CES showcases innovations: Can any of these help you do your job better?

The Consumer Electronics Show took place this past week in Las Vegas. Known for launching new products and technologies, many of the products showcased there set the bar for future innovators. The show also signals trends to watch in technology applicable to the design and building industry. 

January 12, 2014 |
Sasha Reed

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place this past week in Las Vegas. Known for launching new products and technologies, many of the products showcased there set the bar for future innovators.

The show also signals trends to watch in technology applicable to the design and building industry. For instance, last year Panasonic debuted their 20-inch 4K tablet, which was built primarily for designers and construction professionals as a high-end solution for marking up drawings in the office. It launched this past November and goes on sale this month. The $6,000 price tag may be too steep for most, but after getting the chance to do some redlining with it, I was impressed. For those who absolutely crave the pen to paper experience, it’s pretty sweet.

This year, though, it feels like all the anticipation about wearable technology and integrated content just fell flat. However, I did find a couple interesting new products worth mentioning.

For one thing, solar-powered electronics seem to me like a logical solution for our energy-hungry devices. As jobsites become more wired for the Internet, battery life is more important than ever. Still, finding a solar power adapter that is small yet powerful has been tough. EnerPlex Surfr seems to be on the right track. Designed for the iPhone, it is a solar-powered battery case that attaches to your phone, charging by USB or natural sunlight. For emergency power, the case can be exposed to the sun for 30 minutes to gain 5 minutes of talk time. Or you can charge to full capacity via USB and double the battery life of your phone. I’m excited to see where solar power technology will take us one day, both in our personal lives and on the jobsite. 

Also, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted a “Rosie” from the Jetsons to help with housework. Turns out my waiting days may be over. iRobot Scooba 450 is the newest cleaning robot that not only vacuums your floors, but also mops them as well. Now, before you roll your eyes and ask what this has to do with building and design, hear me out: It covers any hard floor surface, from tile to wood, and is said to do a superior job by going over your floors not once but twice, to scrub out stubborn stains. It’s a bit pricey at $600, but c’mon, it’s a robot that helps around the house. A single charge can give you up to 40 minutes of cleaning in 350 cubic feet. It also can map out a room with a single setting of large or small.  

So besides realizing my Jetsons dream, here’s why this is interesting to me. In the last year and a half, I’ve spoken to more construction teams who are experimenting with robotics and automation on the jobsite. From Robotic demolition teams to drones, construction teams are not afraid to look into the future for solutions to their challenges today. Just last month I spoke to a construction firm in Dallas who was piloting the use of drones on the job site for material handling and visualization. Google has set their sights on an automated future, buying more than eight robotics companies during the second half of 2013, including Boston Dynamics. These purchases coincide with the news that they recently spun off Google X, which is said to be revolutionary technology that will transform the AEC industry. Without more detail than that, it’s a pretty tough claim to substantiate. But then again, they are Google.  

At CES this year, there were indeed innovative products that pushed the bounds of reality and practicality. But it’s crazy, swinging for the fences–companies like this who risk failure and bring to the world the products that truly revolutionize the way we work and live. What trends towards future innovations are you keeping your eye on?  

Sasha Reed | Digital COM
Bluebeam Software

About the Author: Sasha Reed has over 12 years of experience working directly in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market. As VP of Strategic Alliances at Bluebeam Software, Sasha interacts directly with AEC leaders to better understand the long-range goals of the industry and help align Bluebeam’s technology partnerships. In addition, Sasha is acting Chair of the Construction PDF Coalition.  The purpose of the Coalition is to establish Guidelines to provide Architects, Engineers, Constructors and Owners (AECO) with a common framework in which to create and maintain Construction PDF Documents. Sasha has been featured as the keynote speaker at the 2014 Bentley Florida User Group and spoken at numerous industry events including the American Institute of Architects’ DesignDC Conference, NTI Danish BIM Conference, the International Highway Engineering Exchange Program and the International Facilities Management Association Conference. Sasha has also contributed articles to numerous national publications and authors the Digital Com blog for Building Design + Construction magazine. Before Bluebeam, Sasha was a Project Manager for M3, a Herman Miller dealer, where she learned ?rsthand the challenges faced by the AEC industry from project conception to completion. 

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