Many of us have had the pleasure of meeting face to face. However, here on The Sleeter Group QuickBooks and Beyond blog, it’s important to focus on technical issues that make a difference to your clients as well as you personally. Month after month and post after post, my intent will be to provide you insights on technology that you can’t get from any other source. We’re in this community together, trying to help each other understand the best options and the truth about solutions. That will always be the purpose of my posts.
With the myriad of reporting from the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), this post summarizes business technologies to watch. Since 1967, the annual CES has been a recurring introductory source of new technologies. In addition to the big computer shows of the past, such as COMDEX (Computer Dealers’ Exhibition), manufacturers of technologies aimed at the consumer market frequently introduce new products at the CES event. ShowStoppers, an exclusive, invitation-only event again this year, was the source of a number of ideas that we will discuss.
Editor’s Note: Randy Johnston presents the popular “Tech Update” session at the annual Sleeter Group Accounting Solutions Conference.
New Technologies Showcased at CES
I made an effort to walk the entire CES event looking for unique offerings to help the accounting and small business markets. Technologies of note to businesses include:
- 3-D printing
- Battery recharging capabilities
- Conferencing displays
- Retail support technologies, such as kiosks to review merchandise or to try clothing on virtually in a technological mirror
- Touch screens in formats from desktops to laptops to slates to wall-mount displays
- Wireless access points
- Scanners and SaaS-based personal finance document management
Technologies of note for personal use include:
- 4K curved TVs
- Remote doorbell and lock units
- Upgrades for writing technologies, such as the Livescribe 3 Smartpen
Technologies Ready Now
What technologies can you use almost immediately? Picking a single product that has an impact on QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, Xero, and FreshBooks is the NeatConnect Cloud Scanner and Digital Filing System (Figure 1). This product is $499, available now, and allows scanning directly to generic services like SkyDrive, but it extends the capability by performing optical character recognition (OCR) on the documents. It can then map the results at a field level in several popular accounting products. Installation and operation are simple, because the product is connected wirelessly and has a single button to perform the scan function. One concern for the product is the recurring cost of cloud storage and the introduction of yet one more document management system for these accounting products. However, this system is simple enough and inexpensive enough, so it will be used.
Another introduction at CES involving wireless was from Belkin – the Linksys WRT 1900AC Home Router, which has a retail price of $299 (Figure 2). This product uses the new gigabit wireless network standard 802.11ac and can transmit 1.3GBps wirelessly. The software included with the unit can perform more sophisticated Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) virtual private network (VPN) functions and represents a wide array of new wireless products with radically greater speed. Many of you should replace your wireless access points (WAPs) this year.
4K Ultra High Definition TVs will find their way to the market and our homes soon enough, but 4K is going to arrive on our computer displays much sooner. DisplayLink introduced 4K support over USB 3.0, and its hardware is the basis of a new universal docking station from Targus – the ACP7101USZ (Figure 3). Besides the USB and docking station support, laptops and tablets that ran in native 4K were also shown by vendors, including Toshiba and Samsung. The crispness and details of the displays are quite notable. It will take awhile for the software to catch up and take full advantage of this new hardware.
Touch screens were evident everywhere at CES, with large-format displays from Samsung; tablets and Ultrabooks from HP, Lenovo, Dell, and others; and some interesting all-in-one designs from Sony, HP, and other vendors. It became obvious that hardware vendors expect your next hardware purchase to be a touch screen. CES wasn’t the place to see software vendors providing tools to take full advantage of the touch screen hardware.
Not-Yet Practical Technologies
How about a few items that just don’t seem to be practical yet? After looking at every watch and fitness monitoring product available, you’re better off waiting. Innovation is occurring, but it’s clear you need to wait for at least the second generation of technology.
4K TV is another wonderful technology that’s probably one year too early. Even though Netflix will deliver 4K content later this year, the infrastructure, content, and distribution support system for 4K don’t seem ready for prime time.
Home automation tools have progressed notably in the past year. There are still too many competing standards to pick a clear winner. Further, the security of the home automation systems is questionable.
For each new, useful product discovered at CES, there were hundreds that will never make it to market or were just bad ideas. However, when other engineers see what their competitors have come up with, they get new ideas. No less than ten engineers from competitors were taking careful notes while observing an execution idea in a prototype product. Some of these prototypes deserve strong cheering support to help them become real, delivered products. Every product mentioned in this post will be a winner, already well beyond the prototype phase.
Randy Johnston and his NMGI team provide IT consulting services and recommendations to Sleeter Group Consultants Network members as a benefit and part of their membership. If you have questions on any hardware, software, procedures, or IT strategies for your firm, contact [email protected] with your questions or to schedule a time to speak.