LAS VEGAS -- If the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show this week is any indication, this is going to be one weird year in the world of technology built by and for smaller companies.
On one hand, it is clear that this show, and our businesses, are adjusting to a world of diminished expectations. Not only could I get a hotel room for this year's show, but I could nickel-and-dime the place I'm staying in for a bigger room at a lower cost than what I normally pay for a basic room.
But once inside this arid coliseum of consumer electronics, the level of innovation is remarkable. There are advancements in everything from security systems to packaging to improved route-driving to imaging. Now, who knows how long it will last? In theory, the drag of slower times should catch up with electronics makers eventually.
But for now, the operating thesis really is the exact opposite of the all-hype-and-no-reality Internet Bubble in 1999. But in 2009 it's all about reality. The hype is the real victim.
Here are some of my favorite examples:
Video security systems are a challenge for small businesses. Yes, web cams are cheap and systems are easy to install, but the problems quickly mount. Quality can be low. They don't work well at night. And images have to be screened by hand, which eats up time. Enter Niagara Falls, Ontario-based SVAT Electronics.
Later this month, the company plans to release an all-in-one, ultra-simple security system, the Sentinel 10. The system is so simple any small business can install and effectively use it. The system comes with four weather-proof cameras that work at night. And they function from a single enclosure that easily records and catalogs images.
Done right, paperboard can be cheap, more attractive and eco friendly. And that is real innovation.