x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

3D printers and wearable technology at Las Vegas show catch UAE retailers’ fancy

The two categories stood out among the 20,000 product launches at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Electronics retailers expect 3D printers and wearable technology to make a big impact in malls across the Emirates this year.

The two categories stood out among the 20,000 product launches at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.

“We are excited this year with the way wearables are going. It will finally hit the mass market,” says Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics.

From smart watches, wrist bands and sensors that monitor body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, the options are wide and varied, and consumers in the UAE will have a greater choice this year.

One of the standout wearable products is a chip from Intel that can be embedded into a baby’s clothes to monitor the body temperature, breathing and heart rate. The activity is measured and shown on any connected device, even a mug as the company demonstrated.

“Apart from the usual product categories, the one of most interest is wearable tech in which we already started making a push in the last eight months or so,” says Nadeem Khanzadah, the head of retail at Jumbo Electronics. “With the kind of buzz there was on wearables at CES 2013, we decided to make a quick move into it… we are seeing a great response from the day we introduced these.”

Companies such as LG, Sony, Fitbit and Nike have all launched new wearable products intended to track a user’s health and entertainment choices.

“I like the baby monitor, it gives mothers vital information and I wouldn’t mind knowing how many steps I’ve taken each day and what increases my stress levels. It would be good to have that data to help make the right choices,” says Jean Castagnino, who works as an attendant at the show.

Jumbo and Jacky’s also stock 3D printers and with the launch of affordable, consumer-friendly printers this year, both retailers are expecting greater response from customers in the UAE. The technology is still at early stages, but it is now possible to print ceramics and even sugar-based sweets.

“We were the first retailer to start selling these [Cubify 3D printers] six months ago. There has been a lot of customer inquiries and interest but sales are on the lower side as it’s a nascent technology but we are seeing a steady increase in sales now,” says Mr Khanzadah.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicts 100,000 consumer 3D printers will be sold this year, most of them in the United States.

“We are getting the tools to make it easier, it will get cheaper and faster. It will be the type of product you can have at home. It is good for kids to play with and keep them entertained and educated,” says Mr Panjabi.

But not all the retailers are as enthusiastic about 3D printing.

“It is quite popular in America, although in our part of the world it is not very well known. It may still take some time for 3D printing to come to our countries. I don’t see too much potential for the end consumer, but it has some industrial and corporate use,” says Neelesh Bhatnagar, the chief executive at Emax Electronics.

“It would be cool to be able to print whatever I wanted or needed, but US$1,000 for a printer is still quite expensive. I can see how it would be worth it for someone that wants to do business with it, but I wouldn’t buy one,” says Henry Wolfson, a visitor at CES.

thamid@thenational.ae