The note on my CES 2017 badge said 30 years and I was not sure what that meant until I realized that I covered my first CES event in Las Vegas in 1987. At that time, I was a reporter for the Las Vegas SUN and my job was to look at SEGA and Nintendo games, and suss out video and audio recording equipment at what was fast becoming one of the city’s largest trade shows.
CES 2017 is celebrating its 50th year and bears little resemblance to the 1967 show, held in New York City, which had 200 exhibitors with names like LG and Motorola showing off the latest portable knobbed TVs and furniture consoles. Last month’s show saw 150,000-plus attendees and 4000-plus exhibitors pouring into in Sin City with everything from phone screens that clean themselves to robots that answer the door.
This year, top draws were developments in the Internet of Things as interpreted with growing accuracy by commands barked at Alexa; self-driving cars which are likely to show up in force on our streets by the end of the decade; wearables with more and more sensitivity in our clothing and accessories, measuring everything from sleep to golf swings to places your shoes have been; and virtual reality is spreading its reach and functionality as content becomes easier to produce and opticals become easier to afford.
For business travelers, CES always produces some hidden finds that can ease the toil of life on the road and make traveling just a little easier. Here are ten gems from CES 2017 for traveler efficiency, comfort and delight.
1 Your luggage as a motorized vehicle
If you could ride your luggage like a Vespa, would you? One luggage company is betting you will and has created a carry-on bag for those frequent flyers who want to maximize the dash to the departures gate. The hard case bag weighs about 23 pounds (beware how much stuff you put in it if you want stay within carry-on weight restrictions for many international carriers), is made of high strength ballistic nylon, includes a lithium ion, dual port Smart Charger and a beefy electric motor powered by UL lithium batteries that can keep the shuttle case driving for about six miles (based on carrying a 180-pound driver).
You can whip through airports at speeds of up to 8 mph, using the quick release foot pedals for acceleration, the extendable towing handle for steering and the dual-wheel braking system for near misses. No license required. The Modobag is TSA, FAA and IATA compliant and will be priced at around $1,000 when it comes out this spring.
2 Your phone wrapped around your wrist
No, this is not an Apple Watch, it’s your phone wrapped like a bracelet or band around your wrist. OK, why? Because thinner is always better. The phone measures 6mm thick and weighs a mere 3.5 ounces. It acts as a regular phone that can lie flat and rigid or as a fitness tracker/heart monitor/calorie counter and all things app-friendly as it hugs your wrist and eliminates one more thing to keep up with.
Humorously called Gumby’s lost cousin, the phone offers 3G connectivity, can fit a SIM card, and runs off the Android OS. The Royole Flexible Phone is priced at $299.
3 Your computer in your palm
This 2” by 2” device packs a lot of power as it merges LTE hotspot functionality with a network-attached storage operation. You will be able to store up to 2 TB of data, programs, photos, music, movies, whatever you want to access from your computer-driven menagerie from anywhere via WiFi.
The power cube contains a Samsung SSD storage unit and a Samsung Exynos 7420 processor to make all of your digital content within reach across all your devices wherever you are. The casing is waterproof and shock resistant and weighs as little as three ounces. For a small item, however, the LINK will come at a big price when released in April, starting at $349 for 256 GB and ranging up to $1,150 for the 2 TB option.
4 Your doodles popping from paper to smart devices instantly
This technology by ACECAD has been a long time coming, starting, perhaps with Newton message pad in 1993. The evolution in tech notes has led to a new writing pad to which you affix a regular piece of paper or note pad and write with your favorite pen but you will still be able to port all your notes and drawings directly to your PC or smartphone instantaneously through a downloadable app.
The writing pad features more than a 1000 levels of pressure sensitivities to know exactly what is being scribed or etched. The ACECAD PenPaper 5x8 digital notepad is connected to devices via Bluetooth and sells online for around $140.
5 Your thoughts moving mountains
It made me feel like I was in a modern-day remake of My Favorite Martian as I donned the smooth black headband and began focusing hard to communicate my thoughts. In my hand was a smartphone with an app that tells me just how hard I’m concentrating – in numbers: 33, 34, 35, going up. At CES, the headband and phone connected wirelessly to a computer that was wired to a robot. At about 38 or so the robot began to move and up went its left arm, the command I fired firmly in my brain. Mission accomplished.
The headband technology called Lucy from BrainCo.tech will officially launch March 31, but its purpose will be less about making robots move and more about training brainwaves to attain certain frequencies to enhance focusing abilities and improve performance and productivity as partners come in to create end-user apps.
6 Charging your computer on the fly or lighting up a room wherever you go
You are on an airplane, working on your computer and the battery runs out. Unfortunately, you are not sitting in the upfront cabin and there is no place to plug in at your seat. But the Omnicharge powerbank you brought with you is strong enough do the job. It has a smart AC/HVDC output plug, two USB ports just in case you want to also simultaneously charge your phone and iPad at the same time, can transfuse power from the sun and can light up the better part of a small home if you happen to need to do that, too.
The sleek, black everything charger weighs as much as two large apples, and comes in convenient dimensions that will fit easily into a large hand. It includes a generous selection of connectors, charges fully in less than an hour and offers between 65 and 100 watts of continuous power in two sizes. The Omnicharge in available as of February on Amazon and starts at $299.
7 Glasses that make you sleep – or stay awake
Jet lag, insomnia – we have all had it and probably have it regularly. A company in Shenzhen thinks they can fix this condition with high frequency transmissions of blue light using technology developed for astronauts. Pegasi claims more than a decade of research working with Johns Hopkins Medical School to create a product that sounds as much like snake oil as it does modern medical technology. But used correctly, the people at Pegasi Smart Sleep Glasses say it will help you fall asleep within 30 minutes, whether on a plane, in bed or in a muddy foxhole by sending lights of certain wavelengths to stimulate the hypothalamus to product less cortisol and more melatonin. Plus using these glasses at the right time can reduce seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and help wearers feel more awake and alive.
The glasses are strange looking – a cross between Google Glass and something Star Trek’s Geordi La Forge might have worn – and come in a variety of colors. Pegasi Smart Sleep Glasses are also on the expensive side – around $200 and can only be purchased at the site currently.
8 Shielding your WiFi with a protective egg
You are in a crowded café and you are about to make a Skype call, except your account just zeroed out. You need to re-up fast but do not want to be vulnerable to nearby phone hackers. Time to pull that Keezel out of your pocket. Fitting in the palm of your hand is an egg-shaped save that works secretly behind the scenes to make sure all your devices are covered from incoming info-thieves. Simply pair your phone or other devices to the Keezel, pair the Keezel to the WiFi you want to use and you are good to go.
The strong encryption it supplies can work in 160 countries and can be used with any WiFi enabled device. The handy unit includes a 8000mPh powerbank to dutifully charge the devices you are protecting. The Keezel costs $139 and requires a subscription on its services, which runs around $30 a year.
9 Carrying your gadgets with confidence and panache
Knomo of London was at CES trying to give women and men a way to take all their electronics with them and look stylish at the same time. Backpacks, clutch organizers and totes bring easy access pockets for storing tablets, phones, even a 15-inch laptop and make it possible to find what is needed without missing a beat.
Focused on the analog side of creating and maintaining “a life organized,” Knomo’s bags do include an RFID pockets in all models, and power chargers in some. But all items are lightweight, attractive and set with right-sized pockets in the right places. Knomo bags will soon be found at major department stores in the US.
10 Wearing your wares
An easy answer to the two-bag carry-on problem is wearing, rather than carrying, your things. And while this usually cannot be done without a certain amount of embarrassment if you intend to wear all the clothes you are bringing, it can be done with ease and style for most of the electronics and entertainment devices you care to carry. A clothing company called SCOTTeVEST figured out a way to create pockets in clothing that will have the dual job of carrying everything from computers and tablets to hard-cover books while keeping you covered and giving you a slimming profile.
Ranging from vests to jackets to raincoats and cardigans, products are weather proof and lightweight and mostly unrevealing of the many gadgets that may be in tow. A light cardigan selection for women is especially useful as it works as a long sweater or cover to the mid-thigh, has important hidden zipped pockets and provides an attractive hood that can be used as a convenient head scarf in countries and places where such attire is required. SCOTTeVEST items are found online and run between $35 and $200.