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Tracking What’s Next At CES

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It’s no news that technology is a part of daily life, or that it’s an ever-increasing part of library life. One reliable way to keep ahead of what might be walking in the door tomorrow is monitoring consumer trade shows, the largest of which is CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show, now just the acronym).

For 50 years, CES has showcased hot new gadgets that eventually had culture-changing effects: the Portable Executive Telephone (1968), the VCR (1970), the Commodore 64 (1982), Nintendo (1985), DVDs (1996), Plasma TVs (2001), and the first big wave of smart home technologies (2014). Some of these had direct impacts on libraries, and others only in how our patrons live their lives. As the time from a technology’s introduction to its adoption gets shorter, staying on top of what’s happening at CES is becoming more important.

A few years ago, librarians began attending South By Southwest (SXSW) to know what hot new thing was coming – now, some are shifting to attending CES as their major annual conference…and not any library-focused events. Michael Sauers, Director of Technology for Do Space in Omaha (NE), explains: “As someone whose job it is to provide the latest and greatest technology to a community, CES is the perfect place to spend three days discovering not only what’s new, but what’s next when it comes to tech. It’s an exhausting experience, but it gives me plenty of ideas to keep me busy for the rest of the year.” Check out the slidedeck Michael made of his 2016 CES experience, or Instagram for what he saw in 2017.

Pancake printer #ces2017🎆

A post shared by Michael Sauers (@michael.sauers) on

Attending CES might not be in your budget, but watching the videos (choose CSTV as a category) and reading the session descriptions on the website provides plenty of food for thought.

How do you evaluate what you see in terms of its impact on libraries?

Need – What library needs might this bit of technology fulfill? Anything from user engagement to kids’ programming, something there might add to the library’s services, programs, or support.

Future Planning – What isn’t a need right now, but might be next year? At the start of your next 5-year plan? What technology isn’t ready to fulfill a need right now, but the next version might be at the right price or the right format?

Staying Aware – What technology may never fulfill a library need, but might become a part of users’ daily lives? (Think smartphones.) You might need to know about these things to prepare for community questions, such as when the FAA started regulating drones over a certain size. People who use or want to talk about a particular technology might need space to meet and geek out. Finally, it might just be awesome for you to have a customer interaction where you mention this neat new thing you saw at CES and thought the patron might be interested in.

As with most technology, you don’t necessarily need to know everything about it for that knowledge to be useful. A little bit can go a long way when you’re predicting the future.

For more conferences to stay on top of what’s next, check out:

Industry Conventions

Developer & Release Events