Each January, over 170,000 technology and electronics enthusiasts descend upon Las Vegas to attend the world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to see the latest consumer technologies. While a significant amount of the media attention is focused on televisions, home appliances, robotics, and automotive technology, we attend each year to scope out tools that could be utilized within the accounting profession in the years ahead. CES 2018 was another good year for evaluating hardware devices which we share our finds below:
Dell XPS: One of our perennial CES favorites has been Dell, which headlined their lineup with their latest XPS13 which had some significant technical upgrades this year including a 24% reduction in size from the previous version. This created the smallest form factor for any 13.3” laptop weighing in at 2.65 lbs. and.46” thin.
In addition to the traditional black carbon fiber design, Dell created a rose gold version with a white interior made from a new-age “woven glass fiber” which stays cooler to the touch, is stain resistant, and will never fade. The XPS models have also integrated the latest Gore thermal insulation materials where they demonstrated how the material which is similar to a sheet of paper can shield and dissipate heat. Dell also touted their new XPS 15 2 in 1 model that can flip to tablet mode.
To make this laptop even thinner, Dell ultilized magnetic levitation under the keys instead of the traditional rubber domes making for 0.7mm keyboard travel that feels substantial and clicks the same on the “12 millionth click as the first.” While this was a cool technical advance for a 15.6” laptop, HP displayed a Spectre x360 model with a full keyboard and keypad which would put it ahead of Dell for our 15.6” auditor laptop evaluation list.
Cinema Quality Screens: One interesting trend laptop manufactures were jumping on was that consumers today watch more video content on their laptops and smartphones than on their televisions so they are accelerating the quality of screens so they can be viewed better both indoors and outside in direct sunlight.
Dell released both of the XPS laptops above with Cinema screen options (UltraSharp QHD resolution: 3200×1800). Lenovo also followed this trend by including a 14” HDR (High Dynamic Range) screen in their latest generation of X1 Carbon laptops, which is currently the lightest 14” laptop at 2.6 lbs. and a strong Dell XPS13 competitor. Lenovo also touted its military-grade specifications including temperature ruggedness by operating it encased in a solid block of ice!
Lenovo Miix 630: Today’s smartphones have incredible capabilities with some consumers able to do everything they need on their mobile device, working within the confines of a smaller screen and tiny touch keyboard. This year ushered in a slew of “Mobile Computing” devices that take the processing capabilities and components of smartphones and build a laptop around them, which is what Lenovo did with their Miix 630.
This device utilizes a Qualcomm 835 Snapdragon processor, 14” HD display, and built in 4G LTE for digital cellular Internet access. The advantages are that it powers up as fast as a smartphone, has up to 20 hours of battery life and can be separated from the keyboard to function as a tablet. The device comes with Windows 10 S, which only runs applications from the Microsoft App Store, so accountants would need to upgrade it to Windows 10 Professional for more robust use. Other competitive products supporting this new category would be the ASUS NovaGo and HP Envy X2 (with 13.3” and 12.3” screens respectively).
ASUS ZenScreen (MB16A): We are always on the lookout for mobile auditor displays and the ASUS ZenScreen looks to be an awesome successor to their winning MB 168/169 models. It is capable of being utilized in both a landscape and portrait mode, and is being touted as the lightest 15.6” portable monitor on the market, weighing in at 1.7 pounds, which your accountants will appreciate. This next iteration also includes a hybrid-signal solution which allows you to connect the USB-C cable for both power and video transmission, reducing what auditors need to carry into the field.
Accounting Ergonomics: We are seeing more and more firms adopt standing desks either as desktop units or as replacements for the entire desk. Autonomous.ai was again at CES and has created a new model with integrated artificial intelligence, which was the biggest buzzword at this year’s show. Their SmartDesk 3 has a 7” touchscreen and Wi-Fi connectivity that you can use not only to adjust the desk height, but also tells you when you should drink more water, can order lunch, and even tell you when to go home!
GAZE LAB, another standing desk manufacturer also had an interesting twist on their standing desk which included their Giiromat with a Giiro Robot that would prompt the user to stop slouching. The Giiromat has integrated pressure sensors that can determine whether the accountant is leaning too much forward, backwards, or sideways and send signals to a desktop robot that would swivel and light up to direct you to stand straight.
EyeSee Inventory Drone: Taking inventory has been a dreary rite of passage for many auditors early in their careers, but is about to get easier with autonomous drones that can scan all the pallets and barcodes in a warehouse and capture the information data as well as via a video. EyeSee won a CES Innovation Award for their inventory drone which automatically scans an entire aisle of a warehouse from top to bottom and end to end to capture the information that the warehouse utilizes for stock control and tie it the warehouse management system. The drone has onboard collision detection to avoid forklifts or other vehicles moving through the warehouse.
CES 2018 Innovation Award winner EyeSee Inventory Drone.
The Consumer Electronics Show provides an annual opportunity to peek into the future of cool technologies that are being rolled out in the year ahead.
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt is Director of Consulting for Xcentric, LLC and works exclusively with accounting firms to optimize their internal production workflows within their tax, audit, client services and administrative areas. His Quantum of Paperless Guide (Amazon.com) has been updated with the 2018 IT/Paperless benchmark statistics and outlines 32 digital best practices all accounting firm partners need to understand today.