Rainstorm in the Cloud

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD



This year’s CES, the 50th, was a geek orgy of gadgets and their related services and infrastructures, each vying for attention in the hopes that it will be the “Next Big Thing”. The reality is that there probably won’t be any one new big shiny thing going forward, the big thing is that there are a lot of powerful little things now working together to create devices for the IoT and infrastructure technologies for the Cloud that supports it.

This year’s CES underscored that concept in spades, with a plethora of products and services. Some of them were quite innovative, and some just seemed to be there because the functionality behind them can now be created.

A popular example that attracted a lot of attention at CES was a laundry-folding machine that supposedly would reduce your cleaning workload by folding your clothes for you. The problem is that it can’t just take a mass of clothes, separate them, and fold them, you have to separate the clothes and then hand each one in the machine for it to properly access them. A large step in the right direction, but with too much hand-holding to make it a truly functional solution.

Another good example was an intelligent hair brush that not only allowed you to align your hair and clean out any debris the way a normal brush would do, but also used an array of sophisticated sensors to tell you why you were having a bad hair day. Frankly I could skip the analysis and go straight (pardon the pun) to fixing the bad hair, but the brush can only tell you that there is a problem, it cannot address your bad hair itself.

The personal products space is now jammed with gadgets and wearables that will tell you how wet you are, how dry you are, how fast you are moving certain parts of your body, and whether or not you are moving those body parts in the proper way to get a good workout. Some of the personal devices will even yell at you to motivate you into proper behavior and motions. You can now store and analyze all sorts of personal data, from how effectively you are hydrating yourself to how long you are brushing your teeth and the areas in the mouth you missed.

A lot of these devices will turn out to be fads, flashes in the pan that promised great things only to disappoint, or services to address demands that did not materialize. But it is extremely important that we have these odd and novel devices and services appear on the scene, even if only to disappear a short while afterwards leaving us all bemused, as the industry is always richer for it.