NEW YEAR CES-GRAM – CAN SMART AND PRIVATE GO TOGETHER?

It’s January so it’s also time for new tech magic from the Las Vegas CES (Consumer Electronic Show), where the tech folk gather for yearly future gawking and rubbernecking on the next year’s digital crashes. This year the theme was the battle of convenience over privacy.

I spy with my robot eye… Your fridge is under attack again for not being smart enough. LGHub has created a robot that can listen to your questions about what is actually in your fridge, check the contents for what’s available, then shop for you from the designated store to deliver products or ingredients for a specific dish. It can also talk you through the recipe. What’s not to like? In addition, it’ll play music and set up alarms for the house. However, like Alexa, the LG robot is listening to a lot more than just shopping instructions, so there will be a spy living in your kitchen. Who knew that Big Brother was going to come equipped with a cookbook?

New hairdresser? No, just new brush: Not satisfied with listening to us in the kitchen and living room, spy robots are moving into bathrooms. Kerastase created a ‘Smart’ Electric Brush that listens to the sound of your hair breaking and provides an audit on hair quality and offers hair care. Cool? You bet, but what else is it listening to in what should be the sanctuary of your own bathroom?

Cruising in all safety: From the makers of Magic Band (a Disney wearable that replaced tickets and cash) comes a new device, this time for people on a cruise. Ocean Medallion is similar to the Magic Band bracelet and lets the wearer check in at departure without queues, then lets you pay instantly and book events. The Ocean Compass feature allows you to see where your other family members are at any given time. CES visitors got excited as it’s handy if you’re cruising with an elderly parent who has memory problems or young children, but privacy is still a challenge as this means the management will know your location 24/7.

Perfection complexionYou’ll never look at your mirror in the same way again. HiMirror Plus, launched at CES, must be one of the world’s first smart beauty mirrors. It has a mirror frame with the centre used as a camera to take a picture of your skin, send the data to the cloud for analysis, then display your personalised recommendations for the “new you” palette and give special skin care tips just for you. HiSkin’s device includes a diagnostic model with a touch-free design that completes a personalised analysis of your skin by just taking your picture. It is not Alexa so you don’t speak to it; you just wave your hands and gesture-control the device. No smudged fingerprints on that mirror!

Specifically, the examination breaks down your surface level flaws such as complexion, sun damage and pores, then recommends products and the route to fix it all. This could potentially be a life saver as early detection of sun-related skin damage is curable. But do you really want a camera permanently on in your bathroom?

…But can Alexa keep a secret? CES would not be CES without a major announcement and this year has not disappointed. From next summer, every room in the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas will have its very own Amazon Echo to act as your butler and guide. Being able to speak to Alexa and ask all the questions that a receptionist would normally have to answer sounds like a pretty good deal to us. But the devices will listen to everything that happens in your hotel room as well. Let’s just hope that whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

For a much-needed winter break, and to get a bit of rest from all this spying, the fashionistas who are making city break plans should put The Hague on the list – a new exhibition on Givenchy’s love affair with Audrey Hepburn is now open. Till March 2017. Don’t miss!