‘Tis the Season for Tech

What did you do on Black Friday? Did you experience the excitement of the bustling brick and mortar stores or just relax with your iPad on Cyber Monday? If you kicked back and shopped online on Cyber Monday, you’re not alone. Early estimates show a decline in the post-Thanksgiving brick-and-mortar retail rush and a record Cyber Monday. While The Associated Press reported that Black Friday sales fell to $10.4 billion from 11.6 billion, the Adobe Digital Index, which measures online transactions from the 100 top retailers, reported that Cyber Monday sales exceeded 2014 by 12 percent. This year, about 46% of holiday shopping is expected to be done online, up from 44% last year, according to the latest NRF survey.

For those who do brave the stores, iBeacon technology might be part of your day. Macys has deployed beacons in nearly 800 stores throughout the country in partnership with Shopkick, a location-based coupon dispenser app used by top national retailers including Best Buy, Sports Authority, J.C.Penney and Target. Macys is using iBeacons to track customer movements within their stores, push product recommendations and discounts and inform shoppers about relevant sale items. And Walmart has partnered with GE to launch an iBeacon trial by using GE light bulbs to house iBeacons and send push notifications of specials and discount coupons to customers in their stores.

Lest you think that holiday technology is all about making more money, it is gratifying to hear that our technology community is also about the greater good. Beacon of Honor is a Colorado-based non-profit that uses Internet beacons to tell stories of Veterans. Once the free app is downloaded to a smartphone, an alert will pop up when you walk near an active beacon. With one click, you can begin to learn the story of that memorial through interactive stories, pictures and videos. This newly formed non-profit hopes to manufacture more beacons so anyone can memorialize their own loved ones, hoping to spread a "Beacon of Honor" to the large national memorials as well.

Food Cowboy is a startup that uses an app to reroute food waste to the hungry. The company wants to connect grocers and restaurants that have excess food, to the charities that need it, utilizing mobile technology. Plus, they plan to have people deliver the food on their routes, a bit like Uber for food waste.

Even holiday lighting technology has changed. Our world has gotten safer now that many of us are utilizing Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology for our lights. From humble beginnings powering calculators to currently powering cities, LED lights truly have evolved. For those who are both holiday enthusiasts and environmentally conscious, solar-powered LED lights come with a

compact solar panel that can power your lights. Are you tired of looking at the same white lights on your tree? Light systems like AppLights and Lumenplay enable you to choose from 16 million colors and a number of transitions and effects (even with music) utilizing a corresponding smartphone app. What if your on a plane heading to a family gathering and suddenly remember that you never shut off your holiday lights? No worries. Now there are home automation controllers and wi-fi connected power strips available. Just plug your lights into the dock and sync the device with an app on your phone.

Technology has even changed the gifts we give. This holiday season, shoppers are buying smartphones, smart tablets, wearable devices like the Apple Watch and increasingly popular streaming devices like Roku or Tivo Bolt. Perhaps Beacon technology is on your work wish list this year. If you want to incorporate beacon technology into your events in 2016, consider adding Beacons by CrowdCompass to your holiday wish list. It lets you set personalized alerts that attendees receive based on where they are standing, at the exact moment they get there.

Clearly, technology is changing the way we celebrate the holidays. Fortunately, the spirit of the season is still about joy, good will, and time with loved ones. No matter what or how you are celebrating, all of us at Alliance Tech by Cvent wish you the happiest of holidays.