With the holidays upon us, it’s fairly common for media to get invited to shows where vendors push their latest and greatest technology in hopes of receiving coverage which in turn gets that momentary attention of frazzled holiday shoppers. I recently attended the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 show which was packed with all sorts of gadgets, services, and other tech goodies worthy of commentary. But I decided to approach this tech media show a bit differently. I wanted to give out some awards based on what I saw and experienced. (*Disclosure below.)
My process was pretty simple…and extremely selfish. There was tech I was interested in, and some that I wasn’t. There were companies that I know, and many that I didn’t. So, what I decided to do, as I searched for those tech diamonds in the rough at the PepCom show, was to walk the floor without talking to anyone, and then only stop at the ones that really grabbed me (not physically of course). And there were over 35 tech companies to choose from.
Before the show, I came up with some pretty standard categories for the HighTechDad awards. Specifically:
- Most Unique
- Most Drool-worthy
- Most Helpful
- Best Family Tech
- Most Potential
- On My Wish List
- Didn’t Know I Needed to Have It
- Best of Show
The great thing about the PepCom events (and I have been to quite a few of these) is that you get to actually spend a lot of up close and personal time with many of the vendors. It’s a great way to get to know a product or service better and to be able to ask many of the questions you probably couldn’t at a show like CES. At a past PepCom show, I was one of the first media to enter and one of the last leave, mainly because I spent about an hour talking to the folks of Noon Home who happened to soft-launch their product that day.
Anyway, I’m sure you are curious as to the companies that I singled out (well, maybe you aren’t but I will tell you anyway). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get photos of everything. But since PepCom has a nice Facebook photo gallery of the event, I was able to share some of the photos from there.
Without further ado, here are the HighTechDad Awards for the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018!
So, this was a holiday tech show. But, buried among all of the vendors showing their stuff was UglyChristmasSweater.com. With mounds and mounds of different (and pretty darn ugly) sweaters to choose from, this just had to make me smile a bit. In fact, my wife recently bought a bunch of really ugly sweaters which we are going to hopefully use for our holiday photos this year. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about UglyChristmasSweater.com.
My award for Most Unique vendor at the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 goes to them, simply because they were bucking the trend of providing something that wasn’t really techy (other than being able to order online) but WAS holiday themed and possibly a great gift to give either as a joke or in all seriousness.
If you read any of my articles, I’m a huge Apple fan. But, I’m also pretty good at being ambidextrous when it comes to operating systems. My wife has a PC and I have a Windows laptop, just to make sure I stay current. However, after seeing and playing a bit with the new Huawei Matebook X Pro, I suddenly felt like my MacBook Pro has some real competition. So much so, I kind of felt like I really needed one (or dream about it at least).
The Huawei Matebook X Pro is not only a beautifully designed laptop, it also has an incredible price point for what you are getting. And, it pretty much leapfrogs even the new MacBook Pros with some of the features like having a touch-screen, up to an Intel Core i7 processor, an incredible 12-15 hour battery, Dolby ATMOS sound, and a full sized keyboard and oversized trackpad. For those privacy-concerned users, the webcam actually is a key that recesses down into the keyboard when not in use.
I did a quick check online (most places are sold out) but was able to max out the specs on this (Core i7, 512 GB SSD, 16GB Memory), and it topped out around $1500 (your prices may vary). If you are a Mac person and are needing/wanting to switch to Windows, I think the Matebook X Pro will be an easy entry into the Windows ecosystem.
So, my award for Most Drool-worthy device at the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 goes to the Huawei Matebook X Pro (which I would absolutely love to own and test out for an extended period of time). Also, it’s important to mention the Huawei Matebook D which is an ideal laptop for students who are heading off to college or still in high school. Very budget minded but still with tons of great features, all for less than $1000.
Honestly, many of the products that I saw would be helpful to one person or another at some point in their lives. But as I said earlier, I took a very subjective approach to this awarding. So I looked at the group of things that I really liked, and then of that subset, I chose my awards. So, for this particular award, I thought about my wife. She has an iPhone and an iPad, and she really hates on-screen keyboards. She likes having things tactile. And this is where the ZAGG flex shone!
The flex is a portable, foldable, Bluetooth keyboard that you can pair with Apple, Windows, and Android devices like smartphones and tablets. It has an innovative folding design so that when it is closed, it can be easily slipped into a bag, but when it is open, you can prop an iPhone or tablet easily in it. And, you can even pair it with TV or streaming devices that allow Bluetooth keyboard connections (like an Apple TV). At $80, it’s a pretty helpful device to have around.
I gave the ZAGG flex my award for Most Helpful as it makes typing on devices like smartphones, tablets, or TVs a heck of a lot easier!
Best Family Tech
I would be neglecting part of my job if I didn’t have something related to the family and kids in my awards. STEM is a huge movement that families should focus on, and there are many innovative companies trying to further the inspiration and education of kids in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Circuit Scribe is a company providing the tools for innovation in STEM by merging science with creativity.
At the show, Circuit Scribe demonstrated their new pen that contains conductive ink which allows builders and creators to draw simple circuits on a piece of paper. Essentially, using the flexibility of drawing, you can create various circuits and test them out using a variety of kits. Circuit Scribe was demonstrating their newest kit at PepCom, a simple drone-builder kit. The kit comes with a pen, motors and propellers, a done hub, cardboard arms (which you use the conductive ink on), and a battery. Simply follow the directions, and kids will have a fully-functional drone that is controlled via an iOS or Android app. And the kit is only $100!
Circuit Scribe truly deserves the award for Best Family Tech since their drone kit, coupled with the conductive ink pen, will definitely get those young engineers soaring.
You can’t have tech without power, right? The problem is for gadgets to work they either need to be plugged in or store the energy in batteries. At least that is what I thought. Wi-Charge aims to disrupt this old concept of batteries or cords with their long-range wireless charging solution. Yes, it is true that many devices now support wireless charging. Wi-charge uses safe, invisible light to charge specific devices remotely.
The way it works is this – there are transmitters and receivers. Receivers can be embedded or attached to a mobile device (like a case), and they receive a beam of light from the transmitter. The light itself is not visible as it uses the Infrared spectrum (like your TV remote). Wi-Charge chose IR because it can transmit more power consistently over a longer distance of several meters. Their technology essentially scans for a device to charge and once it finds it, it sends a focused beam of safe, IR light to the device.
Wi-Charge is currently looking for OEM partners as they try to grow adoption and their ecosystem. But, much the way WiFi has become incredibly prevalent just about everywhere, I feel that as Wi-Charge technology is adopted, it could have some great potential. Thus, I give them the Most Potential award!
If you are a property owner, this company will definitely interest you! Flo makes one of the most low-tech things of your house smart, your home water. We all pretty much take for granted that when you turn on your water, it will flow. And when you turn it off, it will stop. But as pipes and faucets age, they develop leaks or drips. Or even worse, pipe seams can burst and flood the inside of your walls, causing a lot of damage and great cost.
Flo, in my opinion, is a game changer for those who own property. Once you connect it to your main line, it runs daily tests to ensure that all of your plumbing is running correctly. And if it starts to detect an anomaly or something odd, it will notify you via the smartphone app. And, if your pipe bursts, Flo can automatically turn off all of the water to your house to prevent additional damage. It learns patterns of activity as well as understanding the type of hydro devices that are on or off using AI and Machine Learning. It can even detect micro leaks. And for day-to-day activities, you can see how much water you are consuming. You can even turn your water off remotely if you need to.
Flo retails for about $500 (which is well below the cost of having to replace water damage in your house). It also has an optional add-on service called FloProtect which adds a bunch of additional benefits like water usage by fixture, enhanced data analysis, and a water damage guarantee for about $5/month.
Being a homeowner myself, and given that my home was built in around 1945 or so, I know my pipes are old and probably will be potentially prone to leaks. With that in mind, and because of the cool technology driving by AI and Machine Learning, I gave Flo the Game Changing award for PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018.
On My Wish List
So sometimes there is a product that you see that is probably so outlandish that you simply just wish that you had it for no other reason than to just actually have it. For me, this product was something that I don’t really have space for (but I would try to find space for if I suddenly had one). And it doesn’t really fit in with my workflow (but I would make it work). And I don’t really have the budget for (but if I had won the Mega-Millions lottery, I would have gotten one). That product is the Cemtrex SmartDesk.
Let me say this…this SmartDesk is cool. It has three built-in, touch-screen monitors. It has gesture controls for the monitor that you are actively using. It has a built-in keyboard and a wireless phone charger. And it has an integrated phone with wireless earbuds. Oh, and it is a sit/stand desk, something that is critical for the modern workspace. Under the desk is a high-performance Windows PC which allows for the powering of the great monitors and other features.
Well, yeah, the SmartDesk is one of those gadgets that you can envision having, so I just had to add it to my On My Wish List award for PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018.
Didn’t Know I Needed to Have It
For this award category, I actually had two winners because with both of them, I hadn’t really thought about having them until I learned more. Let’s start with the first winner – InvisibleShield. If you have a smartphone, you simply have to protect your investment. I’m not talking about a case (but that is great to have as well). I’m talking about the screen. Much like the way a motorcycle rider will dress in leather to protect their skin in the event of a crash, InvisibleShield protects your screen from scratches and cracks – hopefully cracking instead of your screen.
InvisibleShield just came out with a new level of protection called Eyesafe through their new VisionGuard brand. We should already know that too much screen time can cause your eyes to become strained, and while many new smartphone operating systems now have a display mode that turns everything a bit more yellow for nighttime viewing, you probably still are subjecting your eyes to harmful blue light. I recently had my eyes check and got a pair of computer glasses that have the harmful blue light filtering coating applied. Well, with the Glass+ VisionGuard, the high-energy blue light is filtered out. Also, the Eyesafe layers still preserve the true colors of your phone.
So, I view this new Glass+ VisionGuard screen protector for smartphones as an essential, and one that I gave my Didn’t Know I Needed to Have It award for PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018.
The other product was one that exists in a fairly crowded space, that of Bluetooth headphones. For many months now, I have been using my Apple AirPods. And they work pretty well. However, they don’t sit as firmly in my ears as I would like (I almost lost one in the subway because I knocked it out). And, in a busy workplace environment, they don’t really block out the surrounding conversations.
I have been using the 1MORE Triple Driver BT In-Ear Headphones for about a week on my commute and at work, and I must say how impressed I am with the sound blocking as well as the crisp highs and strong lows and bass of these headphones. If you want to geek out on these particular headphones, head over to the 1MORE details page. As of this writing, they are on sale for $149.99 (regularly $199.99). Battery life is good with up to 7 hours of playback, and a quick 10-minute charge will give you 2 hours. They are very comfortable to wear and come with a variety of earbud sizes. And since they are attached to an over-the-neck body, it’s impossible to lose them if one falls out of your ear.
I’m giving 1MORE my other Didn’t Know I Needed to Have It award for PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 simply because I wasn’t really looking for a headphone solution. That all changed once I used the 1MORE headphones!
Best of Show
Now we make it to my Best of Show award for the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 media event. This company was the first one that I visited after walking the room prior. And I probably spent the most time geeking out with them. The company is Brilliant…literally. We all know that smart homes is a category that is extremely hot now, and will continue to be in the years to come. And while I have smart switches and bulbs on practically every light in my home, there is one (in my kitchen) that is begging for intelligence.
And I’m glad that I waited because what Brilliant has done is not only create something that is visually appealing (it has a touchscreen that can show images), it is also hub-less, meaning it exists and integrates on its own. Brilliant continues to add integration partners to the mix which is exciting to me because of my Wild Wild West of smart home tech I have scattered around. Current integrations include Alexa, Sonos, Philips hue, August door locks, Ring doorbell, Nest, Wemo, SmartThings, Ecobee, Honeywell, and more. Of those, I have quite a few integrations I could immediately take advantage of (or so I worked out in my mind).
The display can get images from your Ring Doorbell, right on the screen. You can control your Sonos speakers from the display as well. Of course, it can control the lights it is attached to (you can get 1, 2, 3, and 4 switch versions – all have a display of course). You can control your thermostat, talk to it with Alexa, and remotely control things as well via the Brilliant app. And, as I said, more integrations with other vendors are coming regularly. And if you have two or more Brilliant switches, you can do video and audio chat directly between the two of them (and yes, there is a video privacy shutter).
I haven’t had the opportunity to test Brilliant out, but from my geek out sessions at the show and from reviewing their website, Brilliant would be a pretty darn cool addition to any home! Congrats to Brilliant for winning my Best of Show award!
Summing Up the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 Show
So there you have it – my selections for various awards for this show. As I stated, these are the companies or tech that I personally was quite interested in. Other people may have completely different opinions, and I completely respect that. Despite our culture of “everybody is a winner,” you really need to be selective in choosing the best from the rest. With lots and lots of tech and gadgets to choose from, I hope that these short summaries of tech that I really liked will be useful for you in determining your next gadget!
Disclosure: I have a material connection because I received a sample of a product for consideration in preparing to review the product and write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. Also, some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate” or “advertising” links. These may be automatically created or placed by me manually. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item (sometimes but not necessarily the product or service being reviewed), I will receive a small affiliate or advertising commission. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: Going to the PepCom Holiday Spectacular 2018 media event allowed me to get personal exposure to many leading tech companies and products. The HighTechDad awards are designed to recognize just a few companies or products that I felt deserved a little more mention.