Acumen's jet-setting technical expert, Aki Anastasiou, visits the world's largest consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

Greetings from Las Vegas and the world’s largest technology showcase, CES. This is the show that sets the agenda for gizmos and gadgets we use in our day-to-day lives. I've been attending for a number of years and it has been fascinating to see how the show has evolved.

This year more than 20,000 products were launched from over 4,300 exhibitors!

Hold on tight because, as we move into a new decade, the promise of what is to come is mind-blowing. The things we saw in movies 20 years ago, that we thought were impossible, are now become a tangible reality. These things will fundamentally change the way we do business, forever.

Blend artificial intelligence, the speed of 5G, big data crunching and analytics into technology – that's when the magic starts to happen. This blend was at the core of most of the cutting-edge devices at CES this year. It's a wave of innovation that is creating massive opportunities for new players; these are new products that will erode and disrupt businesses that have been doing the same thing for decades.

CES this year took us into the future of the automotive industry, which will be autonomous and electric. The appliances in our homes are all smart and are using our voices to take commands. Drones have become hyper-intelligent and are performing tasks that defy belief. Televisions are moving to 8K, with visuals that are jaw-droppingly realistic.

Uber Air Taxis with Hyundai

The S-A1, commercially available by 2023

Uber and Hyundai Motor announced an aerial ridesharing partnership together with a concept of what the future of urban transportation might look like. On their stand, Hyundai had a life-size prototype of this futuristic Personal Air Vehicle. The S-A1 is designed to travel at 290 km/hr at cruising altitude of around 1,300-600 meters above the ground, and to fly trips up to 100 km. The Hyundai vehicle will be 100% electric, utilising distributed electric propulsion and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging. It is designed to take off vertically then transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land. All of this will be done autonomously.

Ambassador earpiece

The world’s most sophisticated interpreter device

Price $179 (R2,580)

Language will no longer be a barrier wherever we might be. The smart Ambassador earpiece fits like a normal pair of headphones over your ears and is linked to a smartphone via an app. It is currently compatible with 20 languages and 42 dialects. Simply select your language. When someone starts talking to you in a foreign language, the headphones start translating into your language in real-time.

It works in three different modes. In listen mode, it will translate someone speaking within a space of 2.5 meters into your native language. In lecture mode it has the ability to broadcast the words of a speaker wearing the device to multiple people in a lecture, conference or group setting. Once selected, Ambassador will capture the speech of the user and stream audio translations to their smartphone. In converse mode, users can engage in two-way communication while each is wearing an Ambassador device. Each user sets the languages they want to detect and receive.

The Weber Connect

The Science of Braaing

Price $129 (R1,860)

Just when you thought you had your braai perfected, along comes the Weber Connect. This smart grilling hub connects to your phone via an app. Each hub can monitor four items of food: simply stick the probe into the food item, enter in the app how you like your meat done, then sit back and relax. The magic happens in the probe which monitors the temperature of the food item. The grilling assistant will send notifications directly to your smart phone on everything from a food readiness countdown to when it’s time to flip and serve. All it takes is a glance at your phone to know that everything is on track and grilling to perfection. 

This is a great piece of technology from a company expanding their traditional product range to an innovation that will make something like a braai accessible to everyone. Let’s be honest, we all have that family member that intimidates us by their braai skills. Don’t stress, here’s a device that will make even the braai king feel edgy.

HP S430c curved ultrawide 4K monitor

The ultimate multitasking monitor

Price $1000 (R14,400)

Most executives today are probably using two different computers to do an array of things. Some might use a Windows machine in the workspace and a Mac for personal use, or vice versa. The frustration comes in when you try and work on both platforms simultaneously. Worry no more! The extraordinary HP S430c curved ultra-wide monitor is your solution. It will allow you to connect two computers to one monitor and have the ability to control both machines using one mouse and keyboard. Another cool feature is the ability to transfer content from a Mac machine to a Windows machine using the ‘copy and paste’ functionality. You can display both computers on one monitor with a 50/50 split. The magic happens with HP’s device bridge technology that keeps everything connected and allows for simultaneous usage. The monitor also has a pop-up webcam using Windows Hello for authentication.

4moms MamaRoo Sleep Bassinet

Hi-tech baby rocker

Price $330 (R4,750)

Getting a baby to sleep has to be one of the greatest frustrations for parents of newborns. Well, no more rocking in your arms is required thanks to the mamaRoo bassinet. 4moms have spent a decade researching the different motions that babies feel most comfortable with to fall asleep and relax. The cradle comes with five unique motions that are controlled via an app. You can also add some white noise like the sound of the ocean, rain, a fan, or even a gentle shush. Through the app, you can control the speed, the sound and the vibration. The days of you arriving at work sleep-deprived with red eyes are over!

On a serious note though, these are some great examples of traditional products being disrupted or reimagined. Someone somewhere is rethinking and finding a better way of doing something or taking a dull product and creating something that your customers will want. It is food for thought for any company going through this technological transition. Out-of-the-box and lateral thinking are required in this incredibly exciting world ahead of us. Existing business will have to reimagine how they see their products and have a better understanding of what consumers actually want. Companies should be actively opening their innovation sessions and engaging with employees across the board.

You never know from whom the next great idea will come!


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