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Covington's C-Forward Saw Lots of Awesome Gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show

I have been to a number of I.T. conferences over the years, but nothing quite compares to the spectacle that is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. I honestly think it is something everyone should witness at least once.  
 
CES is 170,000 people (45,000 from outside the U.S.) walking through 3,600 booths and displays to witness the latest gadgets and gizmos from all over the world. Everything from the latest innovations in PCs, tablets, and phones, to gaming systems and smart cars.  
 
It is spread out over multiple locations because they can no longer fit it all in the Las Vegas Convention Center. It is so big, in fact, you can’t really see everything. And even though you walk so much your feet feel like they’ve been beaten with a club, there are enough celebrities, super models, and nerdy things to help you overcome your exhaustion.  
 
 
Just think Big Bang Theory meets the longest hike you’ve ever been on, and you’ll have the right idea.  
 
I’m always fascinated by the entrepreneurs at CES. Sometimes there are “game changers”, like the first 3D printer for the masses we saw several years ago. And sometimes there are ideas you can’t decide whether they are cool or just silly, like the extravagant Swash 1000 toilet seat we saw in 2012 that I called the “car wash for your rear.” I think their slogan was the “high end for your rear end.”  
 
 
But there is always something fascinating to see, and you can spot the trends over time.
 
The theme for CES this year was around the Internet of Things (IoT). This concept isn’t new, but it continues to grow and many were saying that 2015 will be the year it really goes mainstream. New home monitoring solutions, fridges and kitchen appliances, office solutions, etc. are all integrating with the Internet and/or local network. Combine those with the wearable tech (Fitbits, Smart Watches, etc.), and you will be able to do some amazing things. Imagine being at work and receiving an alert on your 
phone that someone just rang your doorbell at home. You click a button and can see and talk to the person. It is the HVAC repair person, so you unlock the door via the wireless lock you also control from your phone. Later you pull into your driveway and the garage door automatically opens, because it got a message from your smart band that you were home. As you walk into the house, the thermostat automatically adjusts for your temperature, the speakers start playing music you like, the pictures change to your preference as you walk down the hall, and the coffee maker automatically starts making you a fresh pot.  
 
That’s not science fiction, that is all available today.        
 
After last year’s show I was asked, “What was the game changer?". I responded pretty quickly that I thought it continued to be 3D printing. It was clear to me then that 3D printing was going to have a big impact on our lives. The number of booths touting 3D printers that printed plastic, wood, and metal had more than doubled from the previous year. The quality was also improving, (we saw a laser printed replica of a hand, down to the wrinkles and nails), while the cost was going down.  
 
This year we saw the number of businesses involved with 3D printing increase once again, with new 3D printed materials being offered, as well as the number of colors you can choose from. We saw 3D printed shoes and clothing, and we ate 3D printed food. Yes, folks were printing sugar designs for cupcakes on their ChefJet printers, and Hershey entered the game with perfect chocolate creations printed out on their CocoJet. Yes, there have been some “sweet” innovations!
 
 
 
To compliment the printers were a number of new 3D scanner solutions.  Imagine going to the Major League Baseball All Star Game this summer (Cincinnati is hosting), stepping into a 3D scanner, and having your face & body printed out in a Reds uniform as your own personal action figure! That is coming.  
 
With all these 3D printing solutions coming out, I believe the recent UpTech company, 3DLT, is well positioned. They were also at CES talking about their 3D software/solutions to every 3D printing business on the market. Imagine placing an order for something at Amazon or Walgreens, and having it printed out at the store for you to pick up. No inventory for the store, and a personalized creation for you!  
 
Or, perhaps you might order and print out items on your own home or business 3D printer? 
 
Another common theme this year, with lots of competition, involved smart glasses technology and augmented reality. Businesses like Intel & Google, along with a slew of others, are making some serious investments in this space. If you’ve ever watched an Iron Man or Terminator movie, you’ve seen the idea behind augmented reality. Imagine being able to put on a pair of glasses and do work that no one else can see. Might come in handy when you are on a plane, right? Imagine being a mechanic trying to fix a complex engine, clicking on a part that needs replaced, and instantly seeing the inventory status, cost, etc., as well as the latest training video for installing that part.  
 
Based on the number of players involved, and the obvious benefits, it is clear to me that smart glasses and augmented reality is going to be a part of our lives whether we want it or not. Most of the solutions have dropped in price over the past year, so we are quickly approaching the place where the average person and small business will be able to afford that kind of solution.  
 
There were so many innovations I just can’t share them all here. Gosh, I didn’t even talk about the latest drones, paper batteries, floating speakers (silly or cool?) or the smallest 1 Terabyte drive yet! Well, rest assured, we will be talking more about the latest tech over the coming months. And if you want to attend next year’s CES, get your nerdy glasses and room reservations now!  
 
Brent Cooper is President of C-Forward.  A University of Kentucky graduate, Brent has over 20 years experience in computer networking and holds many industry certifications. To see Brent and his team’s videos from CES, check out the company’s YouTube channel.