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CES 2016 Is Your Library’s Technology Crystal Ball

by on January 10, 2016

The first full week of January in Las Vegas is absolute madness. Tech vendors, journalists, and enthusiasts from all over the world gather in Vegas to see the smartphones, tablets, TVs, smart cars, and other gadgets headed to market in the coming year.

The chaos of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), with its walls of giant flat screen TVs and rush of business suits, might seem like an odd place for library staff to be. But as Jason Griffey has shown in his previous years’ CES coverage for American Libraries and on his blog, librarians and staff should, at the very least, be paying attention to the news coming out of the show. Not only is CES a useful tool for your library’s own technology planning, but it can also help inform staff training. After all, those shiny new tablets and smartphones might be making their way to your reference desk in a few months.

Making Way for New, Faster, and Touchable Technology

While it’s hard to predict exactly which products and models will debut at CES, you can get a sense of what types of gadgets we’ll see by looking at the show’s schedule and show floor. For example, this year CES will have Wearables Marketplace showcasing fitness trackers, tech-enhanced jewelry and augmented reality devices. With wearables becoming more in-demand, could we have a wearable loaner program someday? Or what about drones, cameras that shoot 4K video (more on that below), or a new fleet of mobile devices for loan? CES is a great way to gauge what emerging technology is coming down the pipeline and headed to stores in your community.

It is also a useful event to plan out and support your library’s existing technology. Library Journal points out some trends seen at CES and a few questions library staff should consider. For example, is your library website responsive to more touchscreen and hybrid computers surely headed to market? Should your library plan out some programming around emerging technologies, such as drones and virtual reality consoles? Additionally, last year’s CES was a big year for 3D printers, with more models available at affordable price points. If your library is considering investing in one, you might pay close attention to what’s announced at the show.

Finally, devices, mostly TVs, that support 4K video resolution made a big splash at last year’s show. 4K resolution essentially means more pixels – about four times more than a 1080p television can display (read more about 4K resolution at Tech Radar). This year, we’ll likely see more TVs, cameras/camcorders that can capture 4K resolution video, and 4K content (both streaming and Blu-ray discs). Can your library’s streaming media be played on large UltraHD/4K TVs? Can your library’s broadband support streaming 4K video?  While it might not be in high demand yet, 4K products and services should certainly be on your radar.

Supporting Staff and Patrons with New Devices

CES isn’t a huge show for mobile devices as many manufacturers wait until Mobile World Congress in February to showcase their new smartphones and tablets or announce them independently (such as Apple). But there will surely be some new smartphones and tablets with new features, different interfaces, and varying screen sizes. One potential pain point with Android devices in particular is that manufacturers will put their own overlays or interfaces on the operating system. So you think you might know the ins-and-outs of your own Android phone, but the one that shows up at your reference desk looks totally different. If you do device and tech training for your staff, you’ll want to pay attention to both CES and Mobile World Congress news and the specs for the new devices. Depending on what’s released, you may need to update any trainings or documents you provide to your staff.

Even if your library isn’t ready to embrace some of these new technologies, staying on top of the greater consumer technology world is an important – and fun – task. The Verge, Tech Radar, and CNET all have stellar coverage so make sure to visit those sites starting January 4 – 9, 2016.

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