Unlike most years at this time, I am not in Las Vegas experiencing the Consumer Electronic Show. I’m bummed to miss out on one of my all-time most favorite conferences and exhibitions, and on seeing so many of my friends who are there.
Still, I'm not missing out on the next generation of consumer technologies, because I am spending this week in South Korea. My family and I are taking advantage of the reopening of travel in Asia and have been spending the better part of three weeks traveling through Japan and Korea.
I have always been impressed with the consumer technology leadership of Japanese and Korean companies, and the breadth and depth of cutting-edge technology usage across their societies. This trip has shown me that Asian tech leadership is only accelerating.
The mobile phone apps to manage immigration and COVID clearances into each of the countries are straightforward and simple to use. The totally automated entry into the Incheon airport entering Seoul was the fastest, easiest and most automated international entry that I have ever made.
Language translation apps for both spoken and written Japanese and Korean have not only been simplified, but their use has become routine in restaurants, stores and taxis in both the big cities and small villages we’ve been in.
Mobile-enabled point-of-sale tech for ordering and paying at the table in restaurants -- only recently discovered in the U.S. when COVID hit -- has been available in Europe and Latin America for years, but is implemented at the next level in Korea and Japan. It’s not just the IT systems integration that’s impressive, it’s the seamless integration into the culture and operation of restaurants, and interactions with customers.
The efficient and smart integration of all the new consumer technologies into daily life here is what strikes me the most. It’s not just about tech as a curiosity, but tech as a time-saver and helper. That element of use is missing at CES. All across the Las Vegas Convention halls, you can see the new tech in amazing displays, but you can’t see them in everyday action. That’s what’s happening here.
Am I missing the massive displays of the latest TVs, gaming devices, AI-driven appliances, electric vehicles? Nope. All I need to do is go into The Hyundai department store next to the COEX mall. The home of the future is on display there, just up the escalator on floor 3.