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CES 2015: A summary of this year's Consumer Electronics Show

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As a first-time attendee of CES I distinctly remember thinking on my flight over to Vegas: "What have I let myself in for?"

It turns out the answer was a week of no sleep, motivational videos designed to make you cry and more gadgets than I could shake a stick at. It doesn't matter what time it is in Vegas, there's always something going on, and with the show spread over three major areas across the city it's almost impossible to take everything in.

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But here are the top trends I noticed during my week in Sin City:

People aren't interested in JUST data collection anymore

One of the biggest themes of the week was the concept that devices that collect data are no longer useful unless they are able to interpret it and make changes for the better.

At the show, Shawn G DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research at the Consumer Electronics Association, discussed the need for a "feedback loop"  whereby the analog input method for digitisation and curation is then used to influence and change behaviour, feeding back to the original input method.

It was widely agreed across the conference that until this feedback loop occurs, digital and connected technology will not contribute towards a better and more convenient standard of living.

Everyone is focussed on making things "better"

CEA representatives were saying it, Samsung's CEO was saying it, the big boss at Intel was saying it - everyone agreed that the internet of things and other connected technologies could act as a gateway towards a better existence for human beings.

According to Samsung's keynote at the opening of the show, "better" means different things to different people, and the public said the technology of the future should "be faster", "save time" and "track efficiency".

And that's just everyday life - Intel spoke about how its RealSense technology can allow automated drones to more easily navigate on their own, allowing easier drop off of items such as medical supplies.

The firm also shared its plans for a more diverse workforce by launching its own Diversity in Technology initiative, aiming to improve not just technology but the industry itself.

The wearables market is as confused as ever

The last few years at CES has seen wearables move from a possible future concept into a full blown industry segment. The problem is, wearables still don't know what they want to be.

In the CES Marketplaces innovation hall technology booths were split into sections, which included Wearables, Health & Wellness, Fitness & Technology, Smart Watches and Sports Tech, all of which contained, amongst other things, wearables of some kind.

Some of the products could have landed in any of these categories, and the line between several of these segments is very thin.

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With fashion designer Lauren Bowker claiming earlier this year that she doesn't like her scientific designs being referred to as wearable tech, it's clearly an industry that, although has many products already embedded into people's lifestyle, doesn't know where it's going.

I think wearables is a technology category becoming a bit too big for its boots, and it needs to decide where its loyalties lie - fitness, wellness or convenience.

3D printing is actually going somewhere

Last year 3D printing seemed like a gimmick that would never take off. Now it's a legitimate industry used for activities such as rapid prototyping, and many products surfaced at CES that could expand the opportunities of the 3D printing market.

Intel's plans to integrate Intel's Core i7 processors within HP's upcoming HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer is a step towards fast printing for functional items such as chainlinks and other working parts for the engineering industry.

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A 3D printing pen that allows users to draw a functioning 3D object was also on display in the Marketplaces hall, as well as many smaller 3D printers for home use that could solve expensive outsourcing problems for wannabe engineers.

From a concept people scoffed at to a range of technologies with practical uses, the 3D printing industry has come along in leaps and bounds.

The Chinese market is booming

Once technology was only manufactured in China on behalf of other businesses, but now Chinese companies are huge, and producing products for both domestic and international markets.

From smartphones to smarthomes, China definitely had a huge presence at the show this year, and the trend doesn't look to slow down any time soon.

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The internet of things and smarthomes are both the fastest growing and least developed segments

Everyone was talking about the current proliferation and development of the internet of things this year, including the smarthome and how connected devices can help to improve people's lives and save people time.

However much like wearables, some of these technologies still don't quite have the edge that's needed to make them as useful as they could be.

We discussed earlier technology must provide information that allows users to manipulate and improve their environment in order to fully prove its usefulness.

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What was also highlighted by Samsung's CEO was the need for greater collaboration between different industry segments and regulators to ensure the internet of things is able to properly move forward and work seamlessly.

Looks like we have a lot to keep an eye on over the next year! 

The Gadget Show Live HANDS ON: Boogie Board

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The fundamental Boogie Board technology has been around for 20 years under the name Kent Displays, but for the last two years the company has concentrated on producing touch slates which replace the need for paper notebooks.

The cholesteric liquid crystal display (ChLCD) screen was developed out of the company's R&D, and the slates remind me of a darker Kindle screen.

English: The Taj Mahal, complete with ripples ...

English: The Taj Mahal, complete with ripples in the reflection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The basic tool slate (£30), is a simple slate which when it was launched, was thought that it would be aimed at children - think a modern day etch-a-sketch, just write on the slate and press the erase button to wipe away. However, the children's market only takes up 40% of sales. The Boogie Board is very popular in Japan as electronic stationary, but 5% of the market share actually comes from call centres who find that it is safer to write notes regarding sensitive information and quickly erase it again.

The basic slate requires no power to generate or retain an image, and only a small amount to erase (supplied by a small watch battery, which will execute over 50,000 erase cycles).

The next stage Boogie Board (£80) connects to a computer via a micro USB, and as you write on the slate it can be seen replicated on the computer screen, alternatively it can be written away from the computer, connected and saved before erasing. I also played around with a prototype of the next generation device, which will be launched in Q4 2013, giving the Boogie Board wireless connectivity via Bluetooth. 

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It's not particularly glam, or sleek like a tablet, but I can definitely see the appeal in utilities, call centres and in health care.

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British tech start-ups off to India on the Web Mission 2013

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Last night, 16 of the most innovative technology SMEs from the UK were chosen to join Web Mission 2013 to India in early February.

The chosen start-ups, building tech for various sectors including  health, education, infrastructure and mobility, included Audioboo, Cyceera, uMotif, Omnisoft Services and BuffaloGrid.

The Mission programme, organised by The Long Run Venture and the Co-Sponsorship Agency, is supported by the Technology Strategy Board and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), alongside other private sponsors.

This will be the eighth trip. Each trip is designed to help successful early stage businesses accelerate their growth potential overseas. According to the organiser, the chosen companies are all scalable, while offering profitable solutions for low and middle-income populations in urban and rural India, while also offering B2B opportunities.

"When you take UK and India, people think there is a lot of trade, but this is miniscule in terms of start-ups, especially when in terms of investments , eyes are drawn to Silicon Valley," said Guy Pattison, co-founder of The Long Run Venture.

"You would have around 10 million people to pilot a project in India, but a couple of thousand here. These start-ups have the opportunity to get in there and scale up," he said.

The hand-picked companies will visit the country for seven days, first heading to Bangalore to visit other big companies and universities and then onto New Delhi which will provide a government perspective to venturing into the country. 

Start-ups on Web Mission 2013 include:

  • Audioboo - Audioboo allows users to record audio and post over social networks. With customers already including the BBC and The Guardian, the company claims to do to audio, what Instagram to did to photos. Audioboo is also delving into the audiobook and education sectors. 
  • uMotif - uMotif is a telehealth company which builds attractive apps for users with health problems. The apps help users to comply with taking medicines, to improve treatment and reduce hospital costs of readmissions. The software works on various platforms, not just smartphones, by providing SMS services as well. uMotif is currently demonstrating an app to help people suffering from Parkinsons. The app, which was funded by the Department of Health and adminstered by the NHS Midlands and East, has an engaging colourful interface which encourages the users to "own their own data".
  • BuffaloGrid -Buffalo Grid provides mobile charging power to rural areas of the world, where it could quite easily take a quarter of a day's wage to charge your device at a local power station. BuffaloGrid uses solar panelling to distribute power and customers can pay via text message. The company hopes to pair with mobile operators, while any residual power is then sold back to the local people at highly competitive rates. There are around 650m off-grid mobile phones in the world, 300m of which are in India, proving the move into this market incremental for the company's future development. 

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Four years in the making: The best of the best.

Faisal Alani | No Comments | No TrackBacks
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karate-kid2.jpgHaving created this blog and nurtured it for the past four years, I've decided to put the best blog posts/videos from the best on one page.

Diary of an outcast: Apple's Special iPad 2 Event
I will start with my favourite post, the infamous Apple event. I had been invited to Apple events before but somehow started getting missed off the list. I hate Apple so it was no surprise that they didn't want me there. Safe to say that after this post not only was I missed off the list but Computer Weekly never received an invite from Apple ever again.

iPhone Vs N97
This was the first big video project that me and David (video editor) put together. At the time I was so happy that I'd got the N97 I decided to make a video pitting it against the iPhone while mocking Apple's advertising campaign. Little did I know that the N97 would prove to be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.




HTC Desire HD Review
David (who stars in this video) and I wanted to do something different and create a cool video review. This is what we came up with.

Sadly once we started recording David (and the department he worked for) were made redundant. It didn't effect the video but it wasn't a happy time for us. Having cleared out his desk he set up at home the next day to finish it. This was our last hurrah and the last video I made. Very proud of it.




What is the best mobile OS around?
At this point, no one wanted to be in any of my videos. The company was starting to cut back on them and so I tried to play four roles with four outfits and a moustache before I got told that what I was doing wasn't a productive use of my time. Honestly, how could they say that?

This video used to have a voting element that has since been removed because we couldn't afford to pay for the server the flash sat on.

The most ambitious video we ever tried.





Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken
There was a girl I was desperate to go out with at my work. I needed to do a video to have a reason to talk to her but the only thing I'd been sent was a Poken. No phones or cool gadgets. Somehow I persuaded her to help me make this video. We're still together :)




Video review of the wiimote like Gyration Air Mouse
This video is pretty much when I realised that I can be funny. What people don't realise is that filming didn't take long but discussions between David and I on what was funny took forever.

He would stand there saying "That's not funny" every time I cracked a joke or did something stupid. Or one of my favourite lines of his was "You might think that's funny, but it isn't".




Video: Palm Pre vs the iPhone - The big debate
I had 2 weeks before Christmas to do a video armed with my wit and a white wig that was left over from a very bad 'Back to the future' spoof I'd made where I played the Doc. That video was so bad that the company we producd it for sent us a letter saying that if the video ever saw the light of day, they'd sue my a** off. 

David went on holiday with a week left of editing/filming to do so I didn't have anyone to tell me that what I was saying wasn't funny and some of the editing is a bit off. It's still a good video but we felt it was rushed.




Video: I heart iPad - Dating website matches man to iPad
What do you do when you get your hands on an iPad before the UK release? Write a review. Then what? Make a video about having a special relationship with it. Yep, not sure why.



The HTC and Google story: A love affair and a tragedy
Lord knows what compelled me to write this. Had I taken more time to craft it, I think it could've been great but when I read it now I feel it's rushed. Still good, where the idea came from I'll never know.

Video: Flip Mino HD review
This video took 84 takes. For no reason at all I couldn't stop laughing during recording. We got in trouble because it was meant to take a couple of hours but took almost two weeks.

Video: Zeemote review - Is this the future of mobile gaming?
I did this video because Zeemote said that they'd give me a free phone if I reviewed it. So...

GeeklyWeekly Sexy Halloween Special
Wow, how bad is this video? It doesn't even have anything to do with gadgets!!

Dawn in your Bedroom

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It's 8.30 on a bright November morning and I'm guessing that I'm the only blogger on the Computer Weekly site up and without a hangover.  Last night was the blog awards... but while my colleagues were pouring champagne down each other's pants, I was tucked up early in bed.  Testing an alarm clock.

One of the perks of being an International, jet-setting gadget blogger (if occasionally jumping on the Transpennine Express counts as jet-setting) is that you get sent gadgets to try.  After blogging about the Lumie Visor the other week, the company kindly sent me an alarm clock to give a go. My reputation clearly precedes me.

No ordinary alarm clock, this.  It's a Lumie Bodyclock Advanced 200.  Instead of waking you with the bludgeoning tones of Chris Moyles barking inanities into your face, it gently nudges you from slumber with a simulated sunrise.  A strong bulb gradually fades up until there's bright dawn in your bedroom.  Perfect for early morning meetings.

The advanced version we've been testing also has a nightlight feature that fades down when you go night night. If traffic and drunken revellers are a problem in your area, or you suffer from tinnitus, there's a built in white noise generator that'll mask any overwhelming background sound.  It has all the other bog-standard features you'd expect from an alarm clock too - rude beeping to get you out of bed if the light's not enough, configurable LED clock and snooze features.

I've been testing it for over a week - and it's certainly converted me.  You wake up slowly and naturally, rather than sitting bolt upright with drool hanging from your mouth, screaming for your mother.

The only issue I had is that I like an extra nudge - and had to set a separate radio alarm to go off in tandem. Lumie also produce a model with an FM radio built in.  Last time I checked, analogue radio was resolutely on its way out though. The digital switch over for radio is rumoured to come in 2015 - and a DAB alarm clock can be bought for under £50 these days.

Lumie Bodyclock alarms start at £58.67. The Bodyclock Advanced 200 we tested is £97.82.

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