LAS VEGAS — It was all about the “Internet of Things” at the 2014 International Consumer Electronic Show, which wrapped up last week in Las Vegas. More than 3,000 exhibitors showed off the latest gadgets and offered a peek into technology’s future – everything from curved-screen technology to driverless cars, smarter light bulbs, and wearable tech.
One theme that quickly emerged from this year: Your smartphone is going to increasingly become your remote-control to managing your life and your home.
Smartphones are getting smarter, allowing you to take control over everything from your home’s lighting, cars, and even allowing you to send text messages to your refrigerator to see what groceries you need.
This year’s show offered plenty of applications for your real estate business. Here’s a rundown from CES, and some of our picks for emerging technology trends.
Favorite technology debut: Curved-screens
LG G Flex Smartphone
Curved-screens got a lot of people talking at CES this year, and the technology earned several industry awards for innovation. These sleek, curved screens were not only sharpening the picture of once flat-screen televisions, but smartphones were also getting curvier. The LG G Flex Smartphone has a curved 6-inch, high-definition screen that curves inward. You can even bend the phone slightly without cracking the screen. The curved screen offers ergonomic comfort that follows the contours of your face, as well as better voice and sound because of the curved design. Apple is reportedly exploring curved screens as well.
Best prototype: Driverless cars
BMW Connected Drive
A car that drives itself? It may sound science fiction, but the technology is real and already being tested worldwide. BMW showed off a 2-series Coupe and 6-series Gran Coupe that can drive itself. The cars can make lane changes, maneuver corners, and brake when needed – without a driver having to do anything. Several other automobile manufacturers touted self-driving prototypes that they are testing too.
At CES, Valeo showed off a demonstration of its Park4U valet feature. With a swipe of a smartphone, the car can park itself – and you don’t even have to be inside. It also can come get you when you’re ready to leave.
The implications for real estate could be huge: You could free up your time while in your car, allowing you more time to interact with your clients while you travel to showings. You’ll be able to take your eyes off the road and keep your eyes on the client. Completely driverless cars may only be 7 to 10 years away from being available to the public, according to Bosch, a global automaker supplier. (Read more: Future Paved for Driverless Cars?)
Biggest buzzword: Wearables
Pebble Steel Smartwatch
Wearable tech was everywhere at CES 2014. Most of the attention on wearables centered around monitoring fitness and health habits. But there were also plenty of debuts of smartwatches aimed at keeping you more connected from your wrist. Most of these devices will notify you about e-mails, text messages, calls, and calendar events.
And the look of wearable tech has gotten more sophisticated and less bulky too. For example, Pebble launched Pebble Steel, a polished steel smartwatch that can have a leather or metal strap. You can connect the apps from your iOS and Android device so that you can access everything from weather and news updates to your social media accounts, calendar, e-mails, maps, and even operate your car locks from your watch.
Intel debuted another form of wearable – a prototype named Jarvis. It’s a Bluetooth headset that wraps around the back of your ear that can be paired with a smartphone app to remotely interact with your phone. The voice-controlled personal assistant operates similar to Apple’s Siri but it’s all done from a headset. You can ask for directions or nearby restaurants, for example, and it’ll talk back to you.
Best problem-solving tech: Discreet Chargers
Mota's Extended iPhone Battery Case
Keeping your devices fully charged is critical for a real estate professional. Smartphone and tablet cases are being amped up with extra battery life to help you avoid power drains, and there were several products featured at CES for helping you stay charged. The options are a lot more convenient and less bulky, too.
For example, Mota featured an extended battery case that fits your smartphone and can double its battery life without adding any extra bulk. The cases are available for several devices.
Some tech companies are looking for ways to keep your gear charged that don’t require any plugs or extra cases. For example, Intel’s gadget charging bowl generated some buzz at CES. The idea is that you’d be able to drop your phone, tablet, headsets, ultrabooks into a big bowl that will then automatically charge your devices. Intel debuted a 10-inch in diameter charging bowl for just smart headsets, but the company says it plans to create a charging bowl for more devices in the future that allows you to charge multiple devices simultaneously by just tossing them in a bowl, like a pair of keys you’d throw in a basket.
Another product in the works for staying charged: A transparent solar panel screen that attaches over the screen of your smartphone. Alcatel’s Solar Panel Display allows you to charge your device by just placing it in the sun. The device was only on demo at CES, so you’ll likely have to wait until 2015 for solar-charging smartphone screens.
Ford's C-MAX Solar Energi Concept
Looking toward harnessing the sun to power up devices seemed to be a trend among some companies at CES. Ford Motor Co.’s showed off its C-MAX Solar Energi Concept vehicle that contained a solar power sunroof for charging the car’s battery.
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