Make us your home page
Instagram

Jabil, Dashboard Devices at Consumer Electronics Show

Audience members wear special glasses to watch a live 3-D broadcast of Thursday’s college football championship game between Florida and Oklahoma at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Florida won, 24-14.

Associated Press

Audience members wear special glasses to watch a live 3-D broadcast of Thursday’s college football championship game between Florida and Oklahoma at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Florida won, 24-14.

When it comes to the world's biggest gadget geekfest, what happens in Vegas better not stay in Vegas.

Today, the Las Vegas-based Consumer Electronics Show — billed as the world's largest exhibit of new gadgets — wraps up four days of concentrated technology hype.

Thousands of companies, from king-of-the-hill Microsoft and Sony to first-time entrepreneurs like Clearwater's Dashboard Devices, are pushing their swath and niche of innovations to gearheads and engineers. More than four dozen Florida companies hawking everything from karaoke systems to phone jacks promising free calls are at the show. A dozen of those are based in the Tampa Bay area.

For all the thrill, the weak economy has diminished the usual crowd of 150,000-plus. It's off by as much as 25 percent, say attendees. And the mood is more "look, marvel and make note" rather than "buy, buy, buy."

This is not a column about what hot new products — be it the beta version of Microsoft's Windows 7 (so long, Vista), or the Palm Pre smart phone. It's about a behemoth tech show through the eyes of two different, yet equally excited Florida attendees.

One is a show veteran, an electrical engineer and research and development chief for Tampa Bay's global electronics designer-manufacturer. The other is a Clearwater entrepreneur unveiling after seven years of sweat equity his small business' product line — a compact PC system for vehicles. In separate interviews from Las Vegas, each comes across as a (smart) kid in one very big toy store. Here are their tales:

• • •

As R&D vice president for St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit, Jeff Lumetta spends a lot of time at giant tech exhibitions like the CES doing what he calls "scouting." Jabil, a $13-billion-revenue company with worldwide operations, does not make electronics under its own brand. It designs and assembles products, from TV sets to mobile phone components, for other firms with household names.

Lumetta, 45, is scouting the Vegas show for new design ideas, for new product innovations, for competitors, and for fun. He's been attending CES, and the earlier Comdex show here since at least the early 1990s when the "wow" innovation was a 486 desktop computer.

"We are here looking to see what's coming, so we can factor that into our components and help our customers," Lumetta says from Jabil's hotel suite at the show's adjoining Las Vegas Hilton.

Jabil's not on the exhibit floor. Like many tech-sensitive businesses attending, Jabil selectively invites customers to its Hilton suite to see some of its latest innovations. One Jabil goody Lumetta calls his "Pico" projector. The device can enlarge and project small images (photo or video) captured by a cell phone to the size of a regular sheet of paper. Building the projector right into a cell phone is next on Jabil's design agenda.

This year, Lumetta does not see anything "revolutionary," but he rattles off some trends. First, the volume of intelligence crammed into mobile phones only continues to skyrocket. And phone design and aesthetics are gaining more importance.

"It's how the metal and plastic look and feel, and in some cases even the leather and wood on phones," he says.

Second, Lumetta sees a "growing middle class" of products that fit in the niche between mobile phones and laptops. "This will be a significant market," he predicts.

That notorious tech word — "convergence" — also crops up. People use three screens today, he explains: TV, computer and phone. The goal is to create one on-the-go screen for all three.

Lumetta complains that the CES show has crested. It's too big, broad and top-heavy with mammoth firms pushing entertainment and sales rather than genuine innovation. But take the time to prowl the endless exhibit halls, one of Lumetta's pet pastimes here when time allows. It is the small business scrapping for attention that offers the most creative excitement.

• • •

"Today was supposed to be slow," says one of those small business guys. A clearly jazzed Mike Murphy, one of the founders of Dashboard Devices, chats at the end of Thursday's opening day.

The Clearwater business was started about seven years ago by some talented electronics and car buffs. They saw an opportunity to put a compact, 12-volt-powered PC into a dashboard to deliver computing power, Internet access, wifi, video and a host of other tech/entertainment options.

Dashboard waited years to get its product line right, then chose this Consumer Electronics Show for its debut.

"Things are going phenomenally well," says Murphy, 37 and Dashboard's lead engineer. In just the first day, he's been approached by attendees about his system's entertainment capabilities (even for small, weight-sensitive airplanes), by truckers about its tracking potential and the possibility of equipping trucks to film accidents, and by the government curious about the system's potential in emergency vehicles.

Dashboard, by economic necessity, is a young Clearwater company that finds its workers spread all over. They communicate by e-mail and find the most cost-efficient manufacturers via the Internet.

For Murphy, his CES exhibit is a chance to get out the word. He'll spend long days doing demos of his product line. It is not a time, given a recession, to take orders, Murphy admits.

The engineer in him is aching to run around the endless exhibits in search of cool tech. But for now, he is a businessman trying to launch product.

"I haven't been able to get very far other than the restrooms and the concession stand," he says.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com

Jabil, Dashboard Devices at Consumer Electronics Show 01/10/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 11:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  2. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]