New view of CES & Showstoppers – by Michael Lyon
M&E Tech was pleased to be accompanied by Sr Technologist and Business Strategist Michael Lyon at the 2012 CES event and its co-located event Showstoppers. Below is his comments on CES from a non-electrical engineers' perspective.
CES 2012 was typical in that a herd of vendors followed a few salient trends, while a few broke from the pack with interesting innovation. Pity the scores of companies offering a new iPhone case or mounting bracket. Dozens of companies came to the show with their answer to waterproofing the iPhone or iPad through a clever plastic bag, hard case, or factory installed system, only to find that they were far from unique.
I want to focus on several companies I saw that seemed to offer more interesting products. Time will tell if these ideas can translate into viable markets and serious revenue, especially since some are not unique in their space.
Recon Instruments: Recon makes components that fit into branded ski googles that integrate visual navigation and communication information into the view screen. A small viewfinder in the bottom of the google can be toggled among various functions, including trail maps, speed, altitude, number of ski runs, as well as music and text messages from a bluetooth connected smart phone. As an avid skier, I want one! It will work nicely with my ski helmet with integrated headset and bluetooth mic. However, hope I don't see a pair of skis next year with Gorilla Glass displays -- I will never get out of the office!
PixelOptics: These progressive glasses use a small electric charge to turn off and on elements in the lower part of the glasses to transform the vision from reading to distant glasses on demand. No more distractions of reading planes in glasses when you want to look afar. One issue was that the reading element is never fully gone, just downgraded by plus one diapter.
Xi3Corporation: XI3 makes a clever small box computer, about the size of a large rubric cube. The major components can be exchanged easily, and the efficient design provides for low heat and power consumption at about 10 percent of a typical box. They are already manufacturing in Brazil with government support for this efficient technology.
ChargePoint: While not alone in this space, this portable auxiliary charging company provides innovative extra battery power for a myriad of devices. Various sizes are available, and they are either chargeable through USB or plug in (in the case of large models). I like that these were reusable, as opposed to disposable like many options, and also that you can get a size that would provide a material level of power for larger machines, such as iPads.
iHealth: The health area was growing this year, as sensors and computing power are increasingly moving from core machines to more unusual peripheral devices. Several firms worked to capture various types of information, such as weight, blood pressure, and even glucose levels. I liked the iHealth machines, including their new compact wireless blood pressure machine.
Motorola Actv: As in the case of health, fitness is another area where exercise and related machines are being linked to smart phones and tablets. One tension is between dedicated machines in this area and other firms that use machines and sensors, but capture and power many elements using smart phones and tablets. Motorola had an interesting small device that could capture both your indoor workout, such as on an elliptic machine, or a bike ride or run. The main advantage to me was battery life. When I use my smart phone navigation system, or apps like Tracks, which are great, they destroy my battery life. These dedicated machines are developed for very efficient battery life when using GPS functionality, and are also rather compact. A major plus.
Qualcomm Halo: A truly interesting company, one of my favorite at the show. This firm addresses how to charge electric vehicles. I always prefer technology that allows a user new benefits without having to change the basic way they have lived in the past. Charge stations just seem problematic -- I don't see my wife plugging in a car on a cold winter day. Charging stations at public locations can also clutter a street, and are subject to vandalism. Qualcomm addresses this the way companies have created plates for charging phones -- a large charging plate is imbedded in a street or driveway, and a receiver plate is mounted on the bottom of a car. Invisible to the user, no wires, no mess. This could be a game changer.
AgGloves: As tablets are increasingly be used in various environments, including when gloves are involved, there needed to be an answer to how to operate these devices without exposing fingers to frost or hazard. Several firms have solutions for this. I liked the AgGloves design which seemed to offer a more even control process through their dispersed imbedded silver technology.
Well those are a few of my highlights from CES 2012. Always interesting to see creativity at work -- hope some of these firms also make money!
By Michael J. Lyon www.michaellyon.com