Getting ahead of the competition is never easy, but sometimes a little technological advantage can go a long way.
Whether it's something that can help your sales force in the field or something that can let you complete a task better and quicker than the competition, a simple gadget can make all the difference. At this year's International CES in Las Vegas, there were dozens of companies displaying existing and upcoming technologies that could impact one or more industries. Here are some of the more intriguing items we saw.
—By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted: 24 Feb. 2014
The tricorder, an integral part of the U.S.S. Enterprise's sick bay on "Star Trek," has crossed the line from science fiction to science fact. The Scanadu Scout can measure a patient's heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, stress levels, respiration and ECG in just 10 seconds. Due later this year (or early next), the system will let both physicians and patients obtain detailed information much quicker than they can gather it now.
Drones may carry a lot of negative connotations, but they're useful tools for real estate professionals, who can use them to capture breathtaking aerial shots of homes and property. DJI has been producing lightweight drones for some time and is upping its game with the Phantom 2. Designed for photography and filmmaking rather than law-enforcement surveillance, this 2.5-pound device can snap 14 megapixel images, record 1080 p video and even livestream to a mobile device.
4G cellular speeds may be three times faster than 3G, but that doesn't mean a lot if you can't get a signal, especially if you're on the road. Wilson Electronics' DT4G is one of the first 4G boosters to hit the market. It's carrier- and handset agnostic, meaning it will work with just about any 4G phone, and it will increase your connectivity in both rural areas and in office buildings that have poor reception.
Market researchers have used eye-tracking technology for years to gauge (in focus groups) where a consumer's attention is initially drawn in advertising. Now that technology seems to be ready to expand into other parts of the world. EyeTech's AEye technology is being prepared for a variety of products, ranging from computer displays to TVs and laptops. Real-world applications range from lie-detector systems that could be used by police departments to a replacement for the mouse, saving companies thousands of dollars on carpal tunnel and other repetitive-stress injuries.
Google's self-driving prototype vehicle was unique in 2013, but at CES the competition opened the floodgates. Ford showed off its infrastructure for fully automated driving, and BMW announced a research-and-development project related to the technology. Other companies putting brainpower to self-driving cars include Delphi and Texas Instruments. Induct, meanwhile, was showing off a commercially available electric self-driving car. Whichever manufacturer you trust, hands-free driving could give commuters more time to get work done.
The seemingly endless reports of companies being attacked by hackers underscores the need to improve corporate security. While IT companies continue to focus on ways to plug backdoor holes, Hoyos Labs is tackling the problem of passwords. HoyosID replaces easily guessed logins with biometric information, using areas like your face, periocular region and iris to access your smartphone. The company says the tech can't be spoofed by holding up a photo or video of someone's face. And given how much critical data we carry on our phones these days, it's a tool that any business could use.
NHTSA data shows that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than getting behind the wheel when drunk. For businesses, it's also a potential legal liability. Autonet Mobile offers wireless Internet service in the car—which can be helpful for road warriors. But included among the controls for that are controls that track the speed of the car and turns off certain capabilities of cell phones when the car is in motion.
Biometric ID checking isn't limited to your eyes. Bionym's Nymi wristband uses your ECG to authenticate devices via Bluetooth. That eliminates the need for things like passwords, usernames and, in some cases, traditional door locks. (The device telegraphs that an authorized person is approaching the door, which automatically unlocks for them.)
Hospitals aren't exactly fun places under the best of conditions. Modular computer maker Xi3 and Intermountain Healthcare (which includes 22 hospitals, a medical group with more than 185 physician clinics and an affiliated health insurance company called SelectHealth) showcased their vision of the patient room of the future.
Among the advances they see hospitals offering are chips that alert caregivers to life-threatening changes in patient's health. Patients, meanwhile, will have control of in-room lighting, sound, entertainment and Internet access. As health care becomes more competitive, features like these could lure more nonemergency patients when they need to have a procedure done.
Google Glass turned heads, partly for its ability to display information to the user in an intuitive manner. Texas Instruments wants to bring something similar to your car. The company showcased a heads-up display for vehicles at the show. With their eyes on the road, drivers can see on their windshield everything from their current speed to notifications of vehicles in their blind spot. And it can also be used in console displays for everything from navigation to notifications of missed calls.