The Kingston IronKey Vault Privacy 80 Memory Drive

A self-respecting hard drive that will self-destruct in the wrong hands

The story behind Kingston Technology, the Fountain Valley, California–based maker of solid-state storage—the flash memory found in everything from computers to USB sticks to cameras—is wonderful and not widely known.

The company was started in 1987 by two Chinese immigrants to the U.S., one a former chef, the other an electronics engineer. Working from a garage, they had built and sold a modest I.T. company over five years and planned to go into real estate.

However, they lost almost all their capital in the 1987 crash, and one morning were pondering what to do to survive over a coffee they could barely afford. The answer was a dip into the market for short-term memory, DRAM.

In a couple of minutes, the partners, John Tu and David Sun, came up with the new company, Kingston, and designed their first product inside of two days.

Within five years, Kingston was the fastest-growing privately held technology business in the country. Today, the company is the world’s largest in its market, and Tu and Sun, 81 and 71, respectively, are among the richest men in America, estimated to be worth at least $6 billion each. What makes Tu and Sun more exceptional still is their ethics. Living simple, uncomplicated lives, they are major philanthropists, and Kingston has become known for humane employment practices—they pay their employees well and help those who hit trouble in their lives—and products of unimpeachable quality.

Kingston’s latest device, designed and made in America, is the nearest thing to a glamorous external backup hard drive you will ever see.

Hyper-secure and for all practical purposes unhackable, the IronKey Vault Privacy 80 External SSD is a tech product you can trust your life to, perhaps the more so knowing the impeccable credentials of its creators.

The portable implement looks not unlike a prop in a 1960s James Bond movie—a smooth-contoured, hand-size hard drive with no features apart from a color touch screen. Type in a 6-to-64 digit code on-screen and the contents—from half a terabyte to two terabytes of data, depending on the model—become available to you. Type it in wrong too many times—30 is the limit—and your data disappears in a puff of digits. The information you will need to save the world will vanish forever, Mr. Bond … Ha ha ha.

The device is as unspectacular yet quietly excellent as Tu and Sun themselves. That is, until the day when you need a backup of your digital life and the IronKey Vault emerges as a dazzling superhero.

How secure is it? Well, Kingston says it’s “FIPS 197 certified XTS-AES 256-bit encryption with built-in protections against BadUSB, Brute Force attacks” and has a “Common Criteria EAL5+ certified secure microprocessor.”

We would be hard-pressed to say exactly what all that means, but those who understand data security say it’s super-secure, even if all its encryption makes it a little slow. But you know what? We trust these Kingston guys. The IronKey will make you, too, feel safer.

Just one small point for Mac users: You know how the IronKey needs a code punched in each time you access it? Well, that means it’s not suitable for use as a Time Machine external drive, as that requires a disc to be accessed automatically every few minutes. No, the IronKey is for keeping your latest business documents, novels, film rushes, whatever, secure. And then some.

The Bang & Olufsen Beolit 20 Speaker, Lunar New Year Edition

The B&O Beolit 20 Speaker, Lunar New Year Edition, $549.

East meets West in the form of this stylish take on a boom box

Not many electronics manufacturers are close to 100 years in business, but one of the world’s most stylish reaches its century mark the year after next. If you are ever in Bang & Olufsen’s home base of Struer, on the pretty west coast of Denmark, the small town’s museum hosts a terrific and extensive exhibition of the company’s products going back to 1925. What is striking is that even the earliest B&O pieces succeeded in being so futuristic they barely look like antiques.

With one eye on aesthetics, as ever, and the other on rarefied electronics in audio systems and TVs, B&O is marking the upcoming Lunar New Year (it starts Sunday, January 22, and it will be the Year of the Rabbit) with a special range of key products in green jade, red, and gold, the traditional New Year colors of many East Asian cultures.

You are rather spoiled for choice with the 2023 Lunar New Year collection, but we particularly love the powerful Beolit 20 Bluetooth wireless music player, a heavyweight (six pounds) lunch-box-style machine with a sophisticated 240 watts of 360-degree sound, a leather carrying handle, and a convenient wireless charging surface for your phone built into the top panel.

The Morphée Sleep-Aid Device

The Morphée sleep-aid device, $99.99.

A noise machine with enough sounds to satisfy the most particular of sleepers

If Danish tech, as exemplified by Bang & Olufsen, practically invented electronics with style, the French have the near monopoly on quirkiness. They were “thinking different” in France decades before Apple, and products from the huge French start-up culture are often quirky to the extent of being obscure.

This audio sleep aid, Morphée, new to the U.S. after being launched from Provence, in the lavender-scented South of France, two years ago, is both eccentric and, for those who have trouble sleeping, effective. The adult version of Morphée (there’s also a more conservative-looking children’s model at the same modest price) is made partly of wood and takes the form of a clockwork musical box, with gold-colored knobs to activate its wide variety of functions.

The device offers hundreds—perhaps too many—of combinations of soothing sounds, meditation sessions, and sleep-inducing musical material, playable through the built-in speaker or headphones. But we felt it’s the routine of using the curiously calming, retro little machine that is possibly its magic.

An additional aid to sleeping well is knowing you have 100 days to try Morphée out before requesting a refund.

The Withings Body Comp Scale

The Withings Body Comp scale, $209.95.

You’ll know more than you want to, but for a good cause

A gadget that measures everything from your weight and your bodily health to your stress level by reading your feet—and, by the by, gives you a localized weather forecast—may sound like something in a traveling fair a hundred years ago, but the 15-year-old Parisian technology company Withings is very much into science rather than snake oil, with input from leading medical schools.

Bathroom scales are one of their most refined product lines, and the top-of-range Body Comp is pretty extraordinary. Just step right up and it measures body weight, body fat, water percentage, visceral fat—the hidden fat wrapped around organs—muscle and bone mass, cardiovascular health (via “Vascular Age” and standing heart rate), and electrodermal activity—in other words, how much your feet sweat, which Withings says provides a window into your emotional state.

It’s certainly an intriguing, if mildly overwhelming, mass of data to have beamed at you first thing in the morning. It’s not a cheap scale, and Withings has an even more complex and costly one currently going through U.S. clinical and regulatory validation for release late in 2023.

Body Comp, which can be used by as many as eight people, will provide quite enough information for most of us, though. It’s a remarkable-looking piece of equipment and works in conjunction with a well-developed, slick Withings app, Health+. The app is free for the first year, but chargeable after that. (Inevitably, they always get you like that.)

You can, however, get plenty of functionality without the app if too much information from your gadgetry starts to exhaust you or, as you are now able to measure, stresses you out.

Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology