The Consumer Electronics Show is one large convention. Preliminary numbers after the first two days of the conference had 132,000 people in attendance. Attendees can be found at hotels up and down the strip (hotel prices skyrocket during the convention period). The convention centre itself showcases thousands upon thousands of square feet of exhibit space, not to mention the space used for keynotes, sessions, and other events.
One of my goals was to spend time wandering the exhibits looking for products that are both cool and useful for legal practice. I only spent a few minutes looking at the items, and are not necessarily endorsing any of them. My only criteria was cool and useful.
Here are the items, in no particular order:
Skype Group Video Conferencing
Back in high school, my grade 11 management studies class took a field trip to discuss a business venture with another class abroad (I think they were in the UK). We had this meeting by video. Times have changed – video conferencing can be done from the office using a computer and webcam; there’s no longer a need to go to specialized facilities. Skype announced a new program for group video chatting. The price was reasonable (under $10 USD per month, and only one user had to have an account).
Video conferencing may very well change the way we meet clients. Instead of meeting face-to-face, it may soon become the norm for lawyers (no matter if they are solo or practice in small, medium, or large-size firms) to meet clients by way of video conferencing. As can be seen by the photo, televisions can also be used to participate in such conferences.
One thing I wonder is if such technology will be further utilized in courtrooms. Right now criminal courts in Ontario conduct video appearances for persons in custody. The technology utilized, however, is far from perfect, but it’s clear it can be upgraded. What about lawyers appearing by video? No doubt an in-person appearance is best for trials, but for things like criminal set-dates, and maybe even submissions, video may be a perfectly plausible option. It may even make the system more efficient.
The iRobot Scooba
iRobot is known for making robots. Their most famous product is likely the vacuuming Roomba, which will wonder around your carpet while vacuuming. The one pictured above is the iRobot Scooba, which cleans floors. While lawyers working in firms or renting space in large buildings have the benefit of a cleaning service, many solo and small firm lawyers don’t have that benefit. There’s no doubt, though, that clients appreciate cleanliness. A dirty office will definitely leave a bad impression. Products such as those made by iRobot will help get the cleaning done while lawyers can focus on other tasks.
Penpower Inc. makes a number of different scanner products that could be quite useful for lawyers, both in the office and in the courtroom
WorldCard is a mobile business card scanner. What’s cool about this device is, once scanned, the contents of the business card will automatically populate into a software program for easy export into your contacts. Somehow the program will know what contact information (phone, fax, email, etc.) belongs in which field.
Below is a video of my business card being scanned by the WorldCard scanner.
The company also makes a cool little scanner called WorldPenScan. This looks like a highlighter except instead of highlighting it is scanning the words you go over with the device. According to their web site, there is also the ability to do translation of the scanned words.
Perhaps most useful for the trial lawyer is the WorldocScan. What makes it useful is its portability. The scanner can be taken into court, connected to a computer, and be used to immediately scan documents. This would be great for efficiently storing documents provided while in court or on the go (such as diagrams drawn by witnesses), but also for scanning documents for use in courtroom presentations.
The Fujitsu Scansnap S1100
Speaking of mobile scanners, Fujitsu, a well-known maker of scanners (such as the very popular Fujitsu Scanscap S1500 which is used by lawyers to quickly scan large documents such as Crown disclosure), demonstrated a new portable scanner. Weighing in at 12.3 oz., the Fujitsu Scansnap S1100, which is also capable of reading business cards, may be the perfect courtroom companion.
Adding a credit card machine to my desk was a fantastic business decision. As a solo-practitioner who deals with individuals as clients I would much rather pay a small percentage fee to get money in trust than have to chase after clients in the latter stages of their matter (or when the matter has concluded). The company I use (Helcim) provided me with both a terminal and access to their online virtual terminal so I can process credit cards from any computer with web access. I’ve yet to try it from a Smart Phone.
FocusPay has developed a device, called a dondle, that connects to your SmartPhone (they support Blackberry, iphone, and Android), that allows customers to make swiped credit card transactions (which means lower fees) on the run. There is also a small printer that can be added so customers can receive invoices. For those not wishing to use the dondle, they also have an app that can be used to manually enter credit card information.
I could see this being especially useful for criminal lawyers who are often in court and on the run and could find themselves picking up an unexpected bail hearing. The ability to just take a credit card is a great alternative to having a potential client run out to find cash.
This device will still require a credit card processing company. The dondle itself retails for $149.95 USD and is supposedly available in Canada.
Powerpak & Battery Boost
No matter how much we try and pre-plan, we’ve all been in situations where we run out of battery for our Smartphones. This gadget, which can be added to a keychain, provides a one-hour charge for your Smartphone. For it to work, it must stay connected to your Smartphone. It charges through a USB port. Retail price is $30 USD.
The company also sells a full-day charge pack for $50 USD.
The WOWee speaker is a compact speaker that can connect to any audio device using the port used to connect headphones. I know I’ve been in trials before where the need to play an audio file arises and there is no easy access to technology to play the file (I’ve even brought bulky computer speakers with me before and played the file off my laptop). The WOWee speaker may very well solve this problem.
I can’t speak to how loud the speaker can get as things were noisy on the convention floor, but I was generally impressed with the product. The speaker retails for $80 or $90 for the slim version.
As I mentioned already, I had the opportunity to attend the Mashable Awards Gala at New York New York. Mashable is a media company (that has really impressed me thus far) that reports on technology and social media. One awards category was for “Best Social Media Service for Small Business”. The winner was a service called ReachCast.
From perusing their web site, I’ve learned that ReachCast aims to assist with optimizing the web and social media presence of a business. The service will assist with setting-up social profiles, creating and publishing unique content about the business throughout the web, searching for mentions of the business, as well as tracking and analyzing the “online footprint” of the business.
The service itself looks quite interesting and may be a good way for solo-practitioners and law firms with little knowledge or experience in social media to get started. I may give it a try and come back with a review.
Although Apple was nowhere to be found at the show, there was a large-scale presence of products designed for use with Apple products. A whole section of the trade floor was designated the iLounge. Two tablet stands drew my attention.
Dubbed The Ultimate iPad Companion, I liked the Electrostand because of its slick look and feel. The product was just cool looking. It has a built-in lighting system, and the ability to rotate, tilt, and swivel.
Called simply 3 feet, this stand is useful for its portability. It can easily be thrown into a court bag or briefcase to prop up a tablet during court proceedings. The stand can be used with iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle, and Nook, and I would imagine will be compatible with other tablets once they are released. It comes in many different colours, and the price is right at only $14 USD. The stand can be purchased on Amazon.
Everyday we are dealing with confidential information. We also need to ensure we properly back-up our files. The Data Locker, dubbed as The Most Secure Portable Hard Drive, is an external hard drive that is password protected. It works with both PC and Mac, has a touch screen, and has a “self destruct” mode that will destroy all data if a non-authorized party attempts to access the device.
For those of us dealing with highly-sensitive information, this seems like an incredible product.
Monitors in Motion
Monitors in Motion, an Ontario company, made some ultra-slick monitor stands. Besides the fact that they look great, the stands actually put the monitors “in motion”, meaning you can move them out of the way when you are not using them. Personally, my desk can get quite messy, and the ability to get a computer monitor out of the way would be welcome.
The model shown in the picture is called the BOA II and is designed for two monitors.
LG Thin Monitor
LG, unlike Apple, had a large presence at CES. They were showcasing products ranging from 3D televisions to washer and dryer sets. While I neglected to write-down the model name, I snapped a picture of this monitor because I felt it had a slick and professional look to it that would look great on a lawyer’s desk. The monitor is also ultra-thin, so it won’t take up too much space.
Seeing how this was a trade-show, the opportunity to actually tesk out these products was minimal. My goal was just to walk around and find items that I could see as being useful, and were also cool. Some of these products may turn out to be of poor-quality and not very useful at all, while others may turn out to have incredible value.
Next week I will be posting my final CES article (complete with some great video content) where I will explore the various tablets that will be coming on the market in the coming months.