27 Oct 2014
Wearable Tech Dominates Proceedings at Hong Kong Electronics Fair
The Autumn 2014 edition of the Hong Kong Electronics Fair saw the ubiquity of wearable tech marked by the launch of a dedicated product zone. There also remained a strong showing from Bluetooth systems and smartphone accessories.
Wearable technology, smartphone-related accessories and Bluetooth systems dominated proceedings at the Autumn edition of the Hong Kong Electronics Fair. Commenting on the success of the latest iteration of the event, Benjamin Chau, Deputy Executive Director for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the organiser of the show, said: "Despite a slight drop in buyer attendance compared to last year, there were increases in the number of visitors coming from the traditional markets, including the UK and the Nordic region. Visitor attendance was also up from the emerging markets, notably Argentina, Mexico and Vietnam. Despite the weak economic environment in the mature markets, particularly the US and Europe, exhibitors and buyers still seemed willing to explore new business opportunities."
Overall, the show came during a good year for the sector in Hong Kong. According to Dr Lo Wai Kwok, Chairman of the HKTDC Electronics/Electrical Appliances Industries Advisory Committee, the value of Hong Kong's electronics products exports reached US$270 billion in 2013, a 6.7% rise on 2012. Putting those figures into perspective, Kwok said: "Hong Kong's electronics industry is the territory's largest merchandise export earner, accounting for 59% of Hong Kong's total exports in 2013. In the first eight months of 2014, the value of Hong Kong exports grew to US$183 billion, a 6% increase compared to the same period last year."
Addressing the event's focus on wearable tech, Chau said: "There is an increasing demand for new creative solutions in this sector. In response to this, we have introduced a dedicated Wearable Electronics product zone."
A quick tour around the event demonstrates just how ubiquitous this particular product sector has become. Faze In, a Hong Kong-based company, which started to produce watches five years ago, is now focussed on developing connected devices that link with smartphones and tablets via mobile apps.
Six months ago, the company, a licensed manufacturer of bumpers and straps for branded smartwatches, launched its proprietary EZIO range of smartwatches. This new line features incoming call alerts, message and email notifications and an out-of-range alarm. The 13-strong range of watches is designed in Italy and manufactured in China. Wayne Leung, Managing Director of Faze In, said: "We showcased our smartwatches in the Wearable Electronics Zone and met buyers from Southeast Asia and European countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK."
Another company exhibiting in the Wearable Electronics Zone was Burg Wearables, a Dutch company. This year, it was showing a range of wristband models that incorporate a SIM card, enabling users to call and message without accessing a phone. Leo Elenbaas, Chief Executive of Burg, said: "Smartwatches are now more than just a geek gadget – smartwatches are the future. More and more people now see how clever it is to have your phone strapped around your wrist. It's there for a quick check, whenever you want, wherever you are."
Similarly enamoured of the prospects of wristbound tech was Taiwanese exhibitor, Papago, also showcasing its range of smartwatches the Wearable Electronics Zone. Andy Chen, the company's Sales Manager, was particularly at pains to highlight several of the firm's latest smartwatch offerings, notably the IronMan (a multisport GPS watch), the Papago GoWatch 770 and the GoLiFE Care smart band.
Despite the ubiquity of wearable tech, there were still a number of companies focussing on other areas, though many were not entirely divorced from smartphones. The Shenzhen Litongwei New Energy Co, for instance, was in Hong Kong to promote its power bank technology. According to Ivy Kuang, the company's Regional Sales Manager LT-A10 model – roughly the size of a credit card – has the capacity to fully charge an iPhone twice over. The next model up in the range can, apparently, charge an iPhone four times before needing to be plugged back in.
Smartphones were also preoccupying SK Telecom, a Korean company keen to highlight its Smart Beam Wireless system, an ultra-mini wireless pico projector for smartphones. This was a follow-up to the original Smart Beam model introduced in September 2012. Shannon Lee, SK Telecom's New Business Manager, said: "The Smart Beam Wireless enables the projection of images on the wall or ceiling wirelessly, while the existing 4.6 centimetre cube-shaped projector Smart Beam is wired." With an eye on the future, SK Telecom recently invested KRW 2 billion (US$1.9 million) in the product's co-developer, Innoio, and now holds a 21% stake in the business.
Over in the Hall of Fame, Tunbow, a Hong Kong-based electronic appliances manufacturer, was promoting its new bean-to-cup coffee machine. It promised that further innovations in its coffee machines line would come to market in 2015. The company also introduced its first-ever range of steam mops at the Fair, as well as its latest dedicated soup maker. Charles Chan, Managing Director of Tunbow, said that his company had taken the decision to make parts in advance in order to reduce manufacturing lead times, and has invested heavily in this area. He said: "Customers are wanting products faster than ever, so having parts ready for assembly will ensure that we are able to meet their requirements."
With an eye more on the junior consumer, VTech Electronics, a Hong Kong-based specialist in phones and electronic toys, was showcasing the latest instalment in its InnoTab range of educational PC tablets for kids. The new InnoTab Max is the company's first product designed to work on the Android platform. Reon Wong, the company's Regional Marketing Manager, said: "InnoTab Max is the next generation in children's interactive play. It's an even faster console and features a two megapixel camera, the Kid Connect Premium app, Wi-Fi, a kid-safe Internet browser, a Movie Maker app, a media player, e-books and more."
Amid all the emphasis on wearable tech, Bluetooth products almost seemed a blast from the past. Sunny Yang, General Manager at Taiwan's Sangean Electronics, however, believes the system still remains very current, with the company's new radio products focussed on both Bluetooth and Internet platforms.
Among the company's latest products is the BTS-101, a portable stereo Bluetooth speaker utilising NFC technology and an auxiliary input for additional audio sources. Easily recharged, it comes with a built-in Lithium-ion battery.
Bluetooth was also in favour with Mipow, a Hong Kong company attending the show to highlight its Playbulb. This comprised a new Bluetooth Smart LED speaker-cum-light that allows users to combine light with music and control both from a mobile device. Bon Lam, Mipow's Vice-president, said the Playbulb was ideal for student dormitories, apartments or just around the house. The company also had on offer its latest range of smart power products.
Not every company, however, was in Hong Kong to promote new products. Some – such as Thonet & Vander, a speaker manufacturer from Germany – were in town to look for new partners to help grow distribution networks. According to International Sales Manager Peter Sarri, Thonet & Vander is particularly keen to take the Hoch – its latest Bluetooth speaker system, featuring volume, treble and bass control, dual RCA stereo input and 70W RMS – into new markets. Sarri said: "We have an audio laboratory dedicated exclusively to enhancing our products, both in terms of acoustic structure and technological capabilities. At the same time, our art department focusses on ensuring our products are both functional and attractive."
The Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Autumn Edition) took place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 13-16 October. More than 95,000 buyers attended the four-day show, which was held in tandem with electronicAsia.
Simon King, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong