CES 2017: Technology at its best?

The keynote speaker at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was inspirational, albeit having the CEO of a cruise line as a speaker at a technology conference is unusual. Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines wanted to spread the word about the first interactive guest experience technology on a cruise ship. Having cruised a number of times, and without fail had the frustrating experience of haphazard wifi availability at a very high cost, his keynote peaked my interest.

Donald introduced the Ocean (One Cruise Experience Access Network) medallion that acts as a “personal concierge”. It is the size of a quarter, weighs under 2 oz and comes with clip or chain or can be carried in the pocket. It is sent to the passenger prior to the cruise and it simplifies boarding, assists in unlocking the cabin as the person approaches the door, turning on the air-conditioner and allows for the ordering of food and beverages based on stated preferences.

Friends and family members can be easily located on the ship using this technology. The medallion will be debuted this November and will be available on two more ships in 2018. While I see the benefit of this technology, I also see a few issues with the OCEAN system. It is a proprietary technology that will require a lot of testing. As well, customers may have some privacy issues with the cruise line gathering data every minute of their stay. It can be debated that the data mining and analysis after the cruise will provide value to Carnival in the long term, and less so to the passengers being “served”. The question of if this technology actually succeeds is another story. Personally, I would be happy if the wi-fi on board would work and be included as part of the inclusive services provided.

Other tech products discovered

The following is a sample of some of the more unusual products I looked at among the 3800-plus vendors at the show.

Taclim claims to be the world’s first VR shoe and glove with haptic (communicate via touching) feedback to enable users to feel the virtual world. I wore the special equipment including the shoes in a VR space and experienced the sense of walking on ground such as desert, pavement and grassland while I was in the VR space. It felt real as I walked on the spot while experiencing different textures. The target audience for Taclim is gamers but also fitness enthusiasts, as it would be more fun walking with Taclim than on a treadmill. The cost is projected to be around $1000. The unusual part of this product is the use of VR for exercising. I note that the goggles, earphones and shoes are still large and would likely be uncomfortable for lengthy wearing.

Tapdo is a smart button with a finger print sensor that is used as a short cut to control different devices simultaneously. It is about a 1″ square button and uses Bluetooth as connection. As the button recognized fingerprints, each finger can be “assigned” to control a different device. The price is forecasted to be around $39. The unusual part is having each finger doing a different function. One must be well coordinated to do this. Not only that, one would also need good memory to consistently recall which finger controls what feature. Not a good thing for those who think that remembering different passwords is a challenge.

42tea is a white and blue cube that claims to help you make the perfect tea. I was told there are around 1,500 varieties of teas. Each one has its own style and colour, as well as distinctive taste. It turns out there are different instructions for preparing each tea. 42tea helps you prepare any of the 1,500 variety of teas the correct way. Once the small cube is immersed in water, the application will let you know when the water is hot and how long to steep that specific tea. The cost of the cube is $50 and is available now.

Falco eMotors eDrive converts a bike into a smart outdoor hybrid e-bike and/or an interactive indoor power trainer. The device attaches to any bike. You can use the bike by creating a custom fitness program and set performance limits based on your own power or monitored heart rate. The application, currently available for iPad or tablet formats, shows the virtual terrain you are riding on. Falco costs $1,150 and is available now.

Hi) from Fenotek is a wireless video doorbell. Connected to the internet, it allows the entire family to connect to their home anywhere and anytime. It integrates high definition video doorbell (sound and image), a surveillance camera, a motion sensor and even a control system for electric lock.

When the door bell rings, through the Hi) app, each family member receives a smart phone alert and can see the visitors in real time. The monitoring function remotely activates the camera to see who is at the front door. It can also allow remote triggering of an alarm or turning on of selected lights. It is available now at a cost of $399.

Sleep number 360 is a smart bed that uses biometric sensors to track sleep by measuring each individual’s heart rate, breathing and motion. The bed automatically adjusts when the sleeper moves from his back to his side or when he snores. The bed raises the headrest to help stop snoring. Having the sleeper’s preferred bedtime, the bed warms up the foot of the bed in advance as research shows that warming the feet accelerates sleep. The heat shuts off once the person is asleep. The mattress can fit on any queen size box spring and costs $1,200.

HiMirror is a special mirror. While it doesn’t answer who is the fairest of them all, it does analyze the skin of the person looking in the mirror, highlighting problem areas such as hyper pigmentation, dark circles and acne scars. It also helps to determine if the person’s skin care is working. The device looks like a mirror with a camera attached to it and according to their representative uses “electronic and diffusion photon engineering” to diagnose issues. The cost is $189 for the mirror and associated app. This is an app tailor made for the selfie-generation!

In my next blog I plan to describe more products, select my favorites and then share my observations about Alexa. Stay tuned!

Catherine Aczel Boivie
Catherine Aczel Boivie
Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie is a widely respected executive with over 30 years of experience in the leadership of advancing the value of information technology as a business and education enabler. Prior executive roles includes: CEO Inventure Solutions and Senior Vice President of Information Technology/Facility Management for Vancity Credit Union; SVP of IT and Chief Information Officer at Pacific Blue Cross and Canadian Automobile Association of British Columbia. Catherine is also an experienced board member serving on several boards, including those of Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, Canada Foundation for Innovation and MedicAlert Canada. Dr. Boivie is the founding Chair and President of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Association of Canada that has over 400 Chief Information Officers as members across Canada. She has been publicly recognized for her contributions, including being named as one of Canada's top 100 most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network in the "Trailblazers and Trendsetters" category and the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for being a "catalyst for technology transformation".

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