What were the main highlights that you saw at the Consumer Electronics Show this year? -- Pat
LAS VEGAS -- This year's International CES was spread out over 37 football fields and had the usual plethora of 'solutions searching for a problem', but we did see some interesting trends that might make it to your home.
The most buzz was created by the Ultra HD television standard that packs 4 times the pixels into the display than today's HD TVs.
The result is an amazingly sharp image that makes today's HD look like yesterday's analog tube displays.
But before you list your HD TV on eBay so you can be the first one on your block to have Ultra HD, you need to understand some of the hurdles that the technology needs to overcome.
The first is the price: $20,000 to $30,000 for most of the larger displays. The second is content: it takes special cameras (think 3D) in order to shoot video at this resolution, so it will be a while before there is enough content to justify the upgrade.
Another major problem is the infrastructure and standards to support delivery of the content are still under development.
Broadcast companies, cable, satellite and video streaming providers must also update their equipment to support delivery of this new standard once it's actually finalized.
Let's put Ultra HD as a viable and affordable option on the back burner for a couple of years.
Something that is more likely to impact you this year is the emergence of inexpensive and easy to use home automation platforms.
Instead of having to spend a huge pile of money to transform your living space into a 'connected home', you can slowly start to add devices that connect via wifi and get controlled via your smartphone.
Companies like GreenWave Reality, Belkin and SmartThings showed us innovative systems for controlling our lighting, electrical outlets, setting up security cameras, baby monitors, motion and moisture sensors and lots of other 'things' that you could add one at a time to slowly transform your house over time.
One of my favorite examples came from the CEO of SmartThings who showed us a small key fob that can be attached to a child's backpack or keychain so that a parent could be automatically notified via text when the child gets home from school or leaves the house in the morning.
Their system can also automatically setup the house based on the key fob so that lighting, heat or other customizable settings would automatically kick in when it enters the house.
Some of the other interesting technology at the show included affordable desktop 3D printers from MakerBot, brainwave sensors that can control games and toys from NeuroSky, nano coating technology that invisibly waterproofs your mobile electronics from Liquipel and a unending display of connected car technology from virtually every major car company.
Health and fitness technology that interacts with your smartphone was plentiful, including the FitBit Flex bracelet that monitors your activity and sleep to help keep you on your fitness track.
What's obvious to me after this year's show is that your smartphone is going to become a universal remote control for your life: connecting to your house, car, HVAC, media center, SmartTV, fitness regimen and just about every aspect of your life.
I'd suggest you think about getting a second battery for your smartphone if you plan on participating in this connected revolution.
Ken Colburn, President
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