From the February 2020 Issue.
Although this publication does not mandate a theme for my columns, if you look back, you’ll note that year by year there has been a focus on important current technologies for accounting professionals. While the topics have included emerging technologies, and routine product offerings like practice management, document management or accounting software, this year of “2020 vision” requires refined thinking and a clear technology vision.
Consultants to the profession, as well as some vendors, are more concerned about your choice of their vision rather than one that fits your clients well. Enjoying a little bit of decompression time over the holidays has rejuvenated enthusiasm for technology solutions for you and your firm. In 2020, you can expect coverage of client advisory services (CAS) in some depth as well as coverage of improved automation in the compliance services of tax and audit. While these columns never stray far from the premise that the technology must be ready to implement, this year should provide a clearer, simpler strategy so you can work your own vision. With that in mind, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year delivered the most impressive wave of hardware technologies in some time. Let’s look at the best of the best for accounting professionals.
So, What Technology Should We Expect in 2020?
Most impressive at CES this year were hardware solutions to real world problems. We’ll discuss each of them, but I was particularly impressed by new generation laptops, monitors (including a second portable monitor), scanners, keyboards and mice. While 5G cell phones and WiFi6e technologies were impressive, they are not covered in this article.
Let’s start with Lenovo, which had multiple laptops available for demonstration. Particularly useful to accountants was the Lenovo 13” folding PC known as the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which starts at $2,500, available in the second half 2020. Intel has been showing some prototypes like this unit with 15”-17” folding screens. There was extensive engineering by Lenovo using carbon fiber and special hinges to keep the screen from breaking or creasing. You can see from the picture a small tactile keyboard that lives between the folded screen for recharging.
The Fold can be used partially folded, like a laptop, and a touchscreen keyboard is available, so the detached keyboard becomes optional. The Fold has a case b
For the laptops of 2020, the newest Intel Core 10nm+ mobile processors code-named “Tiger Lake” include optimizations spanning the CPU, Artificial Intelligence accelerators and discrete-level integrated graphics based on the new Intel Xe graphics architecture. Tiger Lake will deliver double-digit performance gains, AI performance improvements, a jump in graphics performance along with four times the throughput of USB 3 with the new integrated Thunderbolt 4.
During CES, Intel Vice President of Architecture for Graphics and Software Lisa Pearce provided insight into the progress on the new Intel Xe graphics architecture, which will provide huge performance gains in Tiger Lake, and she previewed Intel’s first Xe-based discrete GPU, code-named “DG1.” Further, Intel covered the Project Athena laptop initiative which included 25 designs rolled out in 2019, and Intel expects partners to roll out 50 new designs in 2020. Key attributes include:
- Modern Connected Standby and Lucid Sleep features implement fast wake with a simple lid-lift, push of a button or quick fingerprint recognition.
- Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, Intel Core vPro i5 or i7 processors with Intel Dynamic Tuning Technology, ≥8GB DRAM dual channel mode and ≥256GB NVMe SSD, including Intel Optane memory H10 options.
- Adaptive Intelligence: Features such as far-field voice services and support for OpenVINO. Designs based on 10th Gen Intel Core processors codenamed “Ice Lake” will bring broad scale intelligent performance to the laptop with Intel Deep Learning Boost.
- Fast-charging capabilities over USB Type C, integration and optimization of low power components, co-engineering support for power efficiency, along with platform optimization.
- Connectivity: A fast and persistent connection with Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) and optional Gigabit LTE. Connect to USB Type C devices with Thunderbolt 3, the fastest and most versatile port available
- Touch displays, precision touchpads, and more sleek thin-and-light 2 in 1 design with narrow bezels for a more immersive experience.
Radical improvements in monitors were announced at CES. While we recommend purchasing 8K television products because of their upscaling capability, office monitors had notable breakthroughs, too. The HDR standard added a new level of brightness and clarity with the HDR standard. Refinements in the standard have solidified our recommendation to purchase HDR 600 monitors for your desktops and HDR 500 certified laptops. While there were dozens of impressive monitors for business, the winner of this CES was the HP S430c 43.4-inch Curved Ultrawide Monitor.
A single 43” monitor with two separate virtual screens, and a built-in USB hub lets this monitor serve as a KVM to TWO separate devices (Win/Mac OS/Ubuntu/Android) using any USB-attached keyboard/mouse. The monitor favors USB Type C, but also has a single DisplayPort, and a single HDMI input as well. The technical specifications are impressive at 3840×1200, 600 Hz; 350 nits’ brightness; 65W of power to devices over the USB-C hub; a pop-up Windows Hello compatible webcam (1080p); and a built-in microphone. You can see the full spec sheet online at http://cpate.ch/s430c, and it is a fine value priced at $999. The size, features and comfort of this monitor makes it a real winner for accounting professionals.
Just as impressive was a portable second monitor from Espresso Displays. This company has made different size monitors including a mobile 13” or 15” touch-screen monitor that has a stand (in the first pic above, with my hands), and a wall mount for the office. At 5mm thick (0.2”), the monitor has an innovative magnetic mounting system with wall mounts and stands that use magnets to hold the monitor in the desired position. The monitor supports USB-C, HDMI, PC/Mac, consoles, some iOS devices, some Android devices. There are plans for 17” and 19” models as well.
We knew that another innovation cycle was due in scanners, and Fujitsu did not disappoint with the new $700 Fujitsu fi-800R series scanner. The fi-800R Automatic ADF Image Scanner sports a Dual Path Mechanism featuring Return Scan, perfect for reception use – scanning passports, thick plastic cards and folded documents. Return Scan captures hard cards and passports up to 5 mm thick. With Automatic Stacking Control, the stacker automatically extends when U-turn Scan starts, then retracts when scanning is complete, returning scanned documents to the input tray to save space.
Automatic Skew Correction straightens each document before scanning, Active Separation applies the optimal pressure to documents, according to paper thickness and condition to prevent multi-feed, and Front Side Detection recognizes faces on ID cards or passports. Even if documents are scanned face down, PaperStream IP automatically rearranges images so that scanned pages are organized in the correct order. Information contained in the Machine-Readable Zone of a passport, like number, name and nationality, can be extracted by PaperStream Capture to efficiently manage customer information. We were told that all issues reported using PaperStream had been resolved, and plan to test this with technicians in the first quarter of 2020.
Can You See There Are Many New Hardware Products to Consider in 2020?
This article did not cover even a tenth of the products introduced at this year’s CES. Other favorites like SwiftPoint mice (https://www.swiftpoint.com/) and Matias keyboards (https://www.matias.ca/products/) were back with new models and updated features like iPad support for the mice and programmability and improved ergonomics for the keyboards. Other products like SSDs, NAS storage, backups and more had notable improvements announced at CES, too. We were also impressed with continued improvements in HDMI fiber optics from Silicon Line (https://www.silicon-line.com/home.html) and DisplayLink’s incorporation of the Logitech Tap meeting room touch screen controller which works with Google Hangouts Meet, Teams/Skype, and Zoom. The Tap uses a small form factor computer (e.g. a NUC or similar) and can add conferencing cameras and a display to have a complete easy-to-use meeting solution.
To make all things technology work well, there must be a reliable base of hardware. 2020 is starting off with a major wave of innovation to enjoy now and for years to come.
See inside February 2020
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