Techlife News - - SUMMARY -

The com­pa­nies founded by black­smith John Deere and can­dle-and-soap-mak­ing duo Proc­ter & Gam­ble may not be the hip pur­vey­ors of new tech­nol­ogy they were in 1837.

But they’re first-time ex­hibitors at this year’s CES gad­get show, along with other un­likely new­com­ers such as mis­sile-maker Raytheon, out­doorsy re­tailer The North Face and the 115-year-old motorcycling icon Har­ley-David­son.

The four-day con­sumer-elec­tron­ics show opens with some 4,500 com­pa­nies ex­hibit­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices and more than 180,000 peo­ple ex­pected to at­tend. It’s the place star­tups and es­tab­lished tech gi­ants alike go to un­veil ev­ery­thing from util­i­tar­ian apps to splashy de­vices.

So what are these legacy com­pa­nies do­ing here?

“Ev­ery com­pany to­day is a tech­nol­ogy com­pany,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Con­sumer Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion, which or­ga­nizes CES.

Shapiro said many com­pa­nies al­ready send ex­ec­u­tives to Las Ve­gas each Jan­uary to gauge trends, so it’s not sur­pris­ing that they even­tu­ally un­veil their own new tech­nol­ogy as well.

It’s also part of a more fun­da­men­tal eco­nomic shift as con­sumers in­creas­ingly ex­pect to buy not just goods and ser­vices, but a personal ex­pe­ri­ence, which of­ten skews dig­i­tal, said Di­pan­jan Chat­ter­jee, a brand an­a­lyst at For­rester Re­search.

“We’re still do­ing old-fash­ioned things: Or­der­ing clothes, buy­ing de­ter­gent, get­ting a cup of cof­fee, but there are new-fan­gled ways of do­ing it,” he said. “Brands have no choice but to play a role in this new tech­nol­ogy space.”

That’s one rea­son Har­ley-David­son is us­ing the show to an­nounce the com­mer­cial launch of its first elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle LiveWire. The mo­tor­cy­cle will have a cel­lu­lar con­nec­tion, as many cars do these days, so peo­ple can keep track of their mo­tor­cy­cle’s charge or check where they parked it through an app.

Con­sumer goods gi­ant P&G, best known for Pam­pers di­a­pers and Tide de­ter­gent, is show­cas­ing heated ra­zors, a tooth­brush with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and a wand-like de­vice that scans the skin and re­leases serum to cover up age spots and other dis­col­oration.

P&G is also show­ing off an in­ter­net-con­nected scalp ad­viser: The Head & Shoul­der­s­branded de­vice uses ul­tra­vi­o­let light and

other tech­niques to un­cover scalp is­sues and rec­om­mend prod­ucts. The de­vice is avail­able only in Europe and Asia for now.

Ex­pect these giz­mos to cost more than the plain-old “dumb” ver­sions. P&G’s Oral-B tooth­brush, for ex­am­ple, is ex­pected to cost $279, while a reg­u­lar Oral-B elec­tric tooth­brush can be had for less than $30.

And ev­ery new con­nected de­vice means more data col­lec­tion about peo­ple’s personal habits — a gold mine for ad­ver­tis­ers and hack­ers alike.

The North Face is us­ing virtual re­al­ity to pro­vide a fine-grained look at its wa­ter­proof fab­rics.

Raytheon is demon­strat­ing the ev­ery­day ap­pli­ca­tions of GPS anti-jam tech­nol­ogy, which was orig­i­nally de­signed to pro­tect mil­i­tary forces.

And John Deere has hauled in self-driv­ing trac­tors and a 20-ton com­bine har­vester aided by ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. The com­bine has cam­eras with com­puter-vi­sion tech­nol­ogy to track the qual­ity of grain com­ing into the ma­chine so that its ker­nel-separat­ing set­tings can be ad­justed au­to­mat­i­cally. Farm­ers can mon­i­tor it re­motely us­ing a smart­phone app.

It’s hard to imag­ine what 19th cen­tury Illi­nois black­smith John Deere might think if he were plopped into his com­pany’s 2019 booth at the flashy Ve­gas con­ven­tion cen­ter, but Deanna Ko­var be­lieves he’d be “amazed and as­ton­ished.”

“His in­no­va­tion was mak­ing a self-pow­er­ing steel plow that could cut through the heavy, rich soils of the Mid­west,” said Ko­var, the com­pany’s direc­tor of pro­duc­tion and pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture mar­ket­ing. “We’ve been a tech­nol­ogy com­pany since the start.”

Ko­var said Amer­i­can farm­ers have been us­ing self-driv­ing trac­tors for decades — and CES is a chance to let ev­ery­one else know.

Chat­ter­jee said such mes­sages are di­rected not just at a com­pany’s cus­tomers, but to in­vestors, po­ten­tial cor­po­rate part­ners, startup ac­qui­si­tion tar­gets and the tech­ni­cally skilled em­ploy­ees these more tra­di­tional firms are hop­ing to at­tract.

“These are brands that are ag­gres­sively look­ing to work tech into their DNA,” Chat­ter­jee said. “They want to be per­ceived all around as a tech­for­ward innovative brand.”

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