you know that Mom always has cereal every morning and it's 10:30 and that refrigerator door hasn't opened yet, your smartphone or tablet will alert you that there's something wrong here and you know to check up on your parents. That was an interesting melding of enterprise and consumer technologies.
Another interesting thing I saw -- as we're in January and everyone has a goal of either stopping smoking or losing weight or exercising more -- has been the gamification of health desires. For instance, there's a fork that rewards you for slowing down while you eat. There are many games that will only work if you are exercising, or reward you by giving perks and points for doing behaviors that you've set up as being positive. I really wonder how this will play out in the workplace. I would think that some of these same technologies could be translated to, perhaps, rewarding employees for staying off Facebook.
Good luck with that. One more question: Usually Microsoft has been big here [at International CES], and I think this is the second year they have not had the keynote. Who is the focal point of attention at this year's show?
Schuchart: Qualcomm has had a great presence, as [has] Sony. Sony's press conference was standing-room-only and crushed to the point that I was a little worried [about] someone yelling, "Fire!" I wouldn't say that anyone that has really risen to the top, but obviously people are still talking about Microsoft not being there.
Were there a lot of vendors that were demonstrating Windows phones?
Schuchart: Yes, and also, Sony and Samsung both have released new phones this week. We did see the [Microsoft] Surface quite a lot as a display point. It still seems to be dominated by Apple iOS devices. I saw iPods, iPads and iPhones probably at a 2:1 ratio.
One of the videos that you shot this week shows a table-like computing device that looked like something from Star Trek: The Next Generation. What exactly was that?
Schuchart: That was the 3M Touch Table. Wasn't that fun? I was wondering how it would be integrated. I could see it being used as a conference table, although it's very small for a conference table. It was basically like a giant iPad -- a giant iPad as a table. Nobody could stop touching it. It was probably three people deep to get up to that table to play with it.
So, you could actually open files and move them to folders and things like that?
Schuchart: Yes, in the video, that's my hand moving the picture around into the X-ray vision and back. They had it set up in demo mode, but it was essentially like a big iPad.
We'll look forward to seeing more of your coverage of International CES in the coming weeks on SearchCIO-Midmarket. Wendy Schuchart, senior site editor for SearchCIO-Midmarket, thanks for joining us today. This has been Scot Petersen, editorial director for TechTarget CIO/IT Strategy group. Thanks for listening.