Thu, Jan 10, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Tractor, detergent firms make CES debuts


People view the all-electric Harley Davidson on display at the Panasonic booth on the opening day of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The companies founded by blacksmith John Deere and candle-and-soap-making duo William Procter and James Gamble might not be the hip purveyors of new technology they were in 1837, but they are first-time exhibitors at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gadget show, along with other unlikely newcomers, such as missile-maker Raytheon Co, outdoorsy retailer The North Face Inc and the 115-year-old motorcycling icon Harley-Davidson Inc.

It is the place start-ups and established tech giants alike go to unveil everything from utilitarian apps to splashy devices.

“Every company today is a technology company,” said Gary Shapiro, chief executive officer of the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes CES.

It is also part of a more fundamental economic shift as consumers increasingly expect to buy not just goods and services, but a personal experience, which often skews digital, Forrester Research Inc brand analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee said.

“Brands have no choice but to play a role in this new technology space,” Chatterjee said.

That is one reason Harley-Davidson is using the show to announce the commercial launch of its first electric motorcycle LiveWire. The motorcycle is to have a cellular connection, as many cars do these days, so people can keep track of their motorcycle’s charge or check where they parked it through an app.

Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble Co, best known for Pampers diapers and Tide detergent, is showcasing heated razors, a toothbrush with artificial intelligence, and a wand-like device that scans the skin and releases serum to cover up age spots and other discoloration.

Procter & Gamble is also showing off an Internet-connected scalp adviser: The Head & Shoulders-branded device uses ultraviolet light and other techniques to uncover scalp issues and recommend products.

The device is available only in Europe and Asia for now.

Expect these gizmos to cost more than the plain-old “dumb” versions. Procter & Gamble’s Oral-B toothbrush, for example, is expected to cost US$279, while a regular Oral-B electric toothbrush can be had for less than US$30.

Every new connected device also means more data collection about people’s personal habits — a gold mine for advertisers and hackers alike.

The North Face is using virtual reality to provide a fine-grained look at its waterproof fabrics and Raytheon is demonstrating the everyday applications of GPS anti-jam technology, which was originally designed to protect military forces.

John Deere has hauled in self-driving tractors and a 20 tonne combine harvester aided by artificial intelligence. The combine has cameras with computer-vision technology to track the quality of grain coming into the machine so that its kernel-separating settings can be adjusted automatically. Farmers can monitor it remotely using a smartphone app.

It is hard to imagine what 19th century Illinois blacksmith John Deere might think if he were plopped into his company’s booth at the flashy Vegas convention center, but Deanna Kovar, the company’s director of production and precision agriculture marketing, believes he would be “amazed and astonished.”

“His innovation was making a self-powering steel plow that could cut through the heavy, rich soils of the Midwest,” Kovar said. “We’ve been a technology company since the start.”

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