New Age Electronics earned its name this week at its eighth annual Retail Dealer Summit, where game-changing next-gen tech like 5G, AI and voice control took center stage.
Hosted by president Fred Towns and his New Age distributor team, the company kicked off the two-day event with an advance look at advanced trends, as shared by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and its research VP Steve Koenig.
Top of mind for Koenig and the trade association is 5G, which he described as “a key ingredient technology” whose virtually unlimited bandwidth will make amazing innovations like self-driving cars and instantaneous downloads possible.
But Koenig cautioned that in order to compete in a hyper-digital world, the country — and its mobile carriers — had better be quick on the 5G draw. “We don’t want America to lose one inch of ground in an innovation-based economy,” he told attendees.
The research chief also waxed poetic about the potential of AI, which will lead to increased “human-machine partnerships,” he predicted. Perhaps the most monumental: a cure for cancer. Koenig said this and other medical breakthroughs are entirely likely within the next 10 years thanks to the data-crunching abilities of AI, which can digest decades of medical research to come up with new, unconsidered paradigms.
Meanwhile, on the CE front, consumer behavior is shifting as digital assistants penetrate more and more products, or “vessels,” Koenig said. Smart speakers appear to be the leading beneficiary, as the category experiences hypergrowth and exhibits all the signatures of a “must have” product, something the industry only sees every five or six years, he noted.
As a result, he said, voice is becoming the preferred user interface, in which we tell our tech what we want it to do. But the advent of “v-commerce” is also creating a panic in brand marketing, as manufactures scramble to align themselves with Team Alexa or Team Google.
Other key technology trends to watch:
- task-based service and even companion robots, which will take Roomba robo vacs to a whole new level;
- AR and VR, which will reach an inflection point within the next decade as the technology becomes more ubiquitous and affordable; and
- next-gen video, where the spotlight will be on 8K displays, short-throw laser projectors, digital assistants replacing remotes, and flexible, custom-sized displays, like Samsung’s building-block-like MicroLED concept.
What we won’t find in video are small-screen TVs, which are quickly being replaced by tablets and mobile phones, Koenig confirmed.
Building on those insights, New Age’s Towns examined how tech trends like unprecedented data demand will translate into business this holiday season, as 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated each day. Topping his and CTA’s list of hot growth categories are smart speakers, wireless earbuds, DIY smart-home products and mesh Wi-Fi networks.
Top Opportunities In Tech
Wireless Ear Buds
*Dollar volume growth; Source: CTA
In addition, New Age innovations like printing download codes for video game titles on console receipts at checkout can allow retailers to create virtual gaming bundles to boost their holiday business.
Other key categories, noted New Age product management VP Matt Dyenson, include:
- PCs, which now boast longer battery life;
- printing, which has been goosed by portable pocket printers like HP’s Sprocket;
- eSports, which has generated strong demand for gaming PCs and peripherals;
- drones, which have become more affordable and easier to fly;
- room-cleaning robots like Roomba; and
- the gaming phenomenon that is "Fortnite." The cross-platform freeware program is played by 3.4 million people at any given time, leading to new opportunities in accessories sales, Dyenson said.
Elsewhere during the distributor’s dealer event, retailers including contingents from BrandsMart USA, Curacao, HSN, Lowe’s and Macy’s shopped a New Age vendor fair, and were treated to a closing night concert by Seal at the nearby Hollywood Bowl.