The most exciting new gadgets for business travellers from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Each January, the very latest electronic gadgets are showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. From large-screen TVs to flying cars, and everything in between, thousands of new releases compete for the attention of the early adopters and industry professionals who flock there in their thousands. Though the town may be better known for its casinos, the gamble here is to be the product that will change the world for consumers in the year ahead.
The biggest trend to come out of this year’s show was integration of digital assistants into products. Google showcased upgrades to its assistant, most notably the new interpreter mode, which allows text and voice translation in 27 languages, and is already being trialled at hotel concierge desks in the US (see p.38 ‘Hotel tech’).
Amazon’s Alexa appeared in a host of new products, from cars to smart ovens, and even a smart toilet. And Apple, which rarely opens its ecosystem to other companies, debuted its Airplay 2 technology on a range of third-party TVs, and even an iTunes app in a Samsung TV. All this integration is great for the home and personal vehicle but there are also possibilities for easy customisation of hotel rooms, rental cars and even business class plane seats. Just imagine the possibilities of having your own playlists, calendars and lighting already in place when you check in to your room, or board the plane.
Another big area at this year’s show was the raft of new cars, ranging from electric models with increased range, to autonomous motorcycles and Uber’s plans for a flying taxi.
We’ve put together a selection of some of the most interesting products at this year’s CES for the business traveller.
There has been talk of foldable screen smartphones for a number of years, but the Royole FlexiPai is the first to make it to market (though Samsung and Huawei have now announced models). The device features a 7.8-inch screen and can fold in half to make it hand (and pocket) friendly. The clever bit here is the flexible AMOLED display which, the company claims, is virtually unbreakable. Inside, it features the powerful Snapdragon 855 processor and dual 20MP and 16MP cameras. It might look like you’ve put your iPad in a vice, but this really could save you from packing your tablet and phone on your next trip.
A case that follows you
Ever had one of those suitcases that seems to have a mind of its own? Well, this one really does. But rather than constantly veering off into your fellow passengers, the Ovis smart luggage follows obediently by your side, like a well-trained show dog. This claims to be the first “vision-powered, side-follow carry-on”. That means it uses a lens and AI technology to not only stay at your side but also to avoid obstacles and predict your route. The case also features GPS tracking, an “Anti-Lost” smart alarm (should it stray from your side), a weight sensor, and charging for your phone with removable battery. All in a cabin-friendly size.
Adapt or die
Even the most compatible of travel adaptors tend to offer up to six plug types, covering around 160 countries, but the Nomadplug has connections for 15 plug types covering all 195 nations. Missing a D-type adapter for Namibia or Israel’s type H sockets? This device has you covered, and it does so with a modern design in a choice of six colours that is slim and compact enough to fit into your laptop bag. The hinged design avoids the weight of your plug pulling it from the socket, and the long body allows it to fit easily in a multi-plug strip. The adapter also features a USB connector for charging phones or other electronic devices.
No matter how often you travel or prepare that all-important travel bag, there’s always something you forget. To avoid this all-too-common stress, Adero has created a set of smart tags to ensure that you have everything you need. The kit features smart tags which attach to your bag and taglets that attach to your important items, such as laptop, charger, passport, etc. Once packed, you can check that all the items are in the bag with a quick press of the smart tag. The devices also tie into an app on your phone for more control, allowing you to configure your bag and locate those missing items.
Counter jet lag
Losing sleep is part and parcel of regular plane travel but the Dreamlight Pro sleep mask claims to offer a method of reducing jet lag and providing a better sleep, wherever you are. The oversized sleep mask features a series of LED lights and four speakers to aid in the sleep experience. It uses light therapy to relax you into a deep sleep, combined with a choice of relaxing audio. The mask can also be set to gently wake you up again using the LEDs, and for travel, the companion app allows you to input your destination to gradually adjust you to your new time zone.
What’s in your wallet?
When we think of smart wallets, we probably think of apps that hold digital credit card info or crypto pass codes, but the new Volterman smart wallet is a physical leather wallet with some seriously clever additions. It includes a 2,600mAh powerbank that can charge your phone either with an included connector cable or wirelessly by placing the phone on top of the wallet. There’s a global wifi hotspot with 2G and 3G capability (around US$15 for 1GB), and an anti-theft camera automatically takes an image of anyone who opens the wallet and sends it to your phone. There’s also GPS tracking, a distance alarm should your wallet or phone become separated from you, RFID-protected card slots to avoid card skimming, and a 64GB SD card embedded for storage.
Dashcams provide a reliable video record for insurance claims of any road accidents you may be involved in, including any unscrupulous scams. This makes them an essential tool for any car owner, as well as anyone renting a car. Thinkware has upped the ante with its new, as-yet unnamed, 4K dashcam. The device features a 3840×2160 resolution front camera and an optional 2K (2560×1440) rear camera. There’s parking monitoring, a super night vision option, a mobile app, as well as lane departure warnings, collision warning and safety camera alerts. The unit is small enough to keep in your hand luggage and attaches to the dashboard via the supplied mount.
Technics is a well-established name in audio, being Panasonic’s high-end audio division, but the snappily named EAH-F70N is its first noise-cancelling headphones. It includes Technic’s own Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling, which uses two separate microphones inside and outside the cans, to produce the best result. The level of noise cancelling has three settings as well as an ambient sound enhancer option, to allow you to hear announcements or voices without removing the headphones. Among other features, they also contain a wearing sensor, to stop your music when you take them off, and will work with your device’s voice assistant (such as Siri) to make calls or perform tasks.
A security key for all your devices
Online security continues to be an issue, especially for those accessing their data from shared machines or public wifi connections. Yubico’s Yubikey provides a physical authentication for accessing a wide range of online applications. Using a two-form authentication for access, the Yubikey drive is inserted into the computer or mobile, which the company claims is far more secure and hack-proof than a text message or app authorisation. The latest model, previewed at CES, features both a USB-C and a Lightning connector, making it suitable for Mac and iPhone users. It also released an NFC (near-field communication) version, which can simply be tapped against compatible phones for authentication.
The big screen on the move
Laptops have been getting smaller over the years, which is all fine until you need to actually do some serious work on them. LG’s new release goes in the other direction. The LG gram is an ultra-lightweight 17-inch laptop, weighing in at around 1.34kg, and has slimmer dimensions thanks to its thin bezel and squarer 16:10 ratio screen. In terms of specs it features an 8th Gen i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD hard drive and Windows 10 operating system. The battery offers up to 19.5 hours of use per charge and the screen is a super high resolution 2560×1600 pixels (WQXGA). While it will still take up more space in your bag, it won’t weigh you down like the 17-inch behemoths of old – and that screen will save your eyes some work on arrival.