NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- And we're off. The 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show -- the last of the great technology shows and the bellwether for the coming year in business electronics -- cranks up this week in Las Vegas. As for more years than I would like to admit, I will be attending. And already several intriguing small-business items have caught my eye.
That's not to say all of them -- or any, for that matter -- will actually make it to market in any scale. Launching a viable product in our stalled economy has become a far-too-dangerous crapshoot. But these ideas are worth at least a look:
Among the devices coming this week to the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show: The Anti Sleep Pilot, described as a way to keep groggy drivers awake.
and the rest of the desktop-imaging mafia should be quaking. Memjet, a San Diego-based printing company, is threatening to steal their collective lunch. The firm claims to have developed a printing technology that supports tens of thousands of inkjets and can print a blazing 60 pages per minute, double what the average commercial-grade printer can produce. Obviously, I have to reserve judgement until I touch the technology, see what it does and determine whether it makes SMB sense. But if Memjet printing engines perform even half as well as advertised, this could be the desktop small-business technology to get for 2011.
Automated assistance will be a big theme next year. I am especially intrigued by what a Korean robotics firm is doing with a device called the Windoro. The tool, like the
Roomba that vacuums rooms unattended, promises to automate the cleaning of retail shop windows. The unit attaches to windows vertically and slowly climbs and descends, cleaning and drying the glass as it goes. Depending on how well it works, the tool could quite possibly be a killer app for retail -- as everyone from R.H. Macy to Sam Walton will tell you, keeping window displays clean is about the worst job there is in trying run a shop.
3) A legitimately new marketing channel: BitTorrent Device Partners
Ever wonder how those poor starving hipsters you know seem to see all those first-run HBO shows, movies and games without actually paying for them? Chances are they are "sharing" them with millions of others around the world on something called BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer content-sharing service that uses a consumer's computer to share stuff with others online. The company recently announced that James Lee, a luminary in the gadget development world, joined its board, with the scuttlebutt being that the company is aiming its technology at marketers. Considering that monstrously large data files can be distributed to hundreds of millions of people for pennies, even if the concept works just a little bit, an advertising-focused BitTorrent could make Facebook look like the Yellowbook -- an old-fashioned, pricey and slow way to get the word out.
An interesting Danish company called Anti Sleep Pilot will be showing what it claims is a low-cost, add-on device that mounts on a dashboard and keeps groggy drivers awake. Besides being a good idea for worn-out entrepreneurs dozing off as they head to that last meeting of the day, this tool could conceivably reduce accidents in commercial vehicles, since it could keep your employees from dozing of as they do their rounds. The commercial automotive wreck is one of the biggest risks any small business runs, so any tool that mitigates this exposure is worth a good long look.
I will report from Las Vegas later this week.
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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.