Each January, Las Vegas plays host to the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is the world’s largest consumer technology show, with 3,800 vendors and over 175,000 attendees from all over the world looking to find the latest and greatest home, office, and automotive technologies. While most of the featured technologies are targeted outside of the accounting profession, those that are successful on the consumer side often find their way into our firms to provide innovative solutions to improving productivity. With that thought in mind, we highlight the top CES trends and representative products that caught our eye at this year’s show.
Higher Resolution Displays
While the big news at CES was LG’s uber-thin “Pictureon-Wall” 77-inch TV that was so thin and light that it could be mounted on a wall with magnets, Dell quietly released their UltraSharp 32-inch 8K monitor with an insane 7680×4320 resolution. These monitors push the boundaries of clarity beyond what the human eye can ascertain, particularly for accountants who deal primarily with spreadsheets and written data on screens that are roughly an arm’s-length away. So what does 8K do for us? It drives down the price of traditional HD (1920×1080) and oversize 4K (3840×2160) monitors. For accountants, 4K monitor resolution makes a difference on 25” or larger displays and can cost-effectively replace two older screens with a single display capable of viewing multiple full-page documents and scans with ultra clarity. 2017 is your year to budget for some new displays!
Many accountants have both a laptop and a tablet, and they utilize their tablet to get work done when they are away from the office. Hybrid laptops, also known as 2-in-1 or convertible laptops, combine the capabilities of both laptops and tablets into one mobile unit. Dell’s award-winning XPS 13 Ultrabook takes another leap forward in capabilities by adding a 360-degree hinge allowing the accountant to work in laptop mode, tablet mode, or even tent mode for presentations and is now competition for HP’s Spectre x360 and Lenovo’s X1 Yoga convertible laptops. When it’s time to replace your laptop and that outdated iPad, you will want to consider a hybrid along with Microsoft’s latest Surface computer to get the best of both worlds. Intel’s latest Kaby Lake i5 and i7 processors are making all these devices operate more efficiently, extending the battery life for all-day use.
While most accountants have been exposed to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and OK Google, voice commands have not garnered practical adoption in most firms as they are not yet integrated with our accounting applications. With the success of Amazon’s Echo and Dot devices this past holiday season, a fourth player, “Alexa,” has made a quantum jump into the voice assistant marketplace. From what we saw, it may soon be the top player, as its platform is designed for consumers to add voice commands (called skills) to home appliances and consumer technology. In its short life, Alexa has already acquired over 7,000 unique skills and is adding new features daily. Dish Satellite networks allow you to change TV channels on command. Ford announced that Alexa will be integrated into its next generation of smart cars. Imagine going for a drive and asking Alexa to listen to one of your audio books, request news and weather, add items to shopping lists, and open your garage door, all while driving with both hands on the wheel. With the ease of writing and publishing these skills, we can imagine walking into the office in the near future and asking Alexa to “turn on my PC, Outlook, and practice management software so I can release my timesheet.”
While the Segway made significant advancements in self-righting transportation and technology, it has not seen significant adoption, but spawned ideas such as the Hoverboard revolution (and debacle) as well as other variations in human mobility. From an office mobility perspective, Honda displayed its UNI-CUB Personal Mobility Device-PMD (which was reminiscent of when the PDA made a splash in the accounting world). Honda was also awarded Best of Show at CES for its Rider Assist technology that makes it near impossible for a motorcycle to fall over, even with the rider standing up without holding onto the handlebars. Rider Assist also had a feature that would allow the rider to get off the motorcycle and have it follow them to a parking spot unassisted! While most of us won’t give up the comfort of our cars to take a motorcycle to an audit, we may consider having a mobile robot in our office to check out what is going on while we are away. Suitable’s BeamPro and Double Robotics both displayed remote-controlled platforms to move an iPad/video display around the office for mobile video conferencing.
We are all aware of the drone craze, and we see news stories on autonomous driving virtually every day, but where is the business case for these devices? One of the most interesting examples showcased was the Mercedes-Benz “Vision Van,” which is an autonomous delivery van that drives close to a delivery area and utilizes two drones attached to the roof to deliver the packages “the last mile.” The interior of the van is equipped with a robotic delivery system that would move each queued package to the drones in the order of delivery. This concept seems somewhat far out until you realize that Amazon utilized a drone to deliver its first package in the UK this year and the Residence Inn by Marriott at LAX has installed Savioke Relay robots to bring guests a forgotten toothbrush or fresh cup of Starbuck’s coffee. Hmmmm…coffee delivery ordered from your desk? Now that is something we could use in our firms this busy season!
Virtual Reality (VR) was probably one of the strongest consumer technology trends this year, with vendors such as HTC Vive and Samsung Gear having multitudes of demonstrations allowing for 360-degree viewing, ranging from taking plane rides and luge runs to picking up and interacting with physical objects in a virtual world. While gaming is currently where the money is, training opportunities are definitely in the near future and will one day allow accountants to improve their interviewing, marketing, and auditing skills with training simulations in the comfort of their own office. While most virtual reality simulations are a single person playing a game or learning a single skill, the ability to interact with others in the same simulation, either physically or virtually, were demonstrated to promote team training.
BONUS TREND—Laundry Automation
CES has a bizarre fascination with doing laundry, which seriously may someday require you to add on an addition to your home to house all the gadgets dedicated to cleaning your clothes. One of the more hyped innovations was the Samsung Flex Wash and Flex Dry “Laundry System.” Flex Wash is a dual-bin washing machine with a traditional front loader and a smaller top loader so you can choose to do two loads at once on different cycles. The Flex Dry dryer also has a traditional front load bin and a small drying shelf on top (instead of having your clothes on hangers, air drying all over the house). And who would have thought that laundry folding is getting competitive? Once your laundry comes out of the dryer, it needs to be folded, which Seven Dreamers Laboratories stated we will spend 9,000 hours doing over our lifetime! Two vendors, Landroid and Foldimate, have developed competing shirt and pants folding machines to alleviate some of that burden so you can spend more quality time doing tax returns and accounting.
Technological change is inevitable, and many innovations that begin in our homes will become commonplace and eventually impact our business lives. While not every CES product makes it to the mainstream, the ideas inspire new concepts and opportunities that eventually make our lives better and practices more productive.
This article was originally published in The PPC Accounting and Auditing Update. Copying or distribution without the publisher’s permission is prohibited.