The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was in Las Vegas last week. I spent a couple of days there talking to companies and visiting exhibits. We believe mobile computing and location services are going to have a huge impact on small business, so one of my primary goals was to see what was new in these areas. Two things struck me:
1. Automotive navigation systems are rapidly moving from just providing maps and directions to also providing deep local content - Lots of innovation in the automotive navigation space, with most of the innovation around adding location based services. Navi systems are increasingly providing detailed information on local businesses as well as directions.
The device making the most waves is the Dash, which is expected to ship in Q1 of this year and is already in beta. It provides 2 way Interenet access and a wide range of location information and content. It also provides updates on the speeds of other Dash equipped cars giving a much more accurate view of traffic conditions (at least in areas where there are enough Dash equipped cars).
Automotive Design Line magazine has a nice article on this trend, and we cover in it more detail in our Future of Small Business technology forecast report. The growing impact of cars as mobile computing devices is way underestimated in my opinion.
2. Mobile computing was a major focus of this show - While a lot of press went to giant TV's and systems for getting video and Internet access connected to the living room TV, mobile computing was a clear major show focus. Lots of new cell phones, notebooks, sub notebooks and new hand held and mobile computing devices. Again, Internet access and location based services were the main driver.
The bottom line is local, location based services are going to rapidly become mainstream over the next 2 years. Customers are increasingly going to be equiped with full mobile Internet access and tools for quickly finding detailed information on local providers of goods and services. This trend is being driven both by the mobile device companies and by Google and Yahoo who are rapidly improving their local search capabilities. For more on local search in 2008, take a look at Local SEO's 2008 Local Search predictions.