CES the way we saw it

This year’s gadget fest included some potential corporate contenders. Our staff picked the best of the bunch.

Find your way to work

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Dash Navigation Inc. is bringing the Web 2.0 model to the vehicle with its new Dash Express GPS system. The navigation device can send and receive data over Wi-Fi and GPRS and also develops real-time traffic information. The kicker is that the system can act as a mobile traffic sensor and, by interacting with other Dash units on the road, can create up-to-the-second traffic changes. The company also said its traffic data will improve as more units are put into use. Another interesting feature is Send2Car, which allows users to highlight driving directions from their home browser prior to a trip, and then send that information directly to their Dash device.

Enterprise worthy? There is no question on the usefulness of GPS devices for working professionals. It can save on travel time and expenses in getting to work and ultimately lead to a more productive day. And with the Web 2.0 approach, which promises to measure traffic flow as opposed to just accidents and road closures, Dash looks to be a true innovation to the industry. But oftentimes, innovation leads a steep retail price and the Dash is no different. The device hits the streets in February with a US$600 price tag. Additionally, customers will need to chip in a US$10 monthly service fee to connect to the network. The device was created in partnership with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo Inc. and will take advantage of the search engine’s database of maps, places, products and services.

— Rafael Ruffolo

Store files with 256-bit encryption

Storage manufacturer Imation Corp. announced the Pivot Plus Flash Drive, which lets users partition their data. Apparently, you can cook or freeze the drive, and whip it against the wall, and it will keep your data. Well, that’s not exactly what the manufacturer says, but Oakdale, Minn.-based Imation is promoting the Universal Serial Bus (USB) drive’s “rugged” features, which are designed to withstand shock and “large variations in temperature.” It has a “tamper-resistant housing” and can attach to a key ring or briefcase, and can work on Windows Vista or XP. Users can get one at prices ranging from US$29.99 to US$199.99, depending on whether they are buying the 1, 2, 4 or 8-Gigabyte version.

Enterprise worthy? Though the security features may come in handy to consumers with sensitive data, the Pivot Plus has security features clearly aimed at corporate and government users. The device has 256-bit hardware encryption that meets the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Users are forced to encrypt data, because the partitioning is protected by password and does not let users store unencrypted data on the same partition as encrypted data. Imation says the encryption software automatically launches when the drive is inserted into the port. IT managers who give these to users might want to think twice before encouraging users to test the devices for durability. Under the frequently asked questions on the manufacturer’s Web site, Imation warns users to “take appropriate precautions” and avoid dropping the drives, getting them wet or shaking them. Carrying them on key chains, instead of the lanyards provided, can void the warranty.

— Greg Meckbach

Tune in via remote video

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. is touting the newest members of its 8500HDC Digital Video Recorder (DVR) line as great enablers of visual networking — the combination of streaming video technology and social networking applications. The latest set-top models — 8550HDC, 8540HDC and 8552HDC — bring the whole Web video trend to TVs, PCs and cell phones.

Enterprise-worthy? The fact that the technology enables video content to be created, customized, stored and delivered on a wire-to-wireless network, means it can be useful for corporate broadcasts, both live and archived. Enterprises can create their own onsite studio to create presentations for sales, marketing and training. The video makes a nice supplement to the traditional static brochures and manuals. It’s a cost effective approach to training when the audience can remotely tune in through their choice of device. It’s also a money saver if a business can create its own content rather than hiring a third-party marketing company. While having that sort of in-house resource complements the age of multimedia and social networking, it requires the right talent, and perhaps not the type a business would typically find itself recruiting. Companies may at the end of the day, prefer to leave that to an entity with the domain experience. And let’s not forget that this convenient, real-time approach to business interactions raises security issues around intellectually property leakage. (Image is of predecessor to new models.)

— Kathleen Lau

Reduce standby power consumption

The Conserve Surge Protector from the Los Angeles-based hardware vendor Belkin taps into the green trend, enabling users to reduce energy consumption by cutting down on unnecessary “stand-by” power usage. The eight-outlet surge protector comes with a remote control that allows the user to remotely access those hard-to-reach places to switch off devices that guzzle up electricity when not in use, including computer monitors, laptops and printers. For devices that actually need to stay on permanently, two “always-on” outlets make sure that devices like servers and modems stay functional.

Enterprise worthy? With an affordable price of $49.99, user-friendly design, and a relatively-soon release date of summer 2008, the device would be an easy way for a reticent enterprise or small business to start making small-yet-significant green changes. This will become a more pressing issue in the coming year as the increasing number of portable devices, such as smart phones and PDAs, will bump stand-by power consumption levels. The two “always on” outlets could keep the most critical machines running (and IT managers can appease leery bosses with the product’s $100,000 connected equipment warranty). Cost savings are an easy sell — and so is not having to bend, fold, or otherwise pretzel yourself to flip off that powerbar every night.

— Briony Smith

Type like a couch potato

Logitech has always offered some of the most cutting-edge peripheral designs, and the diNovo Mini keyboard is a great example. Bluetooth 2.0 wireless technology controls PC functions and includes hotkeys for media players and Web browsers, as well as page-up and page-down buttons that allow people to scroll when surfing the Web and zoom in and out of documents and images. The device also incorporates ClickPad, a round, thumb-sized pad for use in pointing, scrolling or clicking on a Web link. It can also be used as a media remote and a directional pad to navigate menus and make selections. The ClickPad is backlit in orange when in touch-pad mode, and green when it is in media-remote mode.

Enterprise worthy? Logitech intended the device for home users, but there’s no reason the same functionality couldn’t be applied to boardroom situations, especially if staff were to pass the device around as they made presentations. The diNovo Mini keyboard is expected to go on sale in the U.S. and Europe in late January for US$149.99.

— Shane Schick

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