OK, it’s finally time for my CES report for 2013. For the first time ever I picked up a strange virus down there. I already reported on that but it wasn’t until today that I feel normal again. I noticed it on Thursday night last week and was almost useless at CES on Friday. Today is the first day I feel normal again so it lasted for a full week.
This was the largest CES in their history. That’s really encouraging for one simple reason: Our industry seems nearly impervious to the ravages of the worldwide economic downturn. You wouldn’t know there are ongoing financial problems everywhere if all you saw was the Consumer Electronics Show.
They had almost 2 million square feet of exhibit space with more than 3,250 exhibitors showing more than 20,000 new products released for 2013. More than 150,000 attendees showed up, 35,000 of which came from more than 170 non-USA countries. To envision the space, picture more than 37 football fields and you’ll get an idea of the real estate taken by the exhibitors and attendees.
My Personal 10-Ten Of CES
Each year I like to select my Top-10 of CES. These are the technologies, gadgets, services or ideas that I think are the best, or at least most interesting in my personal point of view. I go there specifically looking for new ways to enhance our business here and I’ve never been disappointed. I also go there to re-charge my own batteries, metaphorically speaking. Once again, this year didn’t disappoint. I come back more energized than ever (notwithstanding the illness) and enthused knowing we’re on the right track with GlobalTmail™ and the products and services we’re developing. There’s something that just “feels right” about what we’re doing. It’s ambitious and has broad application in today’s marketplace. I’m not predicting we’re going to unseat the communications giants like Skype or CRM success stories like Salesforce or email and SMS providers like Constant Contact and the countless cell phone companies out there. But I “AM” confident that we’ll carve out our own little niche’ supplying much-needed services to millions of users world-wide who will know our services and make them a household name in their own realm.
I posted photos from the show so you can take a look at them. And here are the things I found most interesting this year:
1. Wilson “Sleek Cell Phone Booster”
I WON! How can I “NOT” like this? OK, so maybe this isn’t the abolute #1 product on my list, since I had listed it in years past, BUT I can’t help but gush a little about winning something…ANYTHING…in Las Vegas! It was one of those “drop your card in here and win” things. On my very first stop on the very first day, I visited Wilson Electronics, a company I blogged about in the past years. They’re a Utah firm that provides cell phone signal booster technology. Cell phones have a send/receive distance of about 5 miles from the closest tower. This extends the cell signal up to 20 times that far – close to 100 miles – which means it’s pretty hard to lose a cell phone signal anywhere in the USA. And here it is! This thing just arrived as I began writing this article – PERFECT TIMING!
This is the Wilson Cell Phone Booster designed to boost cell phone signals up to 20 times their normal strength
Gee. I’m going to HAVE to go someplace and try this out today! After I have tested it through the notorious “Bermuda Triangle of Utah” – a place I drive many times each week that ALWAYS drops cell signals and even FM radio – I’ll let you know how it performs. Since I’m expecting to do a lot of business road trips this year, I could not have won a better prize. THANK YOU WILSON ELECTRONICS! Here’s a promo page about this device in case you want one for yourself. When I first started following this product a few years ago, it retailed for about $350. Now it’s down to around $100. Two of Wilson’s competitors were in the same area, both bad-mouthing Wilson, who appears to be the larger company. Evidently Wilson has won the marketing battle. You can look at the two sour-grapes companies if you want, also. They are SmoothTalker and SureCall. I’ll stick with Wilson unless somebody can prove otherwise to me.
We’re currently seeking an SMS provider for our text-messaging module in the CRM. I’m targeting 1st Quarter of 2013 to have this up and running so it’s available to customers. I see the text-messaging capabilities as a hand-in-glove fit with our VoiFone™ application since the vast majority of these users will primarily use their cell phones rather than their computers for the calls. We’ll be able to reach 214 countries – pretty much the entire world – if we run our services through this provider. That’s a feat not even Skype is providing. Check out their website to learn more about them. I’ll open dialog with the guy I met at CES next week.
3. Cybertegic – Internet Marketing
It never fails that on the last day of the show, near the end of my search I find an outstanding vendor. I’ve been quietly looking for somebody with real expertise for Internet marketing for the past year. We haven’t been ready to use any form of Internet marketing yet. In fact, as of today we’re still not ready. But within the next 30 to 60 days we WILL be ready so the time is right to find an expert in this field. I had a lengthy discussion with the Sales Manager for Cybertegic, Jacqueline Khella, just before the end of CES. I’m glad I kept going because I have a hunch this might be the group we work with. They’re expensive, as virtually all these vendors are, so I can’t execute a contract with them today. But as we begin making sales, and with the next infusion of capital, I want to be ready to “pull the trigger” on a great Internet marketing solution that will greatly increase our sign-up rate and usage of both primary services, GroupCaller™ and VoiFone™. You can read about them yourself on their website.
4. ScanSnap and NeatDesk
I have watched paperless office scanning solutions for years. Several years ago a French company who since met its demise, took my #1 spot. NeatDesk beat them and everyone else out of the low-end high volume small entrepreneur market for desktop scanner filing systems. I followed Neat Corporation the past couple of years and bought a unit for the company a few months ago. I haven’t yet fully implemented it for office use, but the testing I did convinced me I was on the right track. What a great system! It’s a high-speed scanner that has great filing and OCR software, making it possible to file virtually everything an company needs to keep by just running it through this fast scanner, numbering the document and dropping the original in a storage box for later retrieve in case the original is ever needed (which rarely happens). Once it’s scanned, the document goes into a search-engine type database, making retrieval a snap.
Well, NeatDesk finally has a competitor from Fujitsu. It’s called ScanSnap and it’s every bit as impressive (and about the same size) as NeatDesk. It does a few nifty things that NeatDesk doesn’t do (yet), like allow you to place any size document in the hopper and have them all scanned regardless of sorting by size (8.5×11, business cards, receipts, invoices, etc.). Not only does it automatically scan both sides (same as Neat) and OCR them (same as Neat), but it straightens out the resulting graphics file (a MAJOR improvement). This way you don’t need to pay attention to whether you’re loading documents upside down, backwards or sideways – they’ll all show up right-side-up. I like that feature a lot! The scanner seems comparable to Neat in speed and capability. I think I’ll watch both of these companies now. But because I already have Neat,I’ll get to know it best. If you want to know my experience, contact me in a few months when I’m more of an expert with it! I’m excited to get rid of all the clutter in my office – and THAT’S the whole idea behind these 2 great products.
5. FinderCodes, Mobilelocate, Nio, SticknFind, Fobo (and more!)
It seems like every year there are a plethora of certain new categories of companies. This year was no different. One such newly crowded field is what I’m calling the “finder” business. These are companies providing technology that helps you locate stuff you lost, or was stolen – like cell phones, car keys, bicycle, your dog, etc. Using GPS and other technology, there are now a number of companies producing a product/service combo that guarantees you’ll find your lost “whatever-the-heck-it-is” in a snap.
One of these won a “Design and Engineering Award” honor at CES so that’s the first one one I’m listed: FinderCodes. There’s no software to install. It’s just a QR code system that allows you to get an account with the company, then buy QR code tags that you can affix to items yuo need to find if they are lost. It’s essentially a sophisticated lost-and-found system. If somebody finds your item, the tag tells them to scan the QR code with their smart phone. That scan will instantly notify the owner that their item has been found, and give the finder a means to contact the owner through their website. The next one, Mobilelocate takes advantage of existing cell phone GPS technology. You register a smart phone with this company and they will give you the exact GPS location of that phone (for a fee of course). The Nio is the next item, which works only with iPhone and iPads. It’s an alarm device that you can use between your Apple device and nearly anything else (like car keys, purse or wallet, laptop computer, etc. The tag (on a key chain) is set to sound an alarm on both the device and the iPhone or iPad if these items exceed a certain distance from each other, thus preventing the loss of the item. Fobo is a similar item but works between your smart phone and the Fobo device, a silver-dollar-sized colorful and durable disc. But this one has many features making it more useful than Nio. You attach Fobo to anything (luggage, car keys, laptop, purse, wallet, etc.) and it’ll notify you when the item is within a certain distance of you, or if you get too far away from it, or if it moves (eg put it on a stack of money and if anyone moves the money, you’ll be notified on your cell phone, or leave it in your car in the parking garage to find your car when you forget its location, and more. (There’s a cute video promoting this item that’s worth watching.) Stick-N-Find is the last device in this category. You should watch the little video on this site too. It’s a little different from the rest because it’s designed to instantly find thinks (like kids running off) when they get a certain distance from your phone. It has a pretty cool little radar screen that shows you where your item (or child) is and you can make it sound an alarm or even flash. It’s great for the remote control you keep leaving all over the house, too. That’s it for the many find-it devices (but there are MORE . . .i’m just talking about these). Wonder why suddenly, engineers all over the world decided we need to actually FIND our stuff? Anyway, no need to worry about losing stuff now, right?
This company is just now launching. It seems they may be much like us in that respect, not quite ready for prime time, but almost there. Actually I think they’re several steps ahead of us in development because they’ve been actively using their system in the real world more than we have. This is a mobile payment solution that allows merchants to accept payments from cell phones. It appears quite a bit different from the Square, Paypal and other similar devices that attach to your cell phone. I’ll be watching this one because if we begin markeing through trade shows and increase our face-time marketing through independent agents, this might be a very handy solution for specified sales personnel to accept payment for our services.
This is a nifty device that pretty much brings all the functions of your smart phone to your wrist. So you can just leave your phone in your pocket and do everything from the watch itself, like SMS, email, phone calls. And of course, they didn’t leave out their companion device, the “I’m Here” finder. Not to be out-done by everyone ELSE in the tech world, here’s a nice little video about their FINDER product – i think the finding app is more sophisticated than the other dedicated finders above.
I’m not generally that much into home security devices. There are so many around. But this company caught my attention because of the simplicity in design of their various products. For instance, I really like the Brinno Peephole Viewer because it looks just like any other ordinary peep hole in a door – except that the person outside has no idea that you’re actually watching them on a nice large video screen and they CANNOT detect that you’re on the other side of the door like you can with normal peep holes. You may want to check out their line of products if you’re interested in simple, affordable do-it-yourself electronic home security.
This is a tiny USB drive that’s actually a marketing device. There are several possible applications to GroupCaller™ and/or VoiFone™ that I’ll be exploring with this company. Basically,it’s just a tiny device that we give to people that will take them wherever we want them on the Internet. For instance, we could use it to give them access to Client-only web content like the Admin Area for GroupCaller™. Or if we’re promoting VoiFone™ sales people could use it when doing a demo for propects. Just pop it into any PC or MAC and it goes right to the demo page, sign-up page or a combination of pages and content. This is going to take some study and negotiation but we “may” have a good marketing tool here. This is a Japanese company.
This is another one of those trendy topics at CES: 3D Printing. It’s actually an automated method of turning whatever 3D rendering you can create (or a 3D photo), and making a physical object out of it. I’ve got pictures of this and another vendor in the Photo Gallery. Cubify seemed to be the more useful item and in a price range small companies, educators or individuals could afford. Their basic model is only $1,299 retail and it’s pretty amazing. Until this year, this type of technology was only available to larger companies. Now, the price is so low anyone can make a physical model of almost anything 3D concept they can envision. Take a look at their website and you’ll see what i mean.
Next On Deck: 1st Quarter 2013 Launch
The way I see it right now, it appears our real sales launch will be the first Quarter of this year. We’ve got about another month of development before VoiFone™ can be sold effectively; and we’re still working on some final touches for GroupCaller™. But I expect by April this year,we’ll have steady customers for both services. Please stay tuned and check back here often. I won’t write articles every day, but I expect to publish several each week. It’s pretty time consuming to write articles so the frequency will depend on my time availability as I’m working on these projects. Thanks for your interest and support. This blog is for those of you who have a vital interest in this company and our growth. Please feel free to leave comments and/or contact me about anything pertaining to the business. I’m always happy to respond to questions, concerns or comments.