the global technology event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, wrapped up last week to record-breaking numbers - showcasing innovators, inventors, makers and breakthrough technologies that seek to push the present day into tomorrow. Over 170,000 industry professionals from around the world attended CES, representing 150 countries and including more than 100 official delegations. CES is so large that it’s nearly impossible to see everything—there’s over 2.47 million square feet of exhibit space with 3,800 exhibitors.

It’s timing in January is no coincidence, either; CES has repeatedly been a showcase for what’s next in consumer technology and a proving ground for new ideas. Quite literally, the businesses at CES are creating the technology that the world will be using in 2016 and the years to come. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, said in a recent press release:

“Technology now touches every facet of our lives, from improving our workouts and the way we sleep, to keeping us safe on the roads and in our homes and even preventing or treating illnesses. CES has cemented its position as the global gathering place for all industries to be wowed by the tens of thousands of ways that technology is changing the world as we know it.”

So what does that mean, in material terms? In short, get used to the Internet of Things, a name applied (for lack of a better one) to Internet-connected, everyday devices that are beginning to permeate our world. Everything from refrigerators with cameras to sensor-embedded kitchen appliances and wearables were showcased, as well as drones, virtual reality headsets, augmented reality headsets, 3D printers, smart cars and robots, to name just a few of the forward-thinking products to see.

In addition, prepare for transparent displays, flexible/rollable displays, and 8k televisions—all of which are now available and primed to proliferate in the coming years.

What MSPs Can Take Away from CES®

With all of these inter-connected devices and radically new products, what does this mean for managed services, and more specifically, MSPs and ITSPs? To answer that, let’s imagine a situation that takes place in 2021—a mere five years from now:

Imagine receiving a call from a prospective client, a mom-and-pop SMB that runs a successful store in your area. They are looking for a managed IT services provider to proactively monitor and maintain their computing devices for their store, provide BDR, and deploy a help desk solution for their employees to use. However, in addition to a Windows 10 laptop, they have a number of tablets and small devices as well. There’s also smart displays for advertising that track and gather customer information, physical security devices and a Segway robot that moves about the store to track inventory and monitor shelves. Additionally, the electric company cars require RMM and BDR due to the integrated shipping and receiving capabilities.

Clearly, this scenario is far beyond typical mobile device management; this is managed IT services on a scale of devices that makes an MSP an indispensable part of any SMB’s success strategy. Clearly, some of this may sound far-fetched, but is it? Sensors, trackers, and beacons are being implanted in everything from shoes to signage, desktops are in decline, and portable devices are giving way to a time where almost anything can be defined as a portable device. In a time where Google and Amazon are working with NASA and the FAA on the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management project (yes, this is an actual thing), it’s not hard to speculate about patch deployments and system monitoring not only of computers, but other hardware like drones, cars, and 3d printers.

While this speculative landscape of 2021 is admittedly still far off, it’s important for MSPs to pay attention to consumer technology advancements in addition to those in the channel, and CES is a perfect place to start. These are the innovations that will capture the imaginations of the SMB customer base, and in doing so will capture the spend from their wallets. While technology may move at an incremental pace, this is the event where the crystal ball seems to appear, and it can prove to be an indicator into some of the hardware that could influence how MSPs conduct their business in years to come.

However, I’m still waiting for that flying car. Oh wait—a human-sized drone ‘copter will do. Thanks, CES.