It is possibly the biggest technology show of the year. A 1.9 million square-foot, 150,000-person zoo, Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is full of vendors demonstrating new technology that isn’t actually available yet, to hordes of wandering consumers. It sounds like the last place an enterprise IT decision maker would want to be, but if your company doesn’t have someone down there in the trenches, you may find yourself at a disadvantage.
The latest CES took place at the start of January in Las Vegas. It may be a consumer technology show, but that doesn’t mean that enterprise technology decision makers can ignore it, explains Charles Brett, principal analyst at market research firm Freeform Dynamics. In fact, a recent trend has made CES increasingly relevant to the enterprise: consumerization.
“This shapes expectations not only of gadgets and their operation but also their expectations about how they will expect to interact with a range of enterprise services/products,” Brett says.
CES is a good place to identify emerging trends. If CIOs are under pressure to treat their employees as consumers of technology, able to make their own device and software choices, then it makes sense to find out where consumer tech is headed. CES is the perfect venue, because it often showcases many technologies that are not yet mainstream.
growth of wearable devices
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the most significant technologies for the enterprise to emerge from CES are ahead of the curve, and straddle the consumer and corporate sectors. Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst firm Quocirca, identifies wearable devices as a key growth area.
These devices may have been clunky style disasters in the past, but companies are beginning to refine them. The rise of products such as Google Glass (still unavailable to the mass public at the time of writing), cannot be overlooked.
“The capability to be able to recognize people without the need for an assistant to be prompting you, the capability to call up information wherever you are – particularly at a geo-locational basis – will make wearables a shiny gift for the executive magpie,” Longbottom says.
But before they hit the mainstream, they have to solve real world problems, said Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, during the keynote speech at CES. His company is taking a gamble on wearables, showing that he believes those problems exist. He unveiled Edison, a 22nm process node computer the size of an SD card, with wireless capabilities, designed to be integrated into wearable equipment.
What might those real world problems look like? Route guidance for drivers and delivery staff could be one potential application, as could guidance around warehouses, based on RFID data from the load being carried. Perhaps augmented reality could be used to help airplane mechanics fix particular problems, or in the office, maybe wearables could do something as simple as providing a video summary of a meeting.
the Internet of Things
Like wearables, the other technology that captured the most attention at CES is not quite yet here, but once it arrives, it will seep invisibly into our everyday lives – both at home, and at work. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a world in which millions of devices – both personal and embedded – can all communicate.
Brett noticed this most in cars at CES, many of which are increasingly connected. But sensors are also popping up everything from homes to healthcare devices. Now, companies are creating platforms to connect, both at home, and in the enterprise.
For example, IoT virtualization firm Arrayent demonstrated a cloud-based platform to connect an increasingly diverse array of sensors in different devices, from different manufacturers. This is good example of a technology that will blur the lines between the consumer and enterprise worlds. Users will increasingly use apps on their smartphones and tablets to control connected devices and services, whether those assets are at the home, or the office.
The Internet of Things is a good example of the technical challenges facing CIOs in the next few years, says Longbottom, adding that if they pay attention for no other reason, they should watch CES to prepare themselves. Consider the security risks inherent in the Internet of Things, which is already becoming apparent, as Californian security group Proofpoint recently discovered. Hackers are already compromising devices such as Internet-connected fridges to turn them into spamming bots. As IoT makes its way into the enterprise, attack surfaces will increase exponentially.
Then, there’s the strain on your infrastructure to consider. “The impact on not only corporate networks once the IoT really takes off, but also on the wider internet itself cannot be underestimated,” Longbottom says.
ultra-high definition displays
Similarly, other emergent technologies that will make their way into the enterprise will also put a strain on corporate networks. Ultra-high definition 4K screens are starting to make an appearance, for example.
“4K screen technology will start to find its way into the organization – firstly through executives wanting the shiniest most jaw-dropping video-conferencing, then the media creative wanting screens that give them better visual capabilities,” says Longbottom. This will spread to employees, who will start to get 4K resolution on replacement laptops and screens. “The impact on enterprise networks should not be overlooked – full streaming 4K is a bit of a network hog,” he concludes.
CES is no longer a show for toys and gadgets. It’s a place where strategists can find out what employees will be bringing to work in the coming years - and how to block it, tolerate it, or perhaps even capitalize on it.