The fascinating thing about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is all the outrageous stuff of the future on display. It's a nerd's Nirvana, a geek's paradise, a 'Star Wars, The Force Awakens' made real. It's toys and games and computers and appliances. It's an internet of things that knits together every single appliance, lock, light and garage door opener in your house and streams it to your hand held universal remote control, also know as your smart phone. And, this year, it's taking all of that stuff and tying it into your personal vehicle, too.
Have you put all of your farm finances on a spread sheet and saved it to the cloud so you can check your nums and figs at any time from any of your several electronic devices? That's so way behind the times, so quaintly early twenty-first century. A tour of the auto manufacturers pavilions at CES shows you can look at that spread sheet on the touch screen in your truck, hopefully NOT while you're cruising down the highway at 70 miles per hour.
What might be more interesting and useful, though, was a report about what might best be called a Ford Dronemobile, actually an F-150 with a drone filling up the truck bed and the controls downloaded to the cab's fully-functional, touch screen controlled computer. Got a few thousand acres to patrol this morning for a missing cow or two? Tired of wasting time on horseback or driving your 4WD around the ranch, looking for those wandering rascals? Just park your new Dronemobile on a high spot somewhere and tap your touch screen.
Instantly, the drone will launch and the on-board camera will give you a 500 foot overview of your pastures. While you settle in and enjoy the warmth of your cab, luxuriating in the heated, leather seats and listening to some old school George Strait on your state-of-the-art 18 speaker audio system, you can scan hundreds of acres and locate those errant beasts in minutes instead of hours.
A few more taps on that screen and the drone returns to its home base in the back of the truck. Make sure your 4WD is active and drive off on the appropriate direction, guided by your onboard GPS, of course. You'll be rounding up those strays before you can throw a saddle on your horse.
Of course, you could probably do the same thing from your kitchen table, using a lap top and that $2500 drone sitting on your front porch but that damn $50,000 Lariat you just bought and parked in your garage needs to be put to some use. Those leather seats are a lot more comfortable, anyway.
Doubting drones? In the first two weeks of mandatory registration, more than 180,000 were registered.
Wondering how a Samsung refrigerator could be an important part of your future? As part of the internet of things, it is capable of keeping the family larder stocked. A camera inside keeps track of what's there but, more importantly, what's not there. A touch screen on the door acts as an electronic shopping list.
Use the last of the milk? The camera will notice that you didn't return the carton and put 'Milk' on that e-shopping list. Did you grab a couple of sirloins and toss them on the grill? That camera sees all, knows all. It fills in the 'sirloin' checkbox on the e-shopping list. Yeah, and it noticed you left an empty spot where that six pack was setting, too. Another check mark goes on the list.
So, our handy urban/suburban homemaker now has a complete shopping list and that high tech ice box shows off its genius by offering two onscreen options. Touch button #1 and the list is sent via the household Wi-Fi system to the printer. The designated shopper can pick it up, hop in the car and drive down to the nearest Piggly Wiggly, confident that nothing will be forgotten.
Touch button #2 and that list travels along that same Wi-Fi network but it's Emailed directly to the designated supermarket where the order is filled and stored for later pick up or delivered by a LYFT driver directly to the shopper's front door.
Touch screen supermarketing puts a whole new twist on how consumers buy and what is placed in their refrigerators and pantries. Want to make sure beef is on the menu tonight? It better be on that touch screen. Is branding important and I'm wondering if my friends at Certified Angus Beef are watching this development? Those options better be there, too.
About that software: Will it show an optional vegan or vegetarian shopping list? Can it be custom programmed to show the exact products and brand names a consumer prefers or will it be a generic only list - just 'ground beef', not 90/10, sirloin, chuck or CAB?
Am I jumping the gun on one of those things that you think might be far, far in the future? So far that it might never happen and we certainly don't need to worry about it now? All you need do is go back to a CES of two or three years ago and you'll realize 'far, far in the future' too often smacks you upside your head tomorrow afternoon.
Now excuse me while I go for my morning walk. Wearing a trench coat, I'll do my best Dick Tracy imitation while asking my watch for the most direct route to my supermarket. It will guide me there while tracking the calories I use on that short trip. On the way, I'll ask it about the weather and it will give me the current temp and tell me that it will start raining soon. When I get to the store. it will remind me that we're out of orange juice, too. At check out, I'll tap the watch on the market scanner and the milk and o.j. will automatically be charged to my credit card and a few points will be added to my frequent shopper card. On the way back, I'll ask it to take those two items off my shopping list and play Adele's latest album for me.
And, later in the day, it will remind me that I had planned to meet a friend in an hour at Chili's for lunch. I'll use a table-side touch screen to order their Old-Timers hamburger and fries special. The chain sent a promotional email message to me about it this morning, Siri read it to me while I was walking to the supermarket. I'll use the touch screen to pay my bill afterwards.