CES + NRF = OMG Innovation

January’s explosion of new gadgets and gears is best summed up by Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty
I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want thingamabobs?
I got twenty
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more

Unlike this water nymph though, we care. And after reading about the coolest products from both the Consumer Electronics Show and the National Retail Federation expo, we couldn’t possibly take on any more innovation lest we go cross-eyed. So, without further ado, here are some of the top trends and hardware picks we think are poised to break new ground in the retail and hospitality space:

Upgrade From Old To Smart

LoopPay and its new smart phone covers will make mobile payments as easy as a swipe.

LoopPay and its new smart phone covers will make mobile payments as easy as a swipe.

Paying with cash seems so blasé. Plastic? 2012. The increasing adoption of mobile wallets has been validated with the introduction of Apple Pay and other key players making large investments in the technology. But not every retailer has upgraded their point of sale system to accommodate this payment shift creating a blue-sky opportunity for disruption.

We’re already familiar with LoopPay, a mobile payment solution that works with legacy terminals which are found in nearly 90% of merchant locations today. It works by allowing you to emulate a card swipe with your phone. The nice thing is that you needn’t worry about upgrading to a new smartphone that supports the system. At Sin City this month, LoopPay announced they are partnering with new OEM partners including case maker Trident and XPAL Power, which will manufacture replacement back covers starting with the Galaxy S5. The idea is that you can digitize all your existing credit cards and pay with your phone instead. The LoopPay case ($60) for the iPhone 6 will be available in February.

Or maybe you want something that requires even less of an effort the next time you pay for your latte. Or unlock your car door. Or access your office building. Enter the Nymi Band. Using your own heartbeat as a unique identifier, this wearable bracelet ($149) confirms who you are in order to remember passwords, unlock devices, and even make wrist-swipe payments. In a world where passwords are so pervasive, imagine one bracelet to rule them all.

Wearables

Track your every movement to improve posture and flexibility.

Track your every movement to improve posture and flexibility.

First on the scene were fitness-tracking devices like the now-shuttered Nike FuelBand and Fitbit bracelets. Then came smart watches like Pebble, followed by the more in-your-face (no, literally) accessories like Google Glass. You get it. In short, the proliferation of new wearable devices ain’t slowing down anytime soon.

We admit that the design is a bit clunky, but Belty’s technology has promise.

We admit that the design is a bit clunky, but Belty’s technology has promise.

What about a wearable device in the form of clothing? Meet the XelfleX, a fitness shirt that uses fiber optic fabric to measure vital signs and produces a 3D replica of your movements. Though still in early stages of development, the smart shirt’s ability to accurately track how well your body is moving opens the door to a wide range of possibilities for athletes, coaches, and fitness freaks everywhere. Also, we’re kinda digging the sleek, high-fashion style, a la Tron.

Real-Time Tracking

eBay and retailer Rebecca Minkhoff team up to create “magic mirrors.”

eBay and retailer Rebecca Minkhoff team up to create “magic mirrors.”

Meanwhile, out east, the NRF show heralded more tech retail innovation than we could shake a (selfie) stick at. Tracking the consumer in store or tracking products in real-time is resulting in more streamlined and highly personalized buying experiences. Technology is creating a new breed of personal shopping.

eBay teamed up with tres chic designer Rebecca Minkoff to create the ultimate connected store. The result is a full-body interactive mirror wall that tracks what items you bring into the dressing room using tag sensors and displays them on screen. Need a new size or color? Select your preferred style and someone on the floor will be notified to bring it directly to your room. The smart dressing room also allows you to change the mood lighting and save sessions for even more personalized service. The best of the online shopping world is now brought into the physical.

Another tracking mechanism involves a smart drink cooler that can toggle back and forth between displaying real-time ads to local sports team promotions on game days. We can foresee that type of personalized messaging shuffling into retail stores as well. What about using tablet devices as connected scales to determine how much beer a restaurant still has on tap? Yep, NRF had that too. For a round up on other OMG cool technology at the Big Show, watch this.

Forbes columnist Kevin O’Marah prognosticates it best when it comes to consumption in the digital age. “Most volume still moves in traditional ways, but consumer behaviour is already well down the road to where the Jetsons live. Now retailers want to get them to Jetsons-style shopping.”