From hot new headphones and the latest wave of e-bikes, technology that consumers will want as the weather gets warmer is the focus of our March issue. We also visit JBL’s cool new store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, where the iconic brand’s portable audio, party speakers, and gaming gear is featured front and center. Plus: the best new senior tech, gaming gear, office electronics, a warranty roundup, and the 2022 appliance preview.


Tony Monteleone

“Spring is the time
of plans and projects.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Could it be that life is starting to look normal again? I have future trips planned, and am excited to start planning the date of my “Burning the Mask Party” once we are safe. As Spring approaches, we are planning projects and shows to get back to as much normal as we can.

With our “Spring Forward” issue, we look at what is hot and at the must-haves in our industry. This includes a huge segment of our society – Seniors. In our March issue, we look at top new products and trends for Seniors and Sensor-based Health Tech for this segment. We have our first annual Warranty Roundtable with Nancy Klosek; I am incredibly happy with all the companies that are included in this piece.

We look at Best New Gaming Stuff for 2022, take a snapshot of the Office of the Future, and feature an interview about Skullcandy’s sustainability initiatives. We have a great “Retail on the Run” with the cool JBL (Harman) experience Center in Union Square in NYC. I was thrilled to be at this interview, and it is an amazing place. If you are in NYC, make sure to visit.

Mobility is a huge growth area, which we cover this month, spotlighting Cool E-BIkes and E-Scooters. In addition, we investigate the Hyundai Ioniq and cheaper EVs. Also, we have put together an Appliance 2022 Preview. Speaking of Appliances, please make sure to check out all the cool coverage on Dealerscope.com and on our sister publication website, Connected Design.com, as well as on our LinkedIn pages.

As always, any comments and/or questions – please contact me at
tmonteleone@ctlab.media – I want to hear from you!

Tony Monteleone,
Group Publisher of CT Lab Global Media


Getting Out This Spring

Tom Samiljan

Last summer, I moved back from sunny Southern California and its droughts, fires, mudslides, and earthquakes to the East Coast, where bitter cold, multiple blizzards, and torrential rains have gotten me stoked for the spring. And that’s not even taking into account Omicron, which put a damper on everyone’s winter, to put it lightly, and resulted in many hospitalizations, some deaths for the immunocompromised and unvaccinated, and significant strain on the healthcare system and its workers.

As was true of many people, I didn’t feel comfortable going to the gym just yet, so being cooped up inside all winter with nothing but pushups, wall squats, and planks – and hikes whenever it wasn’t too snowy or cold – made me miss the ease with which I could just hop on my bike and ride to the beach in the middle of February, as is easy to do in Southern California.

So I’m stoked, now that spring is almost here, to put in some earbuds and strap on a smartwatch and get outside to do some biking, hiking, walking, and talking (on the phone). I’ve had the good fortune in my job to test out the latest true wireless earbuds over the last few years, but the cutting-edge options with all the cool features like active noise canceling, audio optimization, spatial audio, and ambient modes, have been pricey for most people and the budget models only offered the barebones capabilities. But now the full-featured true wireless earbuds that used to cost upwards of $250 can be had for less than $100. This means that more people can now not only safely walk and bike out on the street with an effective ambient mode to stay alert for cars or other dangers, but also keep out the family background noise while working from home. Make sure to read our roundup of the best new earbuds and headphones to watch for in the coming months on page 17. Many are already available.

Another rising category I’m excited to try out again as the snow melts? E-bikes, which many people still seem to think prevent any kind of exercise. Contrary to popular belief, e-bikes, especially of the pedal-assist variety, can be adjusted for whatever level of resistance the rider wants, which means you can not only make that flat, straightaway bike path as light or as challenging as you want, but you can also treat steep hills and even mountains as if you were simply going up a small incline. I’ll never forget the day I tried my first Pedego e-bike out in the Hollywood Hills; I felt like a superhero as I rode up those impossibly steep streets, while still getting a decent leg workout with moderate but steady resistance. E-bikes have come a long way even since a few years ago, and it’s increasingly the must-carry category for consumer electronics and appliance retailers. For a snapshot of the latest crop of e-bikes and e-scooters scouted and sampled at the 65,000-square-foot test track in Las Vegas at CES in January, check out our overview on page 10. (Incidentally, snow isn’t the barrier to e-biking that it might once have been, thanks to the winter-optimized MoonBike.)

Lastly, for those other classic spring products such as air purifiers and wearables, look no further than our Q2 preview. And even if April brings nothing but showers, there is still plenty of new gear for the Spring, including a boatload of VR and AR products, as you’ll read in both the aforementioned Q2 roundup and a gaming preview.

Tom Samiljan

Tom Samiljan


Two-Wheeling It in 2022

Ebikes, escooters, and mopeds
are no longer just pandemic-era fads.


It’s no longer just a pandemic fad. Ebikes are here to stay, and stay in a big way, as evidenced at the CES in January. Not only were there electric bikes of every shape and size introduced — everything from sleek road bikes and 007-style snow bikes to understated escooters and electric motorcycles — but also, for the first time, the Las Vegas show had a dedicated eMobility Experience testing area outside for ebikes and escooters.

So, not surprisingly there was a slew of new ebike and emobility introductions around the 65,000-square-foot test track at CES 2022. Mainstream bicycle brand Giant, for example, introduced a commuter model aimed at new riders, or those returning to two wheels after a hiatus. In the group’s Momentum line, the new Voya E+ weighs just 40 pounds, a lightweight considering that ebikes typically weigh 55 pounds to over 70 pounds. Voya E+ models will start at $2,300 and feature batteries that run cooler, have a longer life cycle, and are wrapped in fire-proof gel, the company said.

“Making the battery safe is a big thing for us,” said Matthew Smith, e-bike business manager for Giant in the U.S. “And we’re one of the few companies that don’t compete with our retailers,” Smith underscored in an interview with Dealerscope. Many of the newer ebike companies sell directly to consumers.

Aventon, for example, sells through dealers as well as directly online to customers. At CES, Aventon introduced a budget-oriented commuter bike, the Soltera. Designed to be simple and easy to maintain, a basic, single-speed model starts at $1,299. The Soltera has both pedal assist and full-throttle modes, with a top speed of 20 mph.

Interestingly, at least one ebike and escooter sharing company made moves at CES to enter the retail space. Santa Monica, Calif.-based Bird, best known for its escooters that pepper some urban sidewalks, announced new models for consumers to purchase in both bike and scooter categories. The pedal-assist Bird Bike offers a 50-mile range and a $2,299 price tag. And for minimal maintenance, the ebikes feature a rear hub motor and a Gates Carbon fiber belt drive rather than the traditional chain and derailleur combination.

In addition, Bird bowed a non-electric scooter for kids, the three-wheeled Birdie Glow for $99. For adults, the company added an escooter, the Bird Flex for $599. Both models will be available at Target or from the company’s online store.

Advances in ebike systems also promise more new products to come later this year. Bosch eBike Systems, one of the major ebike technology suppliers to companies such as Trek and Gazelle, received a CES 2022 Innovation Award for its new connected ebike package. It includes a mid-drive motor, battery, and controller all connected via Bluetooth to an eBike Flow app. The app means bike makers can offer new digital features such as automatic activity tracking and personalized riding modes.

“So it is able to evolve after the purchase,” said Claudia Wasko, general manager of Bosch eBikes, in an interview with Dealerscope, “we can add new services and new updates over the air.” Wasko said that connectivity for ebikes is a “megatrend” that will continue to transform ebikes; next year she anticipates built-in anti-theft systems and additional safety features will be added, for example

The Aventon Soltera has both pedal assist and full-throttle modes, with a top speed of 20 mph.

Bosch eBike Systems received a CES 2022 Innovation Award for its new connected ebike package and app used by Trek, Gazelle, and others.

Bigger and Badder

Ebikes are also evolving into bigger and more varied designs. Stockholm, Sweden-based Cake, for example, debuted its line of work electric motorbikes. Among models coming in the spring is the company’s Makka “smart electric moped” that does 28 mph and starts at $3,800. The company offers a welter of options for cargo and even trailers for its ebikes, as well as new functions for its Ridecake software. The program works with a Cake Connect module to deliver real-time riding information, anti-theft features, and fleet management software for business owners.

At the other end of the spectrum, for pure fun, there was the Moonbike from Annecy, France. The French startup introduced what looks like something from a James Bond movie: a ski and tractor tread equipped ebike for snow-covered mountain excursions. Aimed at back-country adventurers, the Moonbike starts at $8,500, has a top speed of 28 mph, can climb a 40 percent grade, and will run for about an hour and a half on a single battery charge. In the Vespa-style category, Segway (yes, that Segway) introduced two new escooters at CES: the P100S and P60. Both models feature more advanced elements to make them more road-worthy, including turn signals, wider tires, and wider footboards. Segway already has an eMoped C80 electric bike on the market for about $2,200. (With a top speed of 20 mph, it doesn’t require riders to have a license.)

Naturally, the electrification of two-wheeled vehicles extends all the way up to exotic electric motorcycles. The banana yellow Damon HyperFighter Colossus drew plenty of stares at CES. The eccentric electric motorcycle has a range of 146 miles and does 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, with a hair-raising top speed of 170 mph. Although the bike sounds expensive at $35,000, it offers outstanding thrills and performance for a fraction of the price of a Tesla S.

Indeed the variety of ebikes and associated electric modes of transportation at CES demonstrated that there is lots of room for future innovation and growth. Giant’s Smith also underlined the fact that it’s still a largely untapped market where consumer electronics retailers can help get new customers into the market, supplying expertise and accessories.

“We’re in the Atari and Commodore 64 era of ebikes,” said Smith, “and we’re nowhere near the iPhone era — but we’re going to get there very quickly.”

The $35,000 Damon HyperFighter Colossus electric motorcycle has a top speed of 170 mph.

The Momentum Voya E+ weighs just 40 pounds, a lightweight considering that ebikes typically weigh between 55-to 70-plus pounds.

March Issue 2022_7


Spring Forward

From allergy fighting air purifiers to AR to e-mobility, here are the products that consumers will want in Q2 as the weather warms up.


Spring has arrived, and there are indications that there is a lot to look forward to in consumer tech for the rest of the year.

Despite all sorts of uncertainty related to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and continuing supply chain shortages, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) forecast in January that industry revenue is expected to reach $505 billion in 2022. That would mark the first time in history that such revenues have crossed the half-trillion mark.

The forecast also stated that smartphone shipments are expected to reach 154.1 million units and $74.7 billion in revenue, a three percent increase from last year, with 5G leading the way. As for automotive tech, CTA projected the category will reach $16 billion in shipment revenues this year, a 7 percent jump from 2021.

“The record-breaking revenue generated by the technology industry reflects the reality that every sector of our economy is leveraging technology to enhance their products and services,” Rick Kowalski, director, industry analysis and business intelligence, CTA, said in the forecast announcement. “Just look around the show floor at CES 2022, you see agriculture, health care, entertainment and beyond. It is a snapshot of how all-encompassing the technology industry has become.”

As products, including those unveiled at CES in January, begin to roll out throughout the spring, it’s time to look at particular categories that especially stood out and have people in the industry talking. Here are three areas that are expected to make their presence felt.

Air Purifiers

The flowers and vegetation of April and May have a tendency to make things difficult for those with allergies, and with no lockdowns expected this spring, several companies are offering a new class of air purifiers.

LG recently unveiled the Puricare Aero Tower, which the company described as a “premium air purifying fan.” Seen as a direct competitor to Dyson’s Pure Hot + Cool product, the Puricare Aero Tower is meant to function as an air purifier, fan and heater, and works all year long. The product collected several CES awards.

Razer is best known for gaming accessories, and now it has announced the Zephyr Pro, a wearable air purifier. A successor to last year’s Zephyr RGB mask, the Zephyr Pro also features a microphone on the inside, so people wearing it can be heard. The product will retail for $200.

Another major offering is the Aura Air Purifier, which has been around since last year, but has now added HomeKit support, as well as an attached B2B platform. The company cited a pair of recent trials, from Innovative Bioanalysis Laboratory and Sheba Medical Center, that the Aura Air product “successfully managed to filter and remove 99.9% of airborne SARS-Cov-2.” It is available now, with the Aura Air costing $499 and the Aura Air Mini listed at $179.

Razer Zephyr Pro wearable air purifier.

LG Puricare Aero Tower

Aura Air

E-Bikes and E-Scooters

With temperatures getting warmer, many consumers are going to want to get out and bike or ride, and as such, more of them are eying the thriving E-bike and E-scooter categories. CES featured electric bike and scooter brands, many of them part of a special exhibition called the eMobility Experience. Some of the highlights of that category:

Bird Global, Inc., the hot e-bike brand of the moment, recently unveiled a new Bird e-Bike and the Bird Flex e-scooter, along with a children’s kick scooter called the Birdie Glow. The five-year-old company has much emphasized the part such products can play in the quest to reduce carbon emissions.

Segway’s original scooter was discontinued a couple of years ago, but the company has pivoted to a line of electric kick scooters that will arrive this year, including the new P-Series, the P60, and P100S, while also debuting a new e-moped, the E11a. Prices have not yet been announced for the products.

Damon Motors, a motorcycle company, debuted an electric motorcycle at CES, called the HyperFighter Colossus. The Vancouver-based company, which says it has raised $60 million to date, says the new HyperFighter Colossus is priced at $35,000, and can be reserved now.

And for those looking ahead to winter later this year or summer skiing south of the equator, there’s MoonBikes, a French startup that has developed electric bikes for the snow. Starting at $8,500, a limited edition of MoonBikes is being made, as part of a limited run of 400 units.

BirdBike showroom rendering.

Bird Flex e-scooter

Damon HyperFighter Colossus

Segway P-Series e-scooter

The snow-optimized MoonBike.


The wearable category is growing, and also moving up the body. Manufacturers have been emphasizing products for AR and VR, as well as growing, often surprising uses of the technology, everywhere from medicine to e-commerce. This is in addition to the oft-cited technology of the future known as the metaverse.

In January, Sony talked a bit about its upcoming next-generation VR product, the PlayStation VR2, which will work with the PlayStation 5. Microsoft also announced a technology that’s a ways away, with a Qualcomm partnership set to develop smart glasses. Apple, also, is expected to enter that category, possibly as soon as this year.

Another product that has gotten some attention was the Shiftall MeganeX VR Headset, which comes from the Panasonic subsidiary Shiftall. Expected to arrive this spring at a price tag of less than $1,000, the MeganeX VR works along with the existing SteamVR.

TCL has also unveiled the next generation of its own AR glasses, called NXTWEAR AIR. The mostly TV manufacturer emphasized comfort and lightness in its wearable AR glasses, including a pair with 1080p Micro OLED displays. Pricing and release plans haven’t been announced, but the earlier version costs a little under $1,000.

With spring here, many will be wondering about wearables they can wear outside. One is the Skagen Falster Gen 6, the latest edition of that highly regarded, “Danish-inspired” smartwatch line. Retailing for $295, the Falster Gen 6 sports the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform.

Garmin has also debuted some new smartwatches, including the Venu 2 Plus, which offers voice functionality for those on the go. It’s available now at a $449.99 price point.


MeganeX VR Headset, from the Panasonic subsidiary Shiftall.


March 2022 CE News

Warehouse Workers

Adobe Unleashes New Tools for Retailers | Based on data collected in its Digital Economy Index, Adobe has developed a new suite of business-centric tools geared towards eCommerce. Payment services have been added to Adobe Commerce, which now allows retailers to securely manage payments from platforms such as Venmo, PayPal, and buy now, pay later services, all in one place. These features are part of an analysis done by Adobe, which determined that the future of retail will be more omnichannel.


Commercial Electric Vehicles Aren’t Ready to Hit the Market Just Yet | Due to EV manufacturers’ struggles in meeting demand, Amazon has begun to place orders with other automakers outside of Rivian, with which it has a deal for 100,000 electric delivery vans. Aimed at getting sustainable vehicles in the field as soon as possible, these orders include 1,800 electric vans from European manufacturer Daimler, 10,000 three-wheeled vehicles from Indian manufacturer Mahindra, and thousands of electric Ram vans from Stellantis.


Side view of delivery van in charging station. The charging station installed with solar panels. 3D rendering image.
Freight Trains, Waggons and Railways

Trains and Delivery Trucks Have Become New Targets for Thieves | On top of smash-and-grab operations on retail outlets, thieves are targeting products in transit. In January, after leaving a UPS delivery hub, an 18-wheeler was stopped at gunpoint in Atlanta and relieved of the merchandise it was carrying. Trucks aren’t the only transport method at risk. In a Los Angeles train yard, thieves raided a series of cargo containers carrying merchandise from Amazon and REI.


Intel to Bring New Chip Factories to Ohio | Chipmaker Intel has announced that it is investing $20 billion to establish two new chip factories in Ohio, which are expected to begin production in 2025. The factories, which are coming to Licking County, a suburb of Columbus, are expected to bring 3,000 Intel jobs and 7,000 construction jobs to the area.


Austin , Texas , USA - August 30th 2021: Amazing aerial drone views from above GigaTexas show the construction progress of the Factory that will make the Tesla Modlel Y qnd then the Cybertruck and maybe tesla Semi and Tesla Bot
Human finger and robot's finger meet for collaboration between artificial intelligence and human intelligence concept. Back lit is used alongside foggy atmosphere for futuristic feel. Shot with a full frame mirrorless camera.

Walmart Eyes the Metaverse as a Frontier for Digital Expansion | A series of trademark applications at the end of 2021 showed that Walmart plans on utilizing the metaverse as a significant platform for its expansion into the digital realm, according to CNBC. The applications center around trademarking concepts such as virtual goods and developing NFTs and cryptocurrencies. .



Top 5

Smart Kitchen Appliances for 2022


Consumers today are cooking at home more often than ever, but they still have limited time and sometimes a frustrating lack of knowledge when it comes to the kitchen. Earlier this year at CES, manufacturers showed up with a wide range of upgraded appliances to make dinnertime easier, more enjoyable and most importantly, smart. Here’s a snapshot of the five appliances to watch for in 2022.

LG InstaView Double Oven, Slide-In Range

This new premium kitchen appliance offers seamless integration with the LG ThinQ Recipe feature, which provides more than 18,000 interactive smart recipes and 10,000 shoppable recipes for the ultimate home cooking experience. With its smart functionality, EasyClean surfaces, and modern design, LG’s new kitchen duo offers a complete cooking solution. The highlight of the range is LG’s InstaView technology, which lets home cooks see inside the oven by simply knocking twice on the glass door, illuminating the interior without opening the door and letting hot air escape.

Samsung Bespoke Refrigerator

Available in a choice of 3-door, 4-door and Family Hub models, the new Bespoke French Door refrigerator expands Samsung’s Bespoke lineup of customizable designs. In glass, new colors include White, Gray, Pink, Charcoal, Morning Blue, Clementine and Sunrise Yellow. In a steel finish, new colors include Tuscan, Matte Black, Navy, Emerald Green and Stainless Steel. When it comes to technology, the Beverage Center and Dual Auto Ice Maker gives users quick access to cold drinks, while the FlexZone keeps ingredients at the optimal temperature. Meanwhile, the Family Hub smart hub brings entertainment to the kitchen and helps families stay organized and connected. In addition, this year, the Family Hub will support Samsung TV Plus, for free TV content and continuous viewing experiences.

Panasonic Smart Inverter Countertop Microwave Oven

The Panasonic Smart Inverter Countertop Microwave Oven, Works with Alexa (NN-SV79MS), can be controlled with Alexa using any Alexa-enabled device or the Alexa app. Once the NN-SV79MS is connected to the Alexa app or any Alexa-enabled device, like Echo or Echo Dot, Alexa can understand more than 100 commands to operate the microwave. When it comes to the appliance’s power, the NN-SV79MS utilizes 1,200-Watt inverter microwave technology. Users can choose from 10 power levels to set the desired power and cook time to evenly and efficiently defrost, reheat, cook and keep food warm.

Gaggenau 400 Series Vario Downdraft Ventilation System

The Vario downdraft ventilation 400 series is a quiet but powerful appliance that works to protect the kitchen and surrounding living space from offending odors and vapors. The intelligent, sensitive and hyper-reactive air-quality sensor detects and reacts to odors — and extracts them from the room using the lowest power level necessary. The automatic function effortlessly removes the distraction of having to monitor the air quality while operating as silently as possible. The Vario downdraft ventilation 400 series is equipped with Home Connect, which gives the cook more freedom in monitoring their appliance remotely.

GE Profile 24-in. Stainless Steel Built-in Dishwasher

This new, sleek dishwasher has today’s consumer in mind with features like Microban Antimicrobial Technology, to prevent bacteria growth on touch points, and the UltraFresh System, which uses smart dishwasher algorithms to introduce clean air and reduce moisture. Built-in Wi-Fi powered by GE’s Smart HQ allows the user to control the unit remotely, monitor cycles, and even automatically order more detergent. Finally, the Steam + Sani feature saves time with a steam and sanitize option that loosens tough soils before the wash cycle begins, and it reduces 99.999 percent of bacteria on dishes.


EVs Look to Change the Retail Landscape

Hyundai new Ioniq 5 is a cutting-edge example
of the electric vehicle trend.


Wending along the serpentine curves of route 79 in Southern California, I’m testing the quiet power of Hyundai’s new all-electric compact SUV. But really, I’m headed for pie country.

Jilian’s Pie Company sits near the end of the main street of the eponymous town and is best known for its Dutch Apple pie, a slice of which would have sent Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper into euphoria. But I’m supposed to be focusing on the latest technology behind the Ioniq 5. Hyundai has plenty riding on the new vehicle; with most manufacturers planning to go fully electric in the next few years, it will change the landscape considerably, not only in terms of the kinds of cars we drive, but how we use them, refuel them, and even charge them at home.

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is one of the most striking and forward-looking EVs to come along so far. Its angular lines and minimalist front and rear ends make Tesla’s vehicles look like ’80s retro designs. The compact SUV also comes in several models, from a basic, single motor, rear-wheel-drive edition to a fully loaded all-wheel-drive model. It gets over 300 miles of range on a single charge and can be charged faster than a Tesla Y or a Mustang Mach-E. Starting at $39,700, the Ioniq 5 is squarely aimed at the likes of Volkswagen’s ID4 and the Mustang Mach-E.

A very capable driver that was able to take the tight double-backs and hairpin turns of the Southern California roads with ease, the Ioniq also delivered the latest technological conveniences. These include a wireless phone charger, compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, built-in navigation and voice recognition, and two 12-inch dashboard displays. Hyundai uses these to great effect, offering side blindspot video views when you hit the turn signals on the highway, as well as front and rear camera views when you get close to an object, and a 360-degree video view to help you park.

A full complement of advanced driver assistance programs is also included in most models, such as rear cross traffic and pedestrian braking systems, lane-keeping assist, collision avoidance, and in the top-of-the-line model, an adaptive cruise control system that learns your habits. After several hours of driving, it will, for example, naturally speed up more quickly or slow down according to how you tend to drive in traffic, using adaptive cruise control.

The Ioniq 5 is so tricked out with tech, you don’t even need a key or key fob anymore. Drivers can use their smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to lock and unlock the car. And when you’re away from the vehicle, the Hyundai app can be used to remotely start the vehicle, check its charging status, and even send a friend a remote digital key so they can open and drive your car.

This is a quick vehicle, able to do 0 to 60 mph in about five seconds, and pass semi-tractor trailers in a split second, but it’s the rapid-charging feature that will convert car buyers. The Ioniq 5 has an 800-volt system, meaning it can take full advantage of super-fast DC chargers at public stations. That means it takes just 18 minutes to take the car from 10 percent to 80 percent of a full charge. It’s a significant difference, considering that I had to wait around for 35 minutes to get the same power into a Mustang Mach-E during one of my recent test drives.

Better still, Hyundai is offering new Ioniq 5 owners two years of free charging at public Electrify America stations. And Robert Barrosa, Electrify America’s senior director of sales and marketing, explained that the company continues to expand its network of about 800 stations across the country. The Federal Government’s forthcoming infrastructure bill will help as well, he said, but it is a multi-stage process that goes state-by-state with separate RFPs in each case before more stations can be built. But Electrify already has partnerships with several retailers, such as Target, to lease spots in parking lots. Barrosa also said some mall retailers will deliver orders to drivers charging up their cars at the stations.

For most EV owners, however, the simplest solution is to charge up at home. Home Level 2 charging stations can bring a vehicle up to 100 percent capacity overnight. And the chargers can be easy to install and cost from $500 to $650. These models are smaller than a breadbox and plug into a 240-volt four-pronged plug known as a NEMA 14-50. Newer homes already have NEMA 14-50 outlets for electric stoves. If you don’t already have a 14-50 plug near the circuit box in your garage, it costs about $200 to $800 to have one professionally installed.

Level 2 fast home EV chargers include the $599 Enel X JuiceBox 40 for $599 and Electrify America’s own HomeStation, which is $649. The chargers usually also include a smartphone app to schedule charges, cool or warm the car before you get in,
and let you know when it’s filled up.

Ultimately, such home chargers may result in one of the most profound changes in the retail landscape: the end of the local gas station. Of course, drivers and passengers will still need to take breaks — and hopefully pick up a purchase or two along the way.


State Home Charger Incentives

Most state utilities across the country offer some sort of rebate on home charging stations for EVs. A few states even offer them for free in exchange for participating in sharing charging information. Here are a few examples of what’s available:

California: Among several rebates offered. Sonoma Clean Power, up in wine country, will reimburse purchasers of Level 2 electric vehicle chargers for the full cost of the unit once it’s been activated on their grid.

Connecticut: Norwich Public Utilities offers a $500 rebate on the purchase of a Level 2 charger while Eversource, another utility in the state, has a $300 reward program for those who buy an Enel X JuiceBox or Chargepoint charger.

Louisiana: Customers of Entergy and Southwestern Electric Power can receive a $250 rebate when they buy a home charger.

Michigan: As the Big Three carmakers look to go electric, DTE Energy is offering a $500 rebate to customers who buy a Level 2 charger and hook it up to their network.

Minnesota: Several utilities in the state offer rebates for home charging stations, including the Lake Region Electric Cooperative, which will give you back up to $500 after purchase.


Audio Immersion on a Budget

Full-size headphones are still waiting for the Holy Grail of lossless audio via Bluetooth, but affordable, feature-packed true wireless stereo earbuds are the real deal in 2022.


This is the year of feature-packed true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds at falling prices. While other headphone sales have languished during the pandemic, this category has grown consistently, up 20 percent in units and 10 percent in revenue in 2021, according to NPD Group Executive Director Industry Analyst Ben Arnold. In 2021, sonic heavy hitters like Klipsch, B&W, B&O, and Sony all dropped new earbuds promising better wireless sound, but debuts from challenger brands like Jabra and JLAB at CES 2022 in January were all about pushing down price points. Arnold notes that “the average price of TWS earbuds went down from $128 in 2020 to just $118 in 2021.” Meanwhile, he says, “in the rest of the headphone market, revenue was up eight percent in 2021, while units were down 10 percent,” which translates to higher prices and fewer sales.

The “it” features right now — spatial audio and increasingly smart noise cancellation — are geared toward creating a more immersive experience. Spatial audio is a digital processing effect that makes sounds seem like they’re coming from specific locations, like virtual reality for your ears. Some products also incorporate head tracking so the soundscape can respond intelligently to your movements; sounds that appear to come from the side will seem to come from in front of you when you turn your head to that side. Noise cancellation uses microphones and digital processing to generate soundwaves that cancel out noise around you; the most effective products generally use multiple mics inside and outside each earphone to detect sound. (See sidebar)

Most headphones here are paired with smartphone apps to let you adjust the sound (EQ) and in some cases to tweak the noise cancellation. Apps can be powerful tools, though some manufacturers are pushing the value of onboard controls for people who don’t want to fiddle with a phone during a workout.

Lower prices are great news for consumers on a pandemic budget looking for the TWS form factor. But audiophiles who might buy wireless full-size headphones are still waiting for the ability to stream lossless content over Bluetooth (which should start happening later this year or next year), and may not be willing to shell out money just yet.

True Wireless Stereo Earbuds

Jabra Elite 4 Active ($119.99)

Jabra’s newest headphones are for those following through on New Year’s exercise resolutions. The Elite 4 Active resists dust and is submersible for up to 30 minutes, perfect for swimmers. Android users will appreciate conveniences like Alexa, Google FastPair, and Spotify Tap. Battery life is seven hours, plus an extra 28 from the case.

JLAB Go Air Tones ($20)

The Go Air Tones don’t offer ANC (active noise cancellation), but they block out some sound passively. Onboard controls, splash/sweat resistance, and wireless sound at a rock-bottom price. They come in colors that mimic a variety of skin tones to make them less noticeable. The eight-hour play time is pretty good, too, and you get another 24 from the case.

Moto Buds S ANC ($149.99)

The battery life is unimpressive at six hours plus only 12 more from the case. The IPX5 rating makes it safe for rainy days, and a multifunction button gives you access to playback controls and digital assistants.

JBL Live Pro 2 ($179.99)

This is the battery-life winner, at 10 hours plus 30 from the wireless charger case, and you can squeeze four hours from a 15-minute charge. JBL’s adaptive noise cancellation intelligently analyzes sounds around you and adjusts the cancellation accordingly, and Ambient Aware pipes in your environment when needed. Compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant, Google FastPair, dual Bluetooth connections, touch controls, and an app for sound customization round out the most impressive package of the bunch.

Belkin Soundform Immersion ($179.99)

These give you cooler features like hybrid ANC with three mics per earbud, multi-connection Bluetooth support, and aptX HD for great sound on Android phones. You also get good battery life — eight hours plus 28 from the wireless charger case. It’s even compatible with Apple’s and Belkin’s device location features, as well as Google Fast Pair. You can change ANC modes with the onboard touch controls or use the app to fine-tune both sound and ANC.

Full-Size Headphones

Atlantic Technology FS-BTWS582 ($499)

Introduced just a few weeks prior to CES 2022, these headphones offer an alternative wireless tech to Bluetooth called SKAA, which transmits CD-quality audio with lower latency than (current) Bluetooth so your movie’s dialogue won’t be out of sync. The catch is that you have to connect a dongle to whatever device you’re streaming from. It also gives you the option to use them in wired or Bluetooth (4.0) mode.

Technics A800 ($350)

With some extreme battery life (50 hours, and 10 hours on a 15-minute charge) and four mics per headphone contributing to the hybrid ANC, the Technics A800 is gunning for the top spot over category favorites like Sony and Bose. It includes support for Apple’s AAC and Sony’s impressive but battery-intensive LDAC codecs, as well as multipoint Bluetooth connections.

Cleer Audio ALPHA ($249)

These sharp-looking headphones showcase Dirac Virtuo Spatial Audio, which processes stereo sound into a life-like virtual soundstage. Adaptive noise cancellation and aptX Adaptive support should be music to your ears. The Alpha also excels at battery life (35 hours) and quick charge time (4.5 hours in 10 minutes).

Shure AONIC 40 ($249)

This new model offers more for less than its older, pricier sibling the Aonic 50, including adaptive ANC and better battery life (25 hours). The Aonic 40 collapses into its carrying case and quick charges in 15 minutes for five hours of play time. It supports AAC and aptX HD but not Sony’s LDAC, which may disappoint the most serious wireless audiophiles.

Mark Levinson 5909 ($999)

These leather-cupped luxe headphones come with all the trimmings, from adaptive ANC to all the latest codec support (including AAC, LDAC, and aptX Adaptive). You get a solid 30 to 34 hours of battery life depending on ANC mode; the quick-charge time is 15 minutes for six hours. They also come with cables for wired listening, which should improve the sound quality even more.

Four Types of Noise Cancellation

  • Passive: Technically, this is isolation, not cancellation.
    Basically, they act like earplugs that physically block out sound.
  • Active: An external mic on each earphone picks up outside noise, and an onboard chip analyzes it and spits out soundwaves that cancel it out. It’s currently the most common.
  • Hybrid: Similar to Active, but with mics on both the inside and outside of each earphone to improve the effectiveness of the noise cancellation.
  • Adaptive: Analyzes noise levels of your surroundings and intelligently
    adjusts the amount of noise cancellation.


Your Own Private Smart
Retirement Home

Sensor-based tech leads health solutions for aging-in-place and health management for seniors.

By JENNIFER KENT, Vice President, Research, Parks Associates

The development of smart sensors and the decreasing costs of devices have made it possible to offer aging-in-place, chronic disease management, and post-acute care services in the smart home. Sensor-based technology continues to enable new applications related to health and wellness, with senior solutions and sleep tech leading the way.

Senior tech picks up steam, with overlapping interest from the smart home and healthcare industries.

The pandemic has spotlighted the vulnerability of older consumers and the need for thoughtfully designed technologies and services to reach them at home. A growing number of home security providers are branching out into offering Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) to their customer bases, and PERS solutions providers are likewise building out new remote patient monitoring platforms. With a growing focus on care in the home, expect PERS providers to serve as the bridge between medical providers and the home services industry.

PERS solutions lead the independent living solutions market, with 58% of family caregivers reporting that they intend to purchase for their loved ones.

Additionally, as more and more healthcare activities take place from home, continuous monitoring solutions — including those that can track a patient’s status overnight — and new technology like artificial intelligence will be critical to support communications between providers and patients. Solutions that offer continuous and passive monitoring will play a critical role in helping to fill the gaps, particularly in assessing patient deterioration or important changes in health conditions.

As of 2021, almost a quarter of heads of US broadband households report either currently caring for a loved one or expecting to provide care in the next five years. A majority of the cared-for population resides in their own home or a relative’s home. Parks Associates research reports that consumers have a strong desire to live independently, and sensor-based technology will enable seniors and caregivers to have relevant notifications that are meaningful.

Addressing the Overnight Insights Gap: Sleep as a Vital Sign

A patient’s sleep patterns, and overall health status overnight, remain as blind spots in many remote patient monitoring programs. Interestingly, studies show that patients get particularly poor sleep in a hospital setting, given the frequent disruptions for nighttime vital sign monitoring. Part of the push to at-home recovery and care are the benefits patients receive from sleeping more comfortably. Still, this means a potential risk of missing patient deterioration, without the right monitoring tools.

Additionally, there is growing recognition among healthcare providers and clinical researchers that sleep duration and quality is so fundamental to overall patient health, and potentially indicative of a variety of serious health conditions, that it should be treated as a core vital sign. Poor sleeping habits can both cause and exacerbate a number of other health conditions as well, including congestive heart failure, COPD, asthma, heart disease, and obesity. Overnight monitoring provides clinicians with increased insight and detail into the data related to vital signs. According to leading medical reports, the most critical health events are preceded by warning signs that are detectable hours prior to the event.

The ability to provide insight from vital sign data during sleep enables a more comprehensive view of chronic and high-risk conditions. Continuous overnight monitoring delivers clinicians’ increased temporal insight and ability to pair data related to sleep quality with vital signs for a more comprehensive look at key clinical markers common in chronic and high-risk conditions. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “current data supports the importance of healthy sleep for cognitive and mood function, as well as cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and metabolic health. Chronic insufficient sleep was found to be associated with increased morbidity and mortality.”

Consumers are showing a growing awareness of the importance of sleep. Ten percent of US broadband households report owning a smart sleep product, such as smart mattresses and stand-alone sleep monitors. This is double the adoption rate from just two years prior. Consumers also show interest in features of smart products that can monitor or optimize their sleep as the firm’s research reveals that one in five seniors find a smart thermostat that detects their sleep patterns and optimizes their home’s temperatures to ensure their best sleep “very appealing”. This is even higher among pre-seniors: 31% of those ages 50-59 are interested in this capability. Also, over half of those intending to purchase a smartwatch in the next 6 months say they would pay more for a model that can track their sleep quality and patterns and give advice on how to improve their sleep.

For more information on digital health, new business models, IoT technologies, consumer behaviors, and deployments relevant to consumer healthcare solutions, please visit www.parksassociates.com or attend one of its 2022 Connected Health Summit sessions.

This is an excerpt from research in cooperation with EarlySense.


Consumer Protection
in the New Normal

How warranty companies, challenged with an unrelenting pandemic and all its corollary issues, have hit the reset button with innovation in the service of dealers and consumers


Dealerscope Q&A Feature

Last year hit the consumer technology industry particularly hard. Retailers had to buck challenges to the supply chain while scrambling to fulfill hyper demand for goods from consumers. Is the situation improving or being relieved somewhat? How have you structured your retail programs to help dealers alleviate these various pressures on them? By the same token, how did you alter your consumer programs in response to these circumstances? Are you seeing any uptick in the warranty business? What are your overall business strategies to address dealers’ needs at this time?

DS0322_Warranty_Allstate_Wini Hebalkar SVP Operations Allstate Protection Plans

Wini Hebalkar, Senior VP, Operations

A continuation of industrywide supply-chain constraints has affected parts and replacement availability for extended warranty providers, including Allstate Protection Plans. However, our proprietary operating and service model meant that we could offer customers alternate choices and service options when those constraints came into play.

This customer-centric approach reduced complaints and escalations for our retailer partners and provided them with breathing room to manage their own supply constraints and rebuild electronics, appliances, and furniture inventory.

As it was throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic, customer communication remains paramount. Sharing service alternatives — and putting the decision-making power about when and how to obtain service in the hands of our customers — results in higher customer satisfaction and continues to drive growth in our business.

DS0322_Warranty_Arch Insurance_Brian Olson headshot 2021

Brian J. Olson, Vice President,
Warranty and Lender Solutions

During these challenging times, we had to take a hard look at product designs and coverages, and then adjust based on our administrators’ feedback. Our partner TPAs face off with the retailers daily and are the voice of the retail customer for us. At Arch, we pride ourselves on our risk management capabilities, in particular how we manage data, both historically and predictively. But that data is only one piece of the puzzle. We want to know what a family is saying and thinking when they are out buying a couch or TV, and considering a warranty or protection plan. This allows us to fine-tune our product set and drive our brand promise — pursuing better together.

DS0322_Warranty_Assurant_Jeff Unterreiner

Jeff Unterreiner, President of U.S. Connected Living

Assurant helped many of its retail partners grow in 2021 by delivering a premium experience for buying and owning a product in the face of limited supplies. Consumers are more willing to make a purchase when effectively offered a value-added service like on-demand tech support, as they want to keep their products running smoothly for longer. Our proprietary sales optimization program helped many clients increase attachment rates for support and protection programs both online and instore. Post purchase, Assurant teamed with our retail partners to make it easier for customers to install, connect, use, repair and upgrade their products regardless of channel. It’s services like these that will continue to help offset the impact of supply-chain pressures in 2022.

DS0322_Warranty_Asurion_Nicholas May Headshot

Nicholas May, Vice President/General Manager, Client Services and Sales

Supply-chain constraints continue to impact product availability and sales. In this constrained environment, we’ve seen more consumers saying yes to added protection. Consumers are also looking for more robust tech help. Asurion’s end-to-end services, including repair, protection, trade-in and tech help, fill the gap for retailers — driving incremental revenue, engendering loyalty and reducing returns. Supply-chain challenges aren’t limited to new product sales — they are impacting repair. Leveraging our thousands of repair Experts and our nationwide network of more than 700 uBreakiFix stores (which are in the process of being rebranded to Asurion Tech Repair and SolutionsTM) and mobile repair vans, we have made same-day repair a reality for many tech products. Asurion’s strong relationships with parts suppliers and manufacturers have also dulled the impact of parts availability, which means quicker turn on repair and happier customers.

DS0322_Warranty_Centricity_Chris Penn

Chris Penn, Vice President, Client Services

Many of our partners have been very focused on adding service contracts during the entire pandemic, as supply-chain issues have limited their ability to get products in a timely manner. Service plans help drive incremental margin, and Centricity is seeing clients hit some of their highest attachment rates ever.

We’ve worked diligently to set expectations with customers during the claims process and developed creative solutions to keep customers happy while their product is out of service. In addition, Centricity has expanded and continues to grow our networks to increase bandwidth and provide more flexibility to service our customers.

Our partners also have amplified their service contract offerings on their websites to help drive awareness for customers either purchasing online or doing research before coming into a store to purchase.

DS0322_Warranty_Clyde_BrandonGell Headshot (1)

Brandon Gell, Founder & CEO

In response to the supply-chain bottlenecks our merchants continue to encounter, we’ve emphasized the repair-side of our warranty business [at Clyde]. Facilitating local repairs has always been a part of our service, but in the current environment it has taken on increased importance. These repairs offer customers a solution in a matter of days as opposed to months of waiting for a replacement product. Building brand loyalty really boils down to delivering an exceptional customer experience. That is why turning a supply-chain challenge into a unique moment to delight a customer with a lightning-fast turnaround is such a valuable opportunity. Many of our merchants have done just that in the past year.

DS0322_Warranty_Extend_Woodrow Levin_USE THIS

Woodrow H. Levin, CEO

Built on innovation and agility, leading retailers partner with Extend for its fresh approach. Amid the supply-chain challenges, Extend makes it simple for retailers to get live quickly through our automated SKU mapping and API-first solution. By alleviating what has historically been a cumbersome implementation process, retailers are able to pivot during this critical moment, unlock a new revenue channel and boost customer confidence and conversion. To maximize product protection sales, Extend dynamically optimizes offers based on consumer engagement. Post-purchase, Extend ensures consumers keep using their products even if issues arise, thanks to our AI-powered claims processing for fast, seamless resolutions. By up-leveling the post-purchase experience and increasing loyalty, Extend is successfully catering to the unique needs of retailers and customers during this time.

DS0322_Warranty_Fortegra_Leigh Mascherin_headshot

Leigh Mascherin, Vice President of Warranty Sales
and Account Management

Retailers tell us backorders, increased shipping costs, and general inflation remain problematic. In the case of some electronics, like televisions, customers are settling for a different brand or giving up features to get something right away. The shortages have made people more inclined to buy service contracts. They don’t know how long the product will need to last, so they feel more comfortable having access to service and a repair network. In some instances, they paid more than they originally planned, so they want the protection of a service contract.

To support our partners during COVID, we [at Fortegra] developed a comprehensive omnichannel strategy to fit changes in shopping habits. We also improved in-store signage so that customers could familiarize themselves with a warranty option early on. Finally, we integrated our merchandising and training materials to enable new associates to get up to speed faster.

DS0322_Warranty_Guardsman_Kerry Lawless_Final

Kerry Lawless, Vice President of Sales

Guardsman, an Amynta Warranty Company, considers all aspects of our partners’ business to determine the best solutions to maximize profitability and increase customer satisfaction. We utilize an innovative approach to keep our partners’ business running strong by creating new opportunities to sell service contracts.

For 2021, we focused on supporting partner relationships by offering omnichannel technology enhancements to boost warranty conversions online. By providing this multi-facet business model, we virtually offered a more customer-centric sales process, resulting in increased online protection plan sales. The result is a highly differentiated program that builds customer trust and increased profit.

Additionally, as our partners adapt to the ever-changing times, we are in step beside them to offer plans and processes that meet their needs.

DS0322_Warranty_Mack Worldwide_Jennifer-Monasterio-Headshot-600px-2

Jennifer Monasterio, President

Last year, vendors and retailers learned the warranty business equivalent of “fair weather” vendor versus a business “partner.” When the chips are in short supply, and backordered product lists are at all-time highs, we all need partners to rely on. Our top priority [at Mack Worldwide Warranty] was to strengthen our dealer network. To do that, we redeveloped our warranty programs to provide more than just the ability to maximize sales. These newly streamlined programs’ ultimate goal is to create long-term customers. We implemented a two-step approach. First, the foundation always starts with “knowledge,” for both staff and customers. Then we simplified our program across many product categories to be consumer-friendly. The warranty world must never forget that our partners’ strength is paramount to our success.

DS0322_Warranty_New Leaf_Kharl Mena Headshot 1-22

Kharl Mena, VP, Business Development
and Client Services

From conversations with our retail and manufacturer partners, there has not been a noticeable improvement in the supply-chain issue. The appliance and furniture segments have been hit been harder than most. With the increase in consumer demand, coupled with product availability and staffing issues; experts predict this will continue into 2023.

The heightened consumer demand and the continued supply-chain delays have caused prices for most products to increase significantly. New Leaf continually works with our clients to optimize coverage options. In addition, we analyze their sales data to determine if the extended protection program’s retail tiers are aligned with the price points of the products they are selling. This ensures a good price-to-value ratio is maintained, and increases adoption rate of the program by the end user.

We are seeing a significant increase in attachment rates across all categories of eligible product.

Retailers in every channel continue to seek alternative ways to drive gross profit and consumer satisfaction. The end user increasingly sees the products they use daily as necessities and expect retailers to offer coverage that ensures they get up and running quickly, should a failure occur.

New Leaf has the unique ability to build programs that evolve with our clients’ business. We deploy a team of dedicated Client Service professionals who focus on consistent and deliberate communication with our partners. We enable them take action quickly to changes in their business and capitalize on opportunities.


Chris Smith, CEO

OnPoint saw supply-chain issues in every sector, which affected the services’ ability to repair, refurbish or replace products. For retailers, the disruptions affected brand loyalty, as fulfillment of consumer orders for new products was delayed… Consumers ordering kitchen packages were frustrated as appliances came in one at a time over many months [and] shortages still plague the retail and service sectors.

OnPoint has doubled down on its Service Avenger insuretech platform to make it easy for our retail partners to render service and offer warranties online and instore. It can be deployed through its API-Forward design, to support product sale to post-sale warranty sales and service fulfillment. Through it, our retail partners can offer consumers on-demand service options, which we manage through our contracted network, in cases where a product needs repair or maintenance outside of a warranty to keep it running in lieu of replacement or while waiting on delayed orders. We also created Bounce Mobile Protection to offset the shortage of goods; [with it,] dealers can offer coverage on new and existing mobile devices.

We’ve seen a 75 percent uptick in our business, both in terms of warranty sales, as consumers seek to protect their new purchases, as well as in service requests. OnPoint will continue in 2022 to build out our insuretech platform and our warranty service products.


Mike Frosch, President

2021 reinforced the need for retailers and OEMs to take more control over their service contract programs. Instead of outsourcing customer care to a third party and not participating in the underwriting profit, smaller and mid-sized retailers were able to utilize existing licensed entities that are completely transparent, in terms of the profitability of a program, and allow the client to participate in the underwriting profit.

Personal Safeguards Group (PSG) continues to deliver clients new and innovative structural solutions and programs including subscription-based monthly programs, extending a standard factory warranty on a promotional basis, and taking out frictional costs that exist today with many providers.

DS0322_Warranty_NEW PHOTO - ProtectALL_Michele Gloeckler

Michele Gloeckler, Vice President of Sales

After the pandemic and lockdown, growth of e-commerce businesses and retail sales spiked in 2021, which increased ProtectALL Protection Plan purchases. However, the reopening of storefronts evolved into a hyper demand for consumer goods which was met by a multitude of other industry challenges, including mandated social distancing guidelines, a decrease in laborers at all levels, national lockdowns, and a shortage of shipping containers and freight trucks. This eventually caused a global supply and demand issue where products were either unable to be produced or unable to be loaded and shipped. As a result, all imported and exported goods were impacted, delays ranged from weeks to months, and the cost of goods and services rose exponentially.

We were able to alleviate some of the retail pressures by expanding our protection plan offerings, increasing program performance, and providing an exceptional customer experience for those filing claims. The new consumer habits drove us to providing a more connected community to offer better insight for the remote consumer, retailer, and servicer, with real-time updates and transparent communication surrounding the entire lifecycle of the protection plan. With faster methods for filing and dispatching repairs plus replacing products with unavailable parts, we have been able to create repeat customers for our partners. The rapid proliferation of the Omicron variant will continue to disrupt the supply chain in 2022. However, as things evolve, we will continue to adapt to meet the needs of our partners and their customers.


2022’s Got Game

New chips, HDMI 2.1 integration, and metaverse-powered VR is bringing more powerful and expanded hardware to gamers this year.


CES is to PC gaming hardware what E3 is to console gaming software: Ground Zero for all the newest, most cutting-edge products the consumer electronics industry has to offer. Interestingly, perhaps the most exciting trend at this year’s show was a spate of monitors and televisions designed with gaming in mind: new display technology, more interesting form factors, and faster refresh rates (thanks in part to HDMI 2.1 integration—more on that in a bit). Of course, this year’s show was another big one for gaming hardware in general, with manufacturers showing off a slew of gaming laptops, VR headsets, and more. We combed through this avalanche of unveilings to come up with some of our top picks from the show.

Samsung Odyssey G8QNB

Project Sophia


Razer Blade 14


Display technology feels like it’s reaching new heights at a regular clip these days, and manufacturers had an impressive range of gaming monitors at CES 2022. Samsung, for one, showed off the world’s first QD-OLED display in the form of its Odyssey G8QNB 34-inch gaming monitor, with an ultrawide 1440P, curved design, and a 175Hz refresh rate. QD, or “Quantum Dot” technology has made it into QLED TVs, but combining it with OLED means big things: the contrast levels and black blacks of OLED combined with the bright, vibrant images generated by QD. For gaming, this also means faster response times and improved HDR. Dell’s Alienware brand will be putting its spin on the technology as well, using a very similar 34-inch panel manufactured by Samsung, in the form of its AW3423DW. Alienware expects to ship the display in the U.S. on March 29.

Samsung had much more in store in terms of gaming monitors, though. Its Odyssey Ark is a massive 55-inch curved monitor that can rotate between landscape and portrait orientation. The company’s ultra-thin, 32-inch, 4K M8 monitor was also a standout for gamers, featuring the ability to play games over streaming services, without a connected PC. It even lets players connect wireless controllers directly to the monitor. For those looking for a minimalist gaming setup — well, this is about as minimal as it gets.

For its part, Acer showed off a pair of new gaming monitors, the Predator X32 and X32 FP. Both are 32-inch monitors with 576 Mini-LED zones (the X32 supports G-Sync Ultimate but not HDMI 2.1, while the X32 FP supports HDMI 2.1 and FreeSync), with 4K resolutions and refresh rates up to 165Hz. The monitors will retail for $1,799 and $1,999, respectively, and are expected to arrive in Q3 of this year. HP’s Omen 27u is the first HP gaming monitor to support HDMI 2.1, and also features AMD FreeSync Premium Pro adaptive sync support. The HP Omen 27u is slated to launch this spring with a retail price of $699. Additionally, LG’s UltraGear 32GQ950 is a 4K display that also supports HDMI 2.1.

Speaking of which: While gaming-specific TV sets are less of a “category” unto themselves, quite a few of the newest TVs support HDMI 2.1. High-end gaming monitors have largely supported this standard in recent years, but this is a relatively new development for TVs, and means improved bandwidth, from 18 gigabits per second (HDMI 2.0) to 48Gbps (HDMI 2.1), as well as resolutions up to 10K and frame rates up to 120 frames per second. Sony even went a step further, promising that all of its new 2022 sets will support Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) — a key feature for getting a smooth frame rate without artifacts. Sony’s new flagship A95K Series features a QD OLED panel, to improve the image and black levels even further.

Acer Predator

Arcade1Up Killer Instinct

Horizon: Call of the Mountain

Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen


Gaming laptops were not in short order at CES. The Razer Blade 14 (2022) is the perfect example of this, with the 14-inch model — it can even be ordered with an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti. Alienware’s m17 R5 Ryzen Edition also uses AMD’s new high-end processors, the Ryzen 9 6980HX CPU and RX 6850M XT GPU, with improved power optimization that should make it one of the longer-lasting 17” laptops out there — without sacrificing performance.

Asus’s Republic of Gamers (ROG) Zephyrus Duo 16 is a dual-screen gaming laptop, with a 16-inch display and a second 14-inch 4K touch display that rises from above the keyboard when you lift the lid. For gamers, among other uses, this means you can have both a fast 4K display, as well as an even faster esports-ready display in one laptop.

And a note about GPUs: With its Ryzen 6000 H-series, AMD is offering a huge improvement in integrated graphics performance for laptops — in fact, two times the performance of previous Ryzen 5000 mobile processors. NVIDIA is no slouch, either: The company revealed the RTX 3090 Ti, with 40 teraflops of performance and 24 GB of GDDR6X RAM. Don’t expect it to be cheap — its predecessor, the 3090 is $1,500 — but for those looking for absolute peak performance from their gaming rig, this will be tough to beat.

Asus Republic of Gamers Zephyrus Duo 16



Sony’s official announcement around PSVR2 for PS5 was certainly the biggest VR news of the show, and one of the biggest in games overall. Alongside an exclusive game set in the Horizon Zero Dawn universe, Sony announced some important specs: 4K HDR OLED displays with a 110-degree field of view, at 2000×2040 resolution for each eye, and frame rates up to 120Hz. Using “inside-out tracking,” it will not require a camera tracker like its predecessor, and perhaps most excitingly of all will integrate eye-tracking as well as haptic feedback, similar to that found in the PS5’s DualSense controllers. PSVR2’s “Sense” controllers will also integrate haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, to foster deeper interaction.

The other big VR announcement came from newcomer to the scene Panasonic, which introduced the MeganeX, a compact VR headset that weighs just over eight ounces and has a dramatically smaller footprint on the user’s face than existing headsets. The headset will work with SteamVR, and its foldable frame sports 1.3-inch (2560×2560) displays for each eye, and speakers built-in. The company says it should be out this year, for less than $900.

And More…

While it’s impossible to include all of the gaming offerings of CES 2022 here, there were some other highlights. Arcade1Up and iiRcade are both offering new home arcade units: Arcade1Up announced the first cabinet in its top-of-the-line Pro Series, Killer Instinct, and it’s got all the frills: bigger screen and speakers, Suzo Happ sticks and buttons, and online multiplayer, to name but a few. iiRcade’s first premium machine will be the hit side-scroller Dead Cells, which comes in a new form factor, with elaborate cabinet artwork and even a lit marquee.

In gaming headset audio, HP brand HyperX announced the Cloud Alpha Wireless, a headset built for use with PC and PlayStation consoles. The standout feature is a battery that the company says will last up to 300 hours on a single charge. That’s a massive leap — most existing headsets cap out in the low double digits in terms of hours — so it should be an enticing proposition for those looking to spend less time tethered to their PC or console. (Editor’s note: The HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless is a 2022 Dealerscope IMPACT Award winner.)

Finally, in the realm of crazy prototypes that may actually be released, Razer’s Project Sophia is a wild, modular gaming rig in the form of a desk, with a supercharged PC and monitor built into it, along with various accessories for the discerning gamer. The desk itself is essentially one large modular display, while also providing inductive charging for peripherals and other devices. Oh, and it looks like something out of Cyberpunk 2077.


The Office of the Future is Already Here

Why changing work models require new product solutions.


As working environments evolve, consumers and businesses continue to transition from remote to hybrid work models. Gartner describes this more fluid workstyle as “anywhere operations,” and predicts that by the end of 2023, 40 percent of organizations will move to blending virtual and physical experiences for increased productivity and customer reach.

The workplace of the future will have to rely on fluid office designs, seamless connectivity, interactive tools, and immersive collaborative technologies that bring remote, mobile, and in-office staff and customers together in a way that meets the demands of the moment. Workforces will need to have technology tools that enable barrier-free access whether working at their offices, on the road, or at home.

The need for communication is stronger than ever; and businesses are challenged with bringing teams together that are in the office, working from home, or on the road. Retailers, schools, businesses, and other industries need different solutions to connect with each other and will need these solutions far into the future.

What does this mean for CE retailers, manufacturers, and customers? It means the same strategies pre-pandemic won’t work, and products need to be flexible to meet these environmental demands of the hybrid work models. Sales teams in-store, and those behind the scenes online, need to provide insights into how both B2B customers and consumers are evolving with how and where they create space. Connecting remote, mobile, and in-office team members to a more fluid and flexible approach that can adapt to any contingencies is key.

Some essential technologies should include large-format, interactive collaboration displays with advanced whiteboarding software, portable USB-C enabled monitors, and intelligent webcams and microphones running over secure, IP-based networks.

  • Desktop and portable monitors for productivity and virtual collaboration from home, on-the-go, in office, or any other location.
  • Interactive flat-panel displays with integrated whiteboarding software that can easily transform any meeting space into a digital conference room and enable simultaneous collaboration with multiple in-house and remote teams.
  • Digital signage and kiosks to enable wayfinding, contactless sign-in and visitor screening. AI-enabled monitoring to manage reception areas, protocols, and traffic flow. Manufacturers offer “health kiosks” that are stations that check on customers’ body temperature, detect mask-wearing and hold hand sanitizers at the front of the stores. Digital signage displays can communicate messaging and way-finding maps for sales and directions around the store.
  • Integrated collaboration software and tools that are integral to transforming the new hybrid corporate culture. Back-end software solutions from companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Intel, among others, offer hardware manufacturers support to a complete ecosystem. A complete hardware/software ecosystem can provide metadata that helps a company understand workers’ habits in an environment so that adjustments can be made. Some examples include tracking temperatures to check on energy requirements in the store, examining occupancy levels at various times in the day, and improving customization and automation of messaging to digital signage products.
  • Quick connectivity and open standards that make it simpler to transform any space, any time for any number of employees when the need arises. USB Type-C, HDMI, and other connectors, along with agnostic collaboration software, whether streaming or casting, allows multiple people, both on-site and remote, to share and communicate from a range of wired and wireless devices.Consumer electronics manufacturers have developed many products that aid in anywhere operations, especially in the last couple of years. Within physical offices, workspace will continue to be reconfigured and purpose-designed, depending on the task at hand, such as USB-C monitors that are easily redeployed when and where they are needed. Video conferencing sessions that are able to launch in minutes with minimal effort, connecting in-office and remote participants, are key to productivity, as are screens that democratize the conference room so that remote participants are equally represented and no longer a postage-size stamp on a laptop.

Significant to the new workplace is the fluidity of connecting easily from home to office, which is why portable monitors have become prevalent in many monitor portfolios. These can be used as convenient and lightweight second screens where the end-user can connect these monitors to laptops and share a screen from a distance. While a portable monitor as a second screen enhances productivity whether at home, the office, or on the road, they are limited in size.

Other portable devices include portable or PICO projectors. These allow users to share content with a larger audience while holding onto their own presentation device. Small, compact, and lightweight, projectors offer big-screen visibility that allows a distanced audience to view presentations in a conference room, coffee shop, or any blank wall.

As technologies mature and move from smartphones and mobile devices, some features are shifting automatically to other devices. The trends and technologies seem to be evolving into providing “smart,” lamp-free, and portability as primary features in today’s electronic devices. Smart and lamp-free projectors, universal connectivity options, and portability of display products are a part of that migration.

From streaming services for content or voice control functionality (Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant) and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for wireless use, end-users are utilizing these applications both at home and in-office/conference room or classroom settings. Users stream conferences, presentations, meetings, TV shows, movies, and other content, so it’s only a natural progression in technology that the display products should incorporate both.

Retailers can offer these products for mobility and hybrid work/play environments to their customers. There seems to be a resurgence and great interest in all-in-one/multi-use products again. The line between casual home use and professional office use is practically gone, and in either environment, display products, whether monitors or projectors, need to deliver captivating pictures and sound. Features such as 4K resolution for the best image quality, great sound, and portability become key factors.


Kenneth Mau is the Director Product and Channel Marketing at ViewSonic Corp.


Skullcandy’s New Sustainability Pledge

How will the audio company keep one million tons of e-waste out of landfills by 2025? We asked CMO Jessica Klodnicki, to find out.

Interview by Brenda Thelusca

Headphone maker Skullcandy Inc. recently unveiled a series of new green initiatives as part of a promise to help keep one million pounds of e-waste from ending up in landfills globally by 2025. Among its tactics to achieve this goal is a pledge to utilize only 100 percent recyclable packaging materials and FSC-certified paper products by the end of this year, as well as an upcycling program that incentivizes consumers with discounts for turning their old products in for refurbishment. The company has also partnered with several organizations, including Protect Our Winters (POW), a non-profit group aimed at evangelizing outdoor and adventure types and resorts into the sustainability movement. In this interview, Skullcandy CMO Jessica Klodnicki shares the company’s strategies and partnerships to achieve more sustainability.


What inspired Skullcandy to team up with Protect our Winters (POW)? Can you elaborate on how Skullcandy is helping the organization?

We’re based in Park City, Utah, which is a ski resort, and out the back windows of our headquarters, we can see the mountains. We have an employee base that’s always had a passion for outdoor recreation, skiing, and snow sports in particular, and we can see the snowpack and the snow season shrinking right behind us. In addition to that, we have a very young consumer base, mostly Gen Z and Millennials, that we know cares deeply about sustainability. It just got us thinking about how we could start to address climate, but we’re a big consumer electronics brand so we had to get educated. One of the first things that we did was partner together with Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit that tries to convert passionate outdoor enthusiasts to climate advocates. We thought it was a nice first step in our journey to partner with them to get ourselves educated and shine a spotlight on the issue for our employees and consumers.


What’s the best way to recycle old gadgets, including those by Skullcandy? Is it true that consumers will receive a discount on their next order if they recycle their products?

Most people think when the product is done, they either just toss it into their trash bin or toss it into the recycling bin. Unfortunately, a complex product like consumer electronics won’t make it to the right place if you do that. What we would recommend is to see if you can keep it in working order and donate it somewhere like The Salvation Army or Goodwill, where the product can continue to get used. If the product’s not in good working order, then it’s really easy to just go drop it off. Best Buy is probably one of the best recycling programs we have out there.

[Best Buy] will make sure it gets into good hands, but if that’s not an option for people, Skullcandy has just launched a program where you can return not only Skullcandy headphones or earbuds but any brand of headphones or earbuds and we’ll take care of it for you. As we were preparing to do that program, we were going to ask people to ship it back to us, but asking people to ship something across the country isn’t helpful for emissions. So it’s a little bit of an honor system where we just asked consumers if they can return it to Best Buy or return it someplace, take a picture, then send it to us to show us that they recycled it, and they can receive a discount on their next Skullcandy purchase. If none of those options worked for them, then they can in fact ship it to us. We’ll make sure those products get to the right place and get broken down and either upcycled or recycled.


Can you go into detail about how the upcycling process works?

So generally, what happens in a big portion of this program, for us, is the returns go back to retailers. In many cases in the consumer electronics category, it’s what we would call buyer’s remorse. Where the product hasn’t even really been used and there’s nothing wrong with the product, we collect those returns from our retail partners and ship them to a partner here in the U.S. called Cali Resources, which takes in every single unit, inspects every single piece, and determines if the product can be upcycled and resold. Is it in good working order, or does it need to get diverted and properly broken down and recycled? If it’s in good working order, [Cali Resources] cleans it, inspects it, runs it through the paces, repackages it, and adds a nice little sticker that says “Upcycled for POW.” We’re the only headphone brand that has a giveback portion to our circular commerce program. Not only do we keep the product out of a landfill, but we also give it a second life, and give a portion of those proceeds back to Protect Our Winters.


How can consumers find Skullcandy products that have been upcycled?

Our partner Cali Resources has a salesforce and there are numerous third-tier outlets so we don’t compete with our existing primary retailers who sell our new products. Upcycled products end up on sites like Amazon or eBay and are marked as certified refurbished products.


Which Skullcandy product is easiest to upcycle?

That’s a great question. I had to go and talk to our guys about the breakdown process. They said it’s the same for everything, so the key is just keeping it out of the waste stream. [There was a recent] was International E-waste Day so there are all these great statistics floating around. One of the stats that I borrowed from an organization called the Waste From Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum is that the weight of the world’s electronic junk is heavier than the Great Wall of China. So, we have a huge problem to attack, and I think it equates to 63 million tons of e-waste. We announced just that we’re trying to keep one million pounds of e-waste out of the system by 2025. Of course, we’re not going to stop there. It’s a big problem that we’re trying to solve and it was one of the first things we felt that we could address as low-hanging fruit, but it’s about the same to run either earbuds or headphones through the system and make sure they get addressed.


How is the new eco-friendly packaging different from the old packaging?

We try to eliminate plastic anywhere we can, but there are some instances where we can’t 100 percent eliminate it. So in those cases, we use recyclable plastics and fully eliminate things like metal and plastic zip ties and convert those into little cardboard pieces. We’ve eliminated plastic poly bags and replaced them with little cardboard trays, but the biggest impact is the size. What we’ve tried to do is reduce the overall size of our packaging, and that has the biggest impact because not only are we reducing the materials, but we’re reducing the supply-chain costs. Everybody’s talking about supply chain and container costs. Well, the smaller we can make our packages, the less space they take up on those containers, and the less impact they have on the environment. A wonderful side benefit of all of this is that it also helps us save costs for ourselves and our retail partners and consumers.


What has the consumer response been like?

It’s been great! When we first started working with POW, we were very nervous as a company to come out and talk about climate advocacy because we were new at it. We were at the very beginning of our efforts and two of the phrases that they told us helped inspire us and motivate us on that journey. The first was “progress over perfection” and the second was “imperfect advocacy.” We were concerned that if we weren’t 100 percent perfect out of the gate, then people, who can be harsh critics on social media, were going to criticize us, but that was not the case. So first we shined a spotlight on the topic of climate advocacy and got our broad base of consumers educated and thinking and talking about it. We got an incredibly positive response. Next, we launched a program called “Carbon Checkout.” Carbon Checkout allows the consumer to take control as well and make their purchase carbon-neutral. We honestly had no idea if even one percent of our customers were going to pay the extra money to make their purchase carbon-neutral, but it’s been tracking at between 10 and 12 percent of everybody who purchases on Skullcandy.com is making their purchase carbon-neutral, so we can see real interest there. We’re constantly doing primary consumer research and desktop research to understand what our consumers want and expect. Gen Z consumers, in particular, are leaning more towards upcycled products and sustainable brands; they have a pretty high expectation of companies like us that help address the problem


What makes their purchases carbon-neutral?

We’ve partnered with a company called Carbon Checkout and to identify some projects that we would fund. One of those projects is a methane gas capture project here in the U.S., which has been set up to capture emissions from a former landfill. We also have partnered on wind power projects in Europe, and Carbon Checkout is now investing in those projects on our behalf. So, every time that consumer makes that purchase carbon-neutral, that money goes directly to those two projects that we’re investing in.


How do you calculate the carbon footprint and landfill waste reduction?

I’ll start with the carbon footprint. As we started getting into the sustainability work, we realized you can’t address the problem until you know how much you are emitting as a brand. There are three different types of emissions. Scope 3 emissions are the hardest because they’re the ones that are created by your value chain, or extended value chain. And for us, we manufacture through all third parties. The majority of our emissions are coming from the products that we create through third-party manufacturers, so it’s pretty hard to identify that. But we partnered with a company called Eco Chain, out of the Netherlands, that works with brands like Philips Electronics, as well as everything from beer to food to pet products. It also has this incredible platform that helps guide us through questions on every single product that we make. We partner with our manufacturers, and we plug in the materials that go into the project, the transportation, the process, the electricity that’s used, and then it tells us the carbon emissions of every single product we have.

We’ve now calculated the baseline of what each product emits and that allows us then to start making different choices. Do we use this material or that material? Do we use this size battery or that size battery? It showed us how much we reduced our carbon footprint when we did the packaging changes from this size to that size. That’s how we’re measuring our carbon footprint. The second half of the question on landfill waste reduction is pretty simple. That big statistic of 63 million tons is measured in pounds, so we measure it in the number of units that we’re able to keep out of the landfill, and we measure it in pounds. We’ve been able to keep close to 500,000 units and 500,000 pounds out of landfill globally so far. Our goal that we set is to keep a million pounds out of landfills by 2025. It’s a little simpler measurement on the waste side than it is on the emission side, which is quite complex.


What can retailers do to promote sustainability?

We’ve been seeing retailers starting to conduct [sustainability] audits of us, as brands, to see what our impact, intentions, and plans are. Retailers should assess who they’re working with and then they could start to prioritize and promote the brands that are doing good work and over-index on supporting the brands that are making great strides in that area. They can help with the trade-in and trade-up programs; Best Buy’s already doing that. Other retailers can help facilitate these programs so that it’s easier for consumers to trade in and make sure those products end up in the right place. Part of that is supporting recycling programs because that helps the program recover costs of getting products to the right place. One thing we’ve been thinking a lot about is the more we can extend the life of a product. Unfortunately, the lifespan of consumer electronics is pretty quick nowadays. Look at smartphones and how quick that replacement cycle is; people are using them and chucking them and using them and chucking them – so the more we can help extend product life so that you can keep and use it for longer is one of the easiest things we can all do. We launched a platform called Skull IQ recently, which makes their earbuds get smarter over time through updates. We will release over-the-air updates that allow us to keep those products relevant and continue to update features. We believe that will help extend the life of those products, so you can keep them and use them for a couple of years.

One of the things I didn’t talk about yet is the biggest impact we’ve discovered. One of the first things that people think about when they think about the sustainability of materials is plastic; everybody jumps to plastic as the bad guy, but what we discovered was when we did a lifestyle analysis with the eco-chain is that the battery is the bad guy. It was a big eye-opener. We’re in the business of consumer electronics, so our products all have batteries. The size of the battery radically impacts your emissions, so we launched a wireless earbud product called Dime that has a little battery. It’s a petite product, and as such has half the impact of any other wireless earbuds in terms of its emissions, but it also has a shorter battery life.

One of the things retailers could help us do is educate consumers on things like battery life, because we’ve gotten into what I call a battery-life war. If you go look at headphones and earbuds now, they all promise 24 hours or 40 hours of battery life. I don’t know about you, but I’m in the headphone business and I am never wearing my headphones or earbuds for 40 hours or even eight hours straight. The reality is that consumers are not using headphones or earbuds that way and it’s creating this massive impact. One of the things we can all do is educate consumers to reuse their products, extend the life of their products, and shop for products that they can use for a long time and don’t need 40 hours of battery life. It’s okay to have a product that only has eight or 10 hours of battery life. There are all these moves that we could make as manufacturers if retailers support us in our journey and educate the consumer. It’s good for the retailer, good for the manufacturer, and good for the planet.


Senior Tech Trends for 2022

Better-looking wearables and hearables, along with advances in digital therapeutics spurred on by the pandemic, are hitting the market this year.


Technology plays an important role in the lives of many seniors, from entertainment and communication to monitoring health and maintaining independence, and the isolation caused by the now two-year-old pandemic has made tech in these areas more of a necessity than a luxury. As devices get smaller, faster, more capable, and cheaper than ever, more practical seniors are taking advantage of them to protect quality of life. According to a recent AARP study, 72 percent of respondents in their 70s say they rely on technology to stay connected, and 35 percent use it to maintain personal independence.

The biggest trends generally revolve around accessibility, social/family connection, and health monitoring, creating an environment where most devices are smart and connected to the Internet. Another major boon is the drive to make products like hearables and wearables less clunky-looking, which greatly reduces stigma. Much of this is due to advances in Bluetooth wireless technology, enabling smaller products that use less power and transmit more data. Biometric sensors are also key here, since they can measure a surprising number of vital stats like heart rate and oxygen level, and motion sensors can even provide fall detection. These technologies are popping up in everything from toilets to light bulbs.

The field of digital therapeutics is in its infancy but promises to grow very quickly in the coming years as telehealth becomes more common, and, in a pandemic, necessary. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) released a draft of a standard called DTx, which will allow tech companies to create products that work seamlessly together to treat various physical and mental issues. Kerri Haresign, director of technology and standards at CTA, said in a recent CTA report that “a clear standard will eliminate industry confusion, making these technologies more widely available for use and adoption. Greater access will lead to better health outcomes for patients.”

The availability of all this tech doesn’t necessarily translate to ownership, but AARP research data shows that people over 50 are spending significantly more on technology than they were pre-pandemic, with a spike in 2020 that leveled off in 2021 as the virus seemed to wane. We expect that when data for the end of 2021 — with the rise of the Omicron variant — comes in, we’ll see a bump there, too. Still, adults 50 and over spent $821 million on tech in 2021 compared with $394 million in 2019. By 2030, the 50-plus market is projected to swell to $108 billion annually.

Labrador Caddie and Retriever provides an extra set of hands around the house to help with household chores.

Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids pair with the self-tuning mobile Bose app.

Hearing Aids and PSAPs

Last year’s FDA proposal to create a category of over-the-counter hearing aids was huge news for seniors, and companies are already jumping on board to create products that are nearly invisible, smart, and affordable — and that don’t require trips to a doctor or specialist. Products like the new Eargo 6 are still a bit pricey (starting at $1,450), but that’s still a drastic reduction from the several thousand dollars seniors have been used to shelling out for traditional hearing aids. Less pricey solutions like Bose’s SoundControl ($849) will certainly continue to crop up, bringing hearing help closer to the realm of everyday affordability.

Eargo 6 identifies the background noise and automatically reduces it, allowing speech to come through more clearly.

For those not ready for hearing aids, personal sound amplification products can be a huge help. Various products use directional mics, head tracking, and digital processing to make it easier to pick out what someone is saying to you in a noisy environment or if you have mild hearing loss. Companies like Noopl and Nuheara are leading the way here, and Apple even jumped into the game late last year by adding a Conversation Boost feature to its existing AirPods Pro earbuds so users can amplify and clarify sounds coming from the direction in which they are looking. Look for more of this to appear in true wireless earbuds in the near future.

Nuheara automatically calibrates the buds to your unique hearing profile.

Smart Watches

The days of clunky, pendant-style medical alert devices are over. Smart watches like the new LifeStation Sidekick Smart Wearable Medical Alert ($43.95 a month) are similar to ubiquitous products from Apple and FitBit. Sure, the Sidekick Smart has a built-in pedometer and heart rate monitor, as well as access to local weather info and GPS, but the killer app here is that it provides seniors two-way communication with an emergency monitoring center, and the sleek style helps take the stigma out of preventing falls and other mishaps from becoming lethal. (lifestation.com)

Noopl helps you hear clearly in noisy places so you can connect better with those around you.

Assistive Robots

As healthcare workers continue to be stretched thin by the pandemic, assistive robots like the Labrador Caddie and Retriever (introduced at CES 2022) can take at least some of the pressure off by providing an extra set of hands around the house to help with household chores. These $1,500 robots (plus monthly fee) can carry up to 25 pounds and follow you around most areas of your home, and they can be retrofitted to some appliances so they can even grab something out of your fridge. Control options include a voice assistant, wireless button, and of course tablet or phone. (labradorsystems.com)

Health Monitoring

The range of devices that can monitor your vitals is growing fast. One of the best things we’ve seen is Sengled’s Smart Health Monitoring Light (launching Q4 2022), which can track heart rate, temperature, and sleep (via radar), and has another potential use in fall detection.


I’m With the Brand

Located on one of the busiest corners of New York City’s vibrant SoHo neighborhood, the new JBL Store shines a hip yet approachable light on Harman’s portable audio and gaming products. We asked Jamie Feuss, the Director, Retail Store Experience at Harman International, about the audio company’s distinctive approach to brand storytelling and retail at both its JBL and Harman Stores across the globe.

Interview by Tom Samiljan


What’s the history of Harman as a retailer, including the JBL Store?

I was brought in when Harman wanted to launch a store back in 2013. My background was not just Tweeter for many years; I was also with Apple retail. So I spent a good amount of time out in that world of tech and electronics and opening up new stores in new parts of the country. Harman was obviously a manufacturer only then, and I was drafted to figure out where we should build stores.

My first suggestion was that we needed to build a store in SoHo, but for a lot of reasons, we ended up putting the Harman Store in Midtown, and that’s where we signed a lease for that store. Midtown was the right spot to expand, or actually shine a light on all of our brands, everything from Mark Levinson, Revel, and Infinity speakers to the entire line of JBL products including Pro, Synthesis, and portable. Midtown is a great tourist spot – people go to Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue, but the area doesn’t generate money, at least, per square foot. Still, it’s a great location for a marketing venue. And marketing and brand storytelling is a lot of what the Midtown store does. We also, pre-pandemic, used it for a lot of events, maybe two or three a month – everything from hosting a partner for our car business to having a pro dealer come to visit. In that space, we have a bigger stage area, we use Martin lights, which Harman makes, there, and there’s a bit more space and a downstairs showroom area that’s a bit more of a traditional high-end hi-fi store, where we shine a light on the complete line of Mark Levinson products, AKG headphones, Revel speakers, and more. We also have down there a full-blown JBL Synthesis theater, the kind you’d have at home if you were a studio director. So that’s the story we wanted to tell at that store, the story of Harman and Sidney Harman and how he expanded into the world of professional audio and make the Harman connection to consumers who maybe are driving their Lexus with Mark Levinson in it.


The JBL Store in SoHo is considerably different and seems to cater to a younger, hipper crowd with its mix of stylish portable audio and gaming products. How did this store come about?

The folks I reported to remembered that I told them we really should have a store in SoHo versus Midtown, even before the pandemic, because of the demographic that we wanted for JBL, and the amount of customers that we would see was going to be better than the ones in the offices around Midtown. My experience, not just at Apple but also at Tweeter, was that you try to put your stores where people actually are.

We had worked with design and architecture firm Gensler on the Midtown store as well as our store in Munich, so I knew their team well and so did Harman. We were pleased with what they had done so far and they knew all our products well. And the architect-designers that we worked with have deep knowledge of retail in general, because Gensler has a retail division that has done lots of stores, not just in New York but across the world. So we did a deep dive with them and said it’s really about JBL, so let’s focus on this in SoHo.


So tell us a little bit more about how the design of the store keeps that focus on JBL?

The building we settled on was chopped up to be two different spaces and it was too small, but it’s located on a corner with great exposure. However, it’s in a landmark district, so we couldn’t put big signage out on the front window. And what you inherit is also the door and the soffits and the windows that they’ve built. If I had my way, I wouldn’t have any emollient in between the windows, I’d have it wide open, but it is what it is.

That said, we wanted people who might be driving by or walking by, to see. And on the corner, if people look in from the street, they can see what’s inside. We realized we could make the digital displays in the store do anything we want them to do, and we could do the same with all the lights inside. So at night, we glow a little bit, almost like a spaceship, and during the holidays, or during an event, we’ll change up the video and the lighting, so it always looks a little bit different.

So for us, it was really about how can we use a moment when people walk by, what allows people to see through and not cut off lines of sight, what’s going to draw people in, and Gensler helped us figure that part out.

We really just focus on JBL here, even in the lighting and color design. So the little dot that looks like an exclamation point in the JBL logo neon sign on the back wall actually represents the original horn that JBL founder James B. Lansing created for the speaker. Now, if you look at the store’s floor, the little stage is the same orange color and it’s shaped like the dot of that horn, which makes more sense when you look closely at the floor and see that we ran the rest of the horn all the way to the back, where even the ceiling and back wall are orange.


Since one of the main focuses of the store is portable audio, it makes sense that you would have a few Harman Kardon products in here as well, but why not also AKG, which also makes headphones?

AKG does a lot with professional headphones, and its consumer line is not as expansive. Beyond that, AKG doesn’t do any of the portable gear, so we decided that for this iteration, we’d keep it very narrow. But you’ll see just a little bit of Harman Kardon – some speakers and headphones – but not as expansive.

We all know that in retail, especially in electronics, people want something that sounds different, even just to compare. In this store, Harman Kardon is the more premium headphone and costs a little bit more, and we have some pretty strong selling Harman Kardon portables that really fit into this line for a good/better/best type of comparison, or maybe an alternative at a higher price point. So we brought in Harman Kardon specifically for that customer who asks, “Well, do you have anything else,” so we can say “Yeah, compare it to this, see what you think about this.” And that’s really why there’s a little bit of Harman Kardon here. I don’t look at it as a big departure from JBL, because it’s still portable, but it does look different. And there is a story there, but for the masses, our best-known brand today is JBL.


What are three things you’ve done that have contributed to the success of the store?

I think one thing that I’ve tried to do is give the store manager, Andre Taylor, a whole lot of independence. I’ve been a store manager, and I’ve been a regional guy. When we opened the store, I told him it was his. Previously he’d been an assistant manager at the Harman store on Madison Avenue, and before that, at Ralph Lauren. I told him: You’re going to own it, you’ll hire and manage the people, and I’ll support you. Whatever you need that I can do, I’ll do.

Harman was looking to us for direction with retail and Andre has a lot of retail experience, as do I, and our marketing team and salespeople who deal with our national vendors have retail experience because that’s who they call on. In addition, Harman trusts us to merchandise it, to display it, and to talk about it. We help the company with its story because before Harman got to retail, it wasn’t telling its story to a lot of people, including the people who worked there. Now all of our new hires visit our stores, so they can learn more about the brand story.

I think this helps to foster and create a culture that maybe there wasn’t enough of before. People didn’t know the big story about Sidney Harman. It’s a big story. At Apple, we talked about Steve Jobs. At Tweeter, we talked about the brand stories for the brands we carried. So in this case here at Harman, we’re threading the needle for our people, too, even by just talking about the fact that Sidney Harman was an interesting guy. He started making Hi-Fi right here in New York City. He manufactured the very first FM stereo receiver. That wouldn’t have happened if Harman Kardon didn’t build it, at least not in 1957. It’s a cool thing.


Brand evangelizing and exposure aside, what other takeaways do the Harman and JBL stores generate?

One of the interesting functions of the Harman store being so multi-faceted is that there’s some fluidity with brands and merchandising. In the beginning, we had more shelves and we showed more of our boxes, and a lot of that was for our own dealers or to sign up new dealers because in 2013 we weren’t as big as we are now. And now we have people coming in from all over the world to see our stuff — some of those folks open stores of their own selling our stuff. And we’re a partner there, especially for a lot of the tri-state-area dealers that are in the luxury and high-end space. Because I don’t employ a team of people who can go install a theater in your home. So if a customer wants that, I’m going to turn over the lead to one of our existing dealers, and they’ll come to do a site inspection and give them good/better/best options. I’ll be the liaison and the host because we also show and sell our $75,000 JBL speakers, and nobody else in New York does. So if you’re going to see them, you’re going to see them in our space.

The same is true of the portable gear at the JBL store, where dealers come just to see how we merchandise everything from the lava lamp speakers. and tower party speakers to the gaming gear and the headphones.


How many other stores does Harman have, JBL-branded or otherwise?

We have a store in Munich, for a number of reasons. In 1995, Sidney Harman acquired a company outside of Munich called Becker, which supplied radios for a lot of German cars. And then he bought AKG, which is about 90 kilometers away from Munich in Austria. Becker is now part of the auto division of Harman, which makes audio for various brands. If you get into a Lexus, it’ll be a Mark Levinson sound system; for Lincoln, it’ll be Revel, and if you get into a Mercedes or BMW, it’ll likely be branded Harman Kardon. And there are some others that are branded Infinity, as well as some of our other brands.

So I was conscious of the fact that even though not all car companies are manufactured in Munich, a lot of the execs live there, even if many of the corporate offices are spread out across Germany. And since our European offices are in Munich, we decided to open up there. The store there is a Harman store and it’s big enough to fit a few cars. We have a space dedicated to Harman Kardon, but most of the front of the store is dedicated to JBL. There’s also a mix of headphones from AKG and JBL as well. We have a separate studio where we house our higher-end brands such as Mark Levinson, JBL Synthesis, and Revel, and we even have a small movie theater there, because of a lot of interesting technology around digital surround. JBL is in 70 percent of the movie theaters in the U.S., and somewhere near half the movie theaters worldwide, so we wanted to make sure people got that story, too.

Then we also have a store in Yokohama, Japan. This one is located in an outdoor mall that’s a converted marina space and is right on the water. It’s close to Toyota’s offices, and it’s been a home run for us. It’s small and not super sexy, but JBL is a big brand in Japan, so it’s focused on everything that you see here, but no Pro and no Synthesis.


Does Harman plan to open up more JBL or Harman stores?

I’m the guy in the company that has been saying since I joined that we should be opening more stores. I’ve opened dozens of stores for Apple and Tweeter, but Harman or JBL doesn’t have to have loads of stores. I wish I didn’t have to say that. I would certainly open up a fleet of them willingly, but we’re not Apple, which had to open stores because it was getting dumped by dealers. There might not be an Apple if it hadn’t opened up those stores.

The way it’s set up now, I get to keep it small, pick great people, and allow them to be entrepreneurial and independent. And we all have to be very collaborative not just with the other store teams, but with the marketing teams around the country and the world, because we’re an international company that’s now owned by Samsung. We don’t have to use Samsung stuff, but we do when we need it for tech reasons (as we do with Apple stuff). And I think there could even be some interesting mashups between what we’re doing here at the JBL Store and Samsung products across the globe. But at the end of the day, what I think has been fun is creating the new stores for the strategic reasons that we have, and then convincing the folks that I report to that we should open stores in a few more places.


What are your goals for the next year?

My goals are to propel the stores to the next place because it was a challenge to keep the stores open during the pandemic. In 2022, I’m looking forward to doubling our business, and we will. We’ve already done well with a pandemic. So for me, that’s it.

And then longer term, I’d love to open some more stores. I think there could be some fun towns to be in that aren’t just where we have offices, but where the music industry is or where more of the car industry is.


Is there anything in the operation of these stores that has not gone the way you expected? If so, what did you learn from it?

Well, the pandemic, but in a lot of ways, it was a relief. We were originally supposed to open the JBL Store in SoHo in the Spring of 2020. We were designing and building at the same time and that’s no fun because you are constantly snapping your fingers. But the pandemic gave us more time to design and refine the design and get it completely ready, so that as soon as the city issued us the permit to build, we were ready. Whereas with the Harman store we were in design and build mode from the moment I started at the company and I didn’t know all the players, so it was tricky. As a result of the pandemic, we did the SoHo store for less than half the cost of the Harman store, and even less than what it cost to build the average Tweeter store, which we had down to a science. I knew we could do it for less.


What, in your opinion, is the role of brick-and-mortar retail in today’s omnichannel world?

It’s the same as it’s always been, whether in mail-order in the past or e-commerce today, the differentiator is your people. Of course, you also have to have good stuff to sell, but if you have great stuff and you have great people, you’ll always be successful at retail.

The store on Madison Avenue, just like any store on Fifth Avenue, is not going to make a lot of money, but we always strive to keep people engaged, show them a great experience, and tell the brand stories. And then if they have a need, we try to uncover what the need is and show them some appropriate choices. People don’t just buy from people that they like, but from people who like them. So I always encourage the team to try to connect with people to let them get to know us a little bit. Because if they like you, they’re gonna buy, but if you like them, too, you can make some long-term friends.


CE Industry By The Numbers



… miles is the range on GM’s new BrightDrop vans which made headlines at CES 2022, where FedEx and Walmart placed orders for 2,000 and 5,000 of the vans, respectively.


…of consumers regard sustainability as an important factor in purchasing decisions, according to a recent study conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners.

$10 bn…

…is how much Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, spent on developing its stake in the metaverse in 2021.


… attendees descended on the Javits Convention Center in New York for the NRF’s 2022 annual trade show.

30 sec…

… is the time it takes for a cocktail to be crafted by Black & Decker’s new drink-making machine, aptly named bev. The device can connect to five different 750 ml bottles of alcohol and can create up to 40 unique cocktails.


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