This year’s CES show at Las Vegas, so what’s new and who’s interested?

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year was grandiose and overwhelming as always. As my colleague Jeff Shelmire and I represented ChannelVission Inc to scope out the latest in tech madness, we were assaulted by a sensory overload of 3-D screen enablers, perceptive sensors, gaming devices for a lazier and racier audience and phones that promise to be smarter than ever before. Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp and all the big names were loving it as they have been looking for just this kind of  interest surge to get back into the game after last year’s abysmal retail push. Tablet sized touch screen net books and niche e-readers were in abundance as trend dictates smaller, sleeker and more mobile. Since everyone is crazy about downloading apps for everything from bird watching to clock ticking (OK, I made this one up but I’m sure it exists somewhere) , many big players including Intel and Samsung showed off their app stores modeled after the one that started it all-Apple. But what is new is that the apps are now crisscrossing between the web, the phones, the TVs, the netbooks, the tablets even printers! The biggest trend also seems to be that of hybrid super gadgets that perform multiple functions like smartbooks which function as smartphones, netbooks that are also e-book readers, smart TVs that display websites, mobile TVs for cars and phones and so forth.

A lot of talk of digitalizing cars as well. Ontario based SmoothTalker’s product bolsters smartphones by making data exchange smoother and faster even in remote locations. The company also has a Bluetooth device to allow users to hold a conversation or connect to the phone hands free.  American car maker Ford is trying to give drivers access to streaming media and other Smartphone applications through the voice-command feature. So instead of fiddling with your talking unit while driving, you use voice commands to navigate. The connection to the Internet is done using the Smartphone’s network connection, and the phone talks to the car’s software via Bluetooth.

It was also a pleasant surprise to see ample choices available in the low energy, environmentally safe category for a change. Things have got quite exciting in this arena which not too long ago used to be pretty limited and drab. Now thanks to advanced technology these low cost netbooks get a longer battery life and more sophisticated, interesting usage options, so serious users can consider buying them for themselves and not just for their kids. The green zone was packed with chemical free PCs, degradable packaging, LED TVs and flat panel screens.  Apart from all the well known players updating their resume with green causes, there are a bunch of newer, fresher companies in the business who are leading the green market through cutting edge technologies and innovative ideas.

One such is Illinois based Horizon Technologies whose CEO Jim McGinley and COO Don Rimdzius gave us a demo of their latest energy efficient product Voltstar Universal travel charger,for charging any 5V handhelds. As we search for new ways to harness renewable energy, we found out that there is a lot of interest in Hydrogen economy especially from companies like Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies as a way to lessen the load on fossil fuels that has led us to problems like pollution, global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. Horizon promises a cleaner technology by extracting the hydrogen in water for producing electricity. It works by pulling out hydrogen from a water tank and storing it in cartridges. A palm sized fuel cell charger called MiniPak which produces electricity from the stored hydrogen can then be used for charging devices such as smart phones, small digital cameras, GPS units, small lighting devices MP3 players and other small devices that depend on USB chargers. It would be interesting to see if we can use the idea in a cost effective manner for bigger appliances.

 All in all quite entertaining- some new ideas, many promising ones and a lot of to be expected dog and pony shows for the media!