Intriguing Business Solutions
Super-sized TVs, self-driving cars, and Web-based home appliances got most of the attention during January’s International Consumer Electronic Show. But a host of less flashy devices at the annual Las Vegas technology showcase stand to have a far bigger impact on the business practices of real estate pros. Here are a few breakthroughs worth noting.Clients Never Out of Reach
Take mobile communications. Problems arise quickly when you’re in an area where cellular coverage is poor or even nonexistent. Utah-based weBoost LLC showed off a line of devices that boost cell signals belonging to any cellphone network, allowing you to use your phone in places where you might otherwise find no service. Real estate agents may especially appreciate weBoost’s car-based products, which strengthen weak cellular signals for either a single phone or every mobile device in a vehicle. The company also sells equipment that can be installed in a fixed location, such as a home or office. Signal boosters start at $130 for 3G and $200 for 4G signals.
For those who travel beyond the reach of cellular coverage—where even weBoost’s equipment doesn’t work—a startup called goTenna has developed a device ($150 per pair) that allows mobile phones to communicate using long-range radio links that can traverse several miles or more. The Brooklyn, N.Y.–based company’s app connects a smartphone to the lightweight transmission gear via Bluetooth.Scanning for Home and Business
Demand for 3-D home tours is escalating. French firm Snapkin is developing a specialized room scanner that can generate floor plans and detailed, three-dimensional tours of rooms, although it is not designed to offer precise square footage measurements. The company hopes to make the scanners available for rent at retail outlets, just as carpet-cleaning machines are today, says cofounder and CEO Jérémy Guillaume.
FLIR Systems meanwhile, showed off a different kind of scanner that may appeal to buyers. The com-pany’s $249 smartphone-based infrared camera, the FLIR One, uses thermal imaging technology to pinpoint potential trouble spots in homes, such as water leaks in walls and drafty windows, that might otherwise go unnoticed.You’ve Got Mail
The U.S. Postal Service was at CES to promote a new era of digitally enhanced mail. The possibilities include adding multimedia presentations to printed marketing materials using augmented reality technology. Such mailings have been commercially available for a year and include a scannable code that users access on smartphones and tablets.Doing More for Less
Some CES exhibitors highlighted cost–effectiveness. Plustek Inc. of Taiwan unveiled a document scanner priced below $1,000 that rapidly sends pages to a computer or smartphone and includes a touch screen for editing. The unit features a 50-page feeder and doesn’t need to be connected to a computer.