SMART Technologies did three things that really impressed me this year. Let’s start with the light stuff and work our way up to the more important things.
1. Best Booth Gimmick: The SMART Booth featured a “Museum of Productivity” where old technologies go to be retired. They had a rotary phone, rolodex, typewriter, etc. The big reveal was the latest addition to the museum, the classic whiteboard, which will be replaced by their new SMART kapp device (see below). The museum even had an actor playing the curator, with the proper accent and attitude. Fun, and smart.
2. Best new webpage: Why the heck would I care about a webpage? Because it ties in directly to one of the trends I discussed above, solving user problems rather than just trying to sell appliances. Traditionally, vendors simply list their products on their website and leave it to the customers to pick and choose. This new page is in the form of a short survey, asking the users what they do, and how they do it. At the end it helps direct the users to the right product for their needs. Again, it’s just a simple webpage, but the business strategy behind it is… well… smart.
3. The SMART kapp device: This new product is impressive for what it does, but it may be even more impressive for what it doesn’t do. The SMART brand leads the field, to the point where competitor products are often referred to as SMART boards (they may have a Xerox problem to deal with at some point). All they had to do this year was to put out the next version of last year’s board, with more pixels or whatever, and they would stay in the lead. Instead they went in a completely different direction. The SMART kapp is nothing like their previous offerings. Instead of taking the easy road, they looked for a new way to solve an existing customer problem.
Here is the problem. We all have basic whiteboards on our walls. When we draw something we need to save, we take an awkward smartphone pic and email it out. Or we write “DO NOT ERASE” and hope for the best. Obviously, less than ideal. A traditional, full featured, SMART board is far more than we need for this simple use case. We just need a simple, affordable whiteboard, that elegantly solves the capture and share problem. That is exactly what the SMART kapp is and does. It is primarily a piece of glass. It does not connect to your network (which saves your IT folk from having to run it through the various security checks), it simply hangs on the wall. Your smartphone or tablet provides the brains. After pairing via near-field or QR code, your phone will mirror whatever is being drawn on the board, allowing for extremely easy, and clean, capture.
For remote collaboration minded folks, the killer feature is the share capability. You can send a link to anyone, anywhere around the world, that will allow them to see your drawing, in real time, on their browser. No program to download, no app to install, just a simple “Hey, you need to see my new design, go to this URL as I draw it”. All this at a price point ($899) that makes it reasonable for an individual workspaces, whereas most full featured boards are better suited to be shared resources. Expect to see these popping up in offices and cubicles everywhere.