Hong Kong

As the Hong Kong Electronics Fair & ICT Expo draws to a close, Appliance Retailer is wrapping up their coverage of the fair by taking a look at the biggest trends from Asia’s largest electronics fair. And some of them may surprise you.

Nostalgic audio products were popular this year.

3D Printing
One of the most dynamic and cutting-edge trends to date, 3D printing has made such a wave that a specially dedicated zone was set aside to showcase advancements in its technology. The vast majority of the 3D printers on show were designed to have industrial or commercial applications. Particularly popular were multi-filament models: Those able to output multiple colours or types of thermoplastic filament to create more diverse products. This increase in colour range allows for a greater range of products to be created, thus making them the new favourite for complex industrial printing.

However, 3D printers designed for the home-use market were also present. Of special note was the K8200 3D printer, manufactured by Velleman. Designed to be assembled by the home user, Senior Export Manager Pieter Nartus stated that with ever lowering costs, adoption of 3D printing in the household is about to boom. “It’s an incredible technology as people are only limited by their imagination. And once they realise that, and see just how wide the range of uses are, 3D printing becomes a lot more appealing.

His prediction appears to be bearing fruit: to date, Velleman has shipped over 12,000 units of their K8200. Currently on sale now with a limited number of suppliers in the Australian market, Nartus’s advice for any retailers looking to sell 3D printers in the future is simple: demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate!

Nartus also revealed a paradigm shift in the materials used in 3D printing. The two main thermoplastics used, ABS and PLA, were often used in equal measure. However, now industrial adopters of 3D printing are increasingly using only ABS due to its high level of durability and flexibility, while small commercial, jewellery based or home adopters are almost exclusively using PLA, as colours and textures in the finished product are often more violent (and ABS emits an unpleasant odour during the printing process. For those looking to sell 3D printing to the home market, Nartus advises to only stock PLA or be ready for customers complaining of horrible smells.

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Wireless Speakers
While the range of headphones and fashion headsets was certainly diverse, they were outnumbered almost two to one by a plethora of wireless speakers. Production demand, according to one exhibitor, has skyrocketed over the past year as Bluetooth technology continues to advance, allowing greater audio quality to be streamed from a longer range.

Desperate to cash in on the boom, multiple manufacturers showcased speakers in a plethora of different styles, gambling that detachable backpack speakers or audio equipment in the shape of everything from footballs to camera lenses would be the next ‘must have’ item. Though the over-saturation of units on display indicate no definitive trend as yet, it is certainly a buyers’ market and excessive competition from so many different manufacturers has reportedly driven costs down.

Power Banks
With personal smart devices becoming more and more ubiquitous, but with the battery life of those devices often unable to last longer than a day with regular use, it is no wonder that portable battery packs (or power banks) were so frequently on display. Much like wearable fashion, these devices are designed to be ‘seen and not heard’ and were available in a wide variety of colours and patterns to suit even the most fashion conscious.

Power Bank
A range of portable battery packs

Nostalgic Audio Equipment
A blast from the past was on the cards at the fair this year as record players, neon jukeboxes, wooden radio sets and even gramophones were spotted regularly on the show floor. Even more unusual was that a number of these did not differ in the slightest, function wise, from their defunct counterparts. Though there were certainly technologically advanced versions present, such as DJ turntables with integrated Bluetooth streaming mixers or wireless stereos disguised as old radio sets, some were simply the same old record players and jukeboxes that we fondly remember from ‘The Good Old Days.’


3D and Holographic Displays
Though poor performance and public opinion, coupled with the introduction of new innovations like 4K and OLED, has pushed 3D video firmly out of the television market, the technology has found a new lease on life in the product marketing category. The transition to screens built specifically to show 3D video is quite striking, especially as these displays do not require special glasses to achieve the effect.

On display (no pun intended) were a new generation of video advertising boards, much like the video displays already found in Australian shopping centres. While the video did suffer from a loss of quality due to the glasses-free technology, the 3D itself was convincing and was visible from any angle, not just straight on.

3D displays were also being used in a novel new way: inside disposable greeting cards. Though small, and only able to play a short looping scene (no longer than 15 seconds), the novelty factor of the cards was enough to ensure that booths showing these products always had a crowd.

A holographic display
A holographic display

Advancements in holographic projection were also present in the marketing field. Though science is still a while away from providing us with real life 3D holograms straight from the deck of the Millennium Falcon, the illusion can be achieved using a technique where multiple projectors project different parts of an image onto a glass pane to create the appearance of a 3D image.

If this years fair is any indication, this style of faux-holographic display will soon be featuring heavily in vending machines. As the image is simply projected onto glass, much like the glass at the front of every snack dispenser, the conversion is an easy one to make and is exceptionally effective at grabbing the attention of anyone near by. The hologram is able to project prices or information on or around the products inside the machine, can display video advertisements and is also able to completely obscure the products inside.

This last feature is designed to either show when a vending machine is out of order or to be able to obscure all products bar one or two, as a way of promoting a particular product. This journalist can confirm that having a vending machine appear to eclipse all other products except a specific can of coke is incredibly eye catching and could lead the way to a new field of promotion.

Wearable Technology
The subject of a previous article from this year’s fair, wearable technology was extremely present on the show floor. While smart watches, in the vein of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, were on display they took a backseat to fashionable fitness monitoring bracelets. Unfortunately for those hoping for any technological progress in this field, almost every device shown mimicked the features of established brands such as Fitbit’s Force (Heart rate monitors, basic sleep monitors, kilojoule counters etc), with little to no new features being added.

A colourful range of fashion bracelets.
A colourful range of fashion bracelets.

Child-Targeted Appliances
For every two range hoods or and quick boiling kettle at this years fair, there was a fairy floss machine or a popcorn maker in the shape of a pig. Demand for appliances targeted towards a youth has apparently risen over the last year. And according to Hanson Zheng, sales manager of Ningbo Zhenhal Xmll Craft Co Ltd, Australia is a big part of that boom; earlier this year they secured a nation-wide distribution deal for their MioU range of child-friendly appliances with Kmart Australia.

Other products on show included popcorn makers in the shape of footballs and a My First Fondue Set.

Kids popcorn machine, now available  in Kmart.
Kids popcorn machine, now available in Kmart.

Smart-Capable Automotive Accessories
It seems that the ‘smart’ revolution is set to encompass almost every industry as this years fair showcased all manner of smart and android enabled car accessories. While now well known devices like rear facing cameras, crash recording systems and in-car media players were on display, some truly remarkable innovations were present.

Steel Mate Automotive showed off their knowledge of both engines and app creation with the release of their Smart Engine Lock system. In the event a car is stolen, the unlucky party can log into their specially equipped car using their smartphone and remotely lock down the car’s engine, preventing it from moving without the approval of it’s owner.

Also of note were several ‘Top-Down’ car positioning systems. Using small cameras positioned around the outside of the car, a screen inside the vehicle is able to composite these images into one cohesive whole and then present that image as if one was looking at their car from a satellite, all in real time. This means that drivers are able to see everything occurring around their car at a quick glance, even if it is only used to help them perfectly line up a tricky parallel park.

For those not content to be away from their phone even while driving, some manufacturers have taken to incorporating tablet like functions right into the rear vision mirror of a car. Such features include the ability to make and receive phone calls (via an existing smartphone) and act as a GPS.

Iron Man
While it may sound like a joke, if one person could be called the official mascot of the Hong Kong Electronics Fair & ICT Expo, it was Marvel’s favourite armour-clad war machine. Iron Man themed products and accessories were frequent, and often for unusual products. Some of this journalist’s favourite branded products were an Iron Man clock, Iron Man headphones, Iron Man pizza oven and a (prototype) car engine cover designed to make it appear like Iron Man’s chest mounted power source, the arc reactor.

Ironman acessories
Ironman acessories