CES Unveiled’s preview of health tech at CES 2018

CES Unveiled, Metropolitan Pavilion, NYC, Thursday 9 November

The Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) press preview of the gargantuan CES 9-12 January 2018 Las Vegas event was the first of several international preview ‘road shows’. It’s a benchmark of the ebb and flow of health tech and related trends on the grand scale. Gone are the flashy wearables which would change colors based on our sweat patterns and heart rate, or track the health and movement of pets. Now it’s the Big Issues of 5G, AI, machine learning, AR/VR, and smart cities. Entertainment, especially sports, are now being reinvented by all of these.

The developments this Editor gleaned from the mountain of information CEA plies us keyboard tappers that are most relevant to healthcare are:

  • Wireless 5G. As this Editor has written previously from Ericsson and Qualcomm, 5G and 5G New Radio will enable amazingly fast mobile speeds and hard-to-believe fast connectivity by 2019. It will enable IoT, self-driving cars, cars that communicate with each other, reconstruction of industrial plants, electric distribution, multimodal transport, and perhaps the largest of all, smart cities. The automation of everything is the new mantra. Accenture estimates the impact will be 3 million new jobs (nothing about loss), annual GDP increased by $500bn, and drive a $275bn investment from telecom operators.
  • AI.  Society will be impacted by machine learning, neural networks and narrow (e.g. calorie counting, diagnostics) versus general AI (simulation of human intelligence). This affects voice-activated assistants like Echo, Alexa, and Google Home (now owned by 12 percent of the population, CES survey) as well as robotics to ‘read’ us better. These conversations with context may move to relationships with not only these assistants but home robots such as from Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri (which this Editor attempted to interact with on the show floor, to little effect and disappointment). Oddly not mentioned were uses of AI in ADL and vital signs tracking interpreted for predictive health.
  • Biometrics. This will affect security first in items like padlocks (the new Bio-Key Touchlock) using fingerprint recognition and smart wallets, then facial recognition usable in a wide variety of situations such as workplaces, buildings, and smartphones. Imagine their use in items like key safes, phones, home locks, and waypoints inside the home for activity monitoring.
  • AR and VR. Power presence now puts viewers in the middle of a story that is hard to distinguish from reality. The pricing for viewers is dropping to the $200-400 range with Oculus Go and Rift. At the Connected Health Conference, this Editor saw how VR experiences could ease anxiety and disconnectedness in older people with mobility difficulties or dementia (OneCaringTeam‘s Aloha VR) or pain reduction (Cedars-Sinai tests). The other is Glass for those hands-on workers [TTA 24 July] and heads-up displays in retail.

CES is also hosting the fourth Extreme Tech Challenge. Of the ten semi-finalists showing down on 11 January, three are in healthcare: Neurotrack to assess and improve memory; Tissue Analytics that uses smartphone cameras to assess wounds and healing; and (drum roll) the winner of TTA’s Insanely Cute Factor competition, the Owlet smart sock for baby monitoring [TTA’s backfile here]. One of the judges is Sir Richard Branson, who will host the finalists on 28 February on Necker Island (which hopefully will be rebuilt by that time).

After the nearly two-hour briefing, CEA hosted a mini-show on the ground floor of the Metropolitan. There was a tiny taste of Living in Digital Times, held at the Sands Expo and hosted by Robin Raskin. The marketplace covers baby tech, health & wellness, family & kids tech, sleep tech, fitness, and doesn’t forget wearables. Robin’s selection at CESU included TytoCare, where Chief Revenue Officer Jeff Cutler talked about their building business and case studies with health systems, large practices, and schools; and, interestingly, the controversial Healbe GoBe. Yes, this is the same Healbe GoBe that seemed dodgy to this Editor and didn’t work well when she saw it at CE Week 2014 and later was eviscerated in several PandoDaily articles on its touted ability, or lack thereof (TTA’s compilation here), to read calorie intake and expenditure through the skin. It seems that the GoBe2 has finally arrived at tracking calories, fat, carbs, and protein with some accuracy, using a piezoelectric impedance sensor to track your cells releasing water as they absorb the new glucose after a meal. It’s still clunky, but Engadget liked it especially for sleep and stress tracking. (This Editor couldn’t collar their presenter in a reasonable time, so couldn’t see it for herself.)

Spartan was back with its nicely fitting men’s boxer that protects private parts from 99 percent of phone radiation. They claim that radiation leads to a 50 percent reduction in sperm production for men who keep their smartphone in their pocket for 4+ hours daily, and a risk of developing testicle cancer. 

click to enlargeThis Editor’s final visit was with Germany’s OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, a CES Innovation Awards honoree for their SFH 4735 emitter. This emitter is a blue 1 mm2 chip in UX:3 technology. Its light is converted to infrared radiation for spectroscopy that can analyze the absorption spectrum to determine molecular compounds. This means a relatively small device (the Scio) paired with a smartphone app can analyze food (like the cantaloupe at left), using machine learning to determine calories, freshness, and food quality. The device also analyzes and identifies medications, which is extremely helpful with loose or hard to identify pills (release). Not at CESU was an earlier announced OSRAM project with Partners Connected Health Innovation to explore the use of light in disinfecting healthcare environments (release). This would be competitive with Purple Sun, seen by this Editor at NYCEDC’s Digital Health Marketplace Pilot Day in June, which is working with Northwell Health.

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