CES 2013: CIOs Search for the Next Killer App

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is underway in Las Vegas right now. And while 150,000 consumers and CIOs alike are storming the aisles, clamoring to check out the newest gadgets, it’s easy to forget a key piece of the story.

After Sin City’s bright lights have faded, it’s not Lexus’ self-driving car or HAPIforks’ diet utensils that will impact your everyday work-life. It’s really all about the apps.

Keep your gadgets, give me apps

The fact is there are plenty of new gizmos and innovations being announced this week like 3D TVs, new gaming consoles, tablets and more. But, what will get consumers (and businesses) excited is what they can do with these devices.

What do I mean? Take the iPhone for example. No question the iPhone was slick when it came out, but the buzz has always been about its huge selection of apps, whether they were for GPS, finding a restaurant, or social media. So, until 3D content is widely available, that revolutionary 3D TV is really just another fancy TV set.

Sure, there have been a number of new smartphones and tablet announcements from the likes of Microsoft and RIM, but what’s clear is that it will all be a big yawner without those hot apps.

In fact, that’s the problem with Microsoft’s Windows phones and tablets — there just aren’t any compelling apps for anyone to buy it, or more importantly, switch from an iOS phone or tablet or even Android. “Compelling” is the key word obviously, because Microsoft claims to have over 100,000 mobile apps available today. Nonetheless, it’s usually the third platform of choice for developers.

Watch for these 3 cool app crossovers

I think everyone can see that the adoption curve for technology has been flipped, and for the past few years, many of the hottest applications have been embraced by businesses only after consumers adopted them. That makes shows like CES increasingly important for enterprises, SMBs and IT departments alike.

Personally, I’m eagerly anticipating voice integration making its way into the corporate world, as the technology and applications are honed with consumers. With voice integration and voice-to-text functionality, the technology holds promise for productivity boosts in areas like sales, support and many administrative functions. Customer service reps can process orders or solve support problems by simply communicating by voice. Think of an enhanced Siri for business, where answering the phone, dictating a letter or creating complicated spreadsheets will be done solely by voice commands.

Another intriguing crossover technology for business are apps utilizing Microsoft kinect-type technology, where for example, oil field workers can operate computers or even machinery with hand gestures or body movements so that they don’t gum-up the keyboard or the screen with the dirt and grime associated with their job.

One emerging technology I’m watching closely is Near Field Communication (NFC). At CES, Sony announced a slew of “one touch” NFC-enabled technologies such as phones, TVs and speakers. In Sony’s case, NFC allows consumers to wirelessly connect and control their devices. But this is just the beginning.

The future NFC applications for consumers and businesses will be amazing. NFC-enabled devices like smartphones will allow people to go to a restaurant or movie, access their ATM, lend money to a friend, ride the train, unlock doors, and thousands of other tasks with one device. Just as easily, businesses will leverage NFC for advertising, allowing customers to make purchases, tracking inventory, granting or denying access to physical facilities or applications to customers and/or employees — all via NFC devices and tags.

Today consumers, tomorrow CIOs

Certainly the enormous presence by the B2B tech vendors at this year’s CES is not only an acknowledgment that the value of these technologies was first recognized by consumers, but more so that this phenomenon will continue into the foreseeable future.

And while it’s totally natural to get wowed by self-driving cars and augmented reality glasses, the real utility will come with the new apps that can harness the power of those technologies for consumers — and consequently for our businesses too.

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