It's perfectly normal to dread the imminent arrival of winter. The sad but unavoidable truth is that the first smile-inducing snowfall quickly morphs into a vicious cycle of cancelled trains, pedestrian mishaps, and even the odd postponed footy fixture. Events like Digital Winter exist to the make the uneasy seasonal transition more tolerable for us permanently cynical techie types, and last night's industry showcase near London's iconic Trafalgar Square amply warmed the cockles. Three things in particular struck me as noteworthy in retrospect, not only reflecting key industry trends but also possessing the necessary degree of coolness.
Sure, they gave away a few of Apple's latest bad boy handsets last night - but seeing that I didn't win one, that's completely irrelevant. What's more pertinent as the consumer world gears up for the festive shopping season is the growing presence of iPhone 5 accessories on the market, a trend that's likely to accelerate further as third-party manufacturers get to grips with the new device and try to ink out licensing deals with the Cupertino-based tech titan.
Indeed, the sight that greeted attendees at Digital Winter last night when they first walked through the door was a kind of homage to Apple's effective stranglehold on the world of personal devices. On the right sat mophie, who showed off an impressive line-up of its latest iToy charging products, including a first chance to glimpse new white versions of its Powerstation family, set to be released 31 October. Still no explanation as to why I can't buy a replacement top cover for my Juice Pack Air, of course, but I'm sure they'll get round to explaining the logic behind spending another £60 for a small piece of technologically-vacant plastic eventually.
On the left was Cygnett, who has apparently been prepping its own iPhone 5 side orders for so long that some still bore ambiguous "new iPhone" labels. There was nothing fresh or revolutionary on show, but there were some nice touches, including a limited edition range of iPhone 5 cases featuring designs by Australian aboriginal artists (see slideshow, bottom). Cygnett also showed off its new range of headphones - another topical consumer bubble likely to feature in our spending plans as 2012 draws to a close.
Typically, you'll find me gushing about virtualisation software as often as you'll see me running to shake Tim Cook's hand and congratulate him on a brilliant Maps app, but Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is actually a pretty cool bit of kit. In short, it enables you to run Windows 8 on any Apple desktop environment – a really neat experience from the perspective of Joe Consumer, who enjoys the novelty of working across multiple environments and gets a kick out of seeing Windows 8 in the highest possible definition via Apple's Retina display.
It also looks a good shout from a business perspective, coming available in a special enterprise edition – think multiple language compatibility, simple migration of proprietary apps across systems, and keyboard shortcut customisation and you start to get the idea. It's the kind of enabling software that's becoming a necessity as the BYOD revolution gathers steam, and is endorsed by Intel, CNN, and the United States government amongst others.
JSJS Designs' (opens in new tab) background is in the disability market and there's more than an air of accessibility about its foray into the consumer sphere, the LightwaveRF range. The fully connected home is an increasingly hot subject in the tech industry, and JSJS' line of domestic wireless communication products offer some of the most affordable solutions I've encountered to date. Piecing things together, it works out that you can get the essentials to increase the intelligence of your living space for under £150 – that's a starter pack of three specially-built plugs and a customised Wi-Fi hub to transfer the commands from your (free) smartphone or tablet app - iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are currently all supported. If you want a tidier look about the house, JSJS also churn out clever socket covers that also enable you to adjust mood lighting via your chosen device but eschew the need for clunky adapters.
The Birmingham-based company manufactures and licenses its products - which also feature a number of energy monitoring tools - to consumer electronics giant Siemens, so it's highly likely to be quality-gear, even if we've only been privy to company demonstrations at this stage. You can purchase JSJS Designs kit at B&Q and via Maplans' online store - or direct from the company itself (opens in new tab) - with the firm proffering that it is currently looking to ink large-scale rollout deals with unnamed high street pub and fast food chains. Nerdery aside, the power saving potential of JSJS' homely hardware make this look like a potentially shrewd move from an enterprise angle, and there's obvious deployment benefits for those with mobility issues as well.