This was the 50th anniversary of consumer tech conference CES, and health was present more than ever before. While some technologies introduced have clear immediate use, others only hint at what will be possible months or years down the road. Here is what we feel will be the top ten tech health trends for 2017 based on what we experienced at CES.
ONE – Wearables
In 2015/2016, wearables were the big thing at CES. This year, there were still a ton of wearables to see. However, there was much less focus and buzz around the traditional smartwatches and fitness trackers.
The usual suspects like Fitbit and Fossil had a huge booths, but they didn’t have very exciting offerings. Fitbit was touting a software update to their app to add a community aspect (similar to a Facebook wall for friends on Fitbit) and a goal setting app.
Fossil was showcasing new “stylish” smartwatches by partnering with fashion brands like Armani Exchange and Skagen.
However, the category evolved into many new types of wearables. We saw things like rings, sneakers, pajamas, pet collars, and accessories.
Withings, who pushed their smartwatch last year, instead focused on their smart hairbrush (which got a lot of attention as possibly the most random product to launch). In partnership with L’Oreal, they showed the world’s first-ever smart brush with sensors to score the quality of hair and monitor the effects of different hair care routines.
There was a wristband called the Reliefband Neurowave that aids in motion sickness by sending pulses to a nerve on your wrist to block nausea. They are currently pitching it for morning sickness in pregnant women. However, they also had a booth in the VR section to show themselves as a solution for motion sickness from VR headsets. I talked to the workers in the booth, and they also mentioned it was being explored for chemo patients.
Another cool wearable was a sensor that tracks contractions in pregnant women. Bloomlife can be worn on the belly for a week and can help avoid false alarms. In the same category, there was huge buzz around Willow, a wireless wearable that offers nursing mothers a discreet way to pump.
And wearables are no longer only for humans. There were many pet wearables on display. Several start-ups showcased versions of collars that can tell your dog’s location, mood, etc. They even can blink LED lights if your pet has gotten loose.
Why it’s relevant: These products give the power to the consumer to improve health and monitor existing conditions. These devices continue to help patients live better lives versus just bombarding them with meaningless data.
TWO – Artificial Intelligence/Voice Assistants
Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominated the show, with a number of new connected devices adding Amazon Alexa support. Many new phones, TVs and cars announced this year use Amazon’s voice assistant.
The weirdest one was LG’s Smart Instaview refrigerator. The fridge features a 29-inch touch LCD display that can turn transparent to allow users to look inside the refrigerator without opening the door. The vision for the Voice Assistant aspect is that it will help search recipes, play music or add items to a shopping list.
Simplehuman debuted the Sendor, a trash bin that responds to voice-commands to make it a hands-free disposal system. Even cooler, a Wi-Fi version will be released in May that can track your trash bag status and be paired with Amazon’s Dash Replacement service to order more.
Car companies like Ford and Volkswagon also integrated Alexa and Honda created their own platform called HANA, all giving options to get weather updates and navigation help as you drive and also even personalize the driving experience.
While at a much smaller scale, the Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana assistant were also being incorporated into a handful of TVs and cars.
Why it’s relevant: These products can help patients organize their lives or manage treatment plans. In the home, they can aid in long term care situations or post-op circumstances. Additionally, they make information available to any doctor or patient instantaneously, which can help with keeping people on therapy or getting the most out of patient-physician dialogue. In the future, it may even help improve Pharma’s R&D.
THREE – Smart Home (IoT)
Outside of Alexa, we saw many other interesting products for the home.
Laundry was huge, with Samsung debuting a four-in-one system called the FlexWash + FlexDry system that allows you to do two loads of laundry at once. LG had a similar product called TwinWash, as well as the LG Styler, a $1,999 plug-in closet product designed to de-wrinkle, deodorize and “sanitize” your clothes in between trips to the dry cleaner.
Griffin introduced a Connected Coffee Maker that is Bluetooth-enabled and works with a companion smartphone app to create a brewed-to-order cup of coffee on demand.
The Moen U smart shower is a digital controller that allows you to get the shower to the proper temperature through a smartphone app. It also can set timers and automatically turn off your shower after a specified time.
We also saw a new generation of security. Kwikset, industry leaders in smart locks, showed their Obsidian, a black-panel lock with a unique pincode login system that first displays two randomized numbers that the user presses before entering their designated passcode. By forcing a randomized entry before the standard passcode, the device discourages wear and fingerprint evidence only on often-used passcode numbers.
Air quality within the home was addressed by companies like BreezoMeter and Plume Labs showcasing a variety of sensors and air quality conditions that are monitored to make the air in the home safer and healthier.
Why it’s relevant: This will not only help save energy and money, but it can make the lives of people easier, healthier and provide convenience that frees up time to focus on other things.
FOUR – Virtual Reality
After exploding on the scene in 2016, VR continued its presence at CES this year. We saw new accessories and technologies aiming to make VR more mainstream.
Microsoft promoted wired VR headsets as low as $400, which is much lower than the current price of the top-selling HTC Vive or Oculus Rift that came out at CES 2016.
Intel showed a wireless headset called Project Alloy will be available by year end. We also saw an example of this in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 headset.
Why it’s relevant: In general, not many new VR devices launched. However, it was clear that there was progress in becoming more mainstream. This could have huge implications in healthcare, with some products already being used for physician training and to enable doctors to witness surgeries. This could also have future implications for patients, with talk of using VR to help patients with pain or to help patients, especially children, in hospitals to relax.
FIVE – Laptops/Gaming
At the show, we saw many new and upcoming thin-and-light notebooks with better battery life. Additionally, the 2-in-1 trend for touchscreen notebooks and tablets continued, with many models in the works from Dell and Lenovo.
Dell debuted the first 8k display (four times the pixels of 4K). The Ultrasharp 32 Ultra HD 8k monitor starts at $4,999.
I’m told it’s a good year to be a PC gamer given the beginning of laptop improvements. Samsung developed the Notebook Odyssey, the company’s first-ever gaming laptop built specifically with upgradability in mind.
Nvidia announced that it is bringing gaming to the masses with GeForce Now, a service that lets basic Windows and Mac computers connect to powerful gaming machines in the cloud.
Razer came with two big concepts. They had an experimental Project Valerie laptop boasting three 4K, 17.3-inch IGZO panels powered by a Nvidia GeForce 1080 GPU and their Ariana, which uses a projector to expand the picture from a TV to fill the entire wall and make gaming more immersive.
Hardcore gamers could check out the $9,000 Acer Predator 21 X, a notebook with a huge, and curved, 21-inch screen and desktop PC graphics cards.
Why it’s relevant: As laptops continue to improve and become more user friendly, there is potential to help improve patient visits and EMR data input.
SIX – Robots
This year’s CES also unveiled some new robots. Most voice-activated helpers are essentially smart assistant devices like an Alexa, but they can move around your home.
Kuri, an adorable personal robot with “emotive eyes and a friendly disposition” has a camera that can capture photos and video, recognize faces, and monitor your home when you’re away.
Mattel’s Aristotle is an Amazon Echo assistant programmed to specifically understand your child and their speech patterns. It’s build to live in a child’s room instead of around the entire home.
Bubblelab, based in China, brought its proof of concept Robotic Barista.
Why it’s relevant: Robots are already being used in surgeries for precision. However, there were additional implications on display at CES, such as use in telemedicine to bring patients in remote areas access to doctors. Lastly, as we start to see them being used in the home, they can aid in patient care.
SEVEN – Sleep
For the first time, CES dedicated an entire area to sleep technology. The new 360 Smart Bed from Sleep Number got the most attention. The bed included air chambers that adjust automatically during the night in response to movements or inactivity.
There were also multiple lighting products to help people go to sleep or wake up. The Helia LED smart bulb will sync up with sunrise and sunset and gradually remove blue light from the bulb’s spectrum throughout the day to reduce exposure to blue light before bedtime.
Sensorwake introduced the Oria, a diffuser for your nightstand that claims to promote restful sleep by smell. The company worked with the Swiss fragrance manufacturer Givaudan to develop aromas, which include scents like lavender.
Why it’s relevant: Sleep is key to good health and recovery! Quality of sleep and data around that quality is becoming a component of personal data and management of health.
EIGHT – Drones
In addition to having a full wing on the floor, CES hosted its premier “Drone Rodeo.” The offsite event featured demos, product launches and interactive flight sessions over the desert.
In general, we saw drones more geared at consumers. Airblock, a Kickstarter-funded project, offers a system where the drone is constructed by snapping magnetic parts together like Legos. It can be configured into different shapes and programmed through their app. Its modular design allows for endless variations and the drag and drop programming is simple enough for kids to use.
The Hover Camera Passport is a selfie drone, hovering around and snapping pictures of you.
The PowerVision PowerRay is an underwater drone that uses sonar and LED lures to hunt and film fish.
Why it’s relevant: Drones offer interesting opportunities for healthcare, including the possibility of emergency medical services via drone saving lives. This technology could impact the supply chain as well. Overall, it also impacts the trending toward real-time expectations. When people can receive their Amazon packages via drone in under 15 minutes, they may also expect other services to be delivered immediately.
NINE – Cars
The focus at CES was around bringing both electric and self-driving cars closer to reality.
Self-driving car prototypes were shown at CES 2017 by NVIDIA, and BlackBerry also revealed plans to develop technology for making self-driving vehicles.
Biggest buzz was around the Faraday Future FF91, a futuristic-looking Tesla competitor with a cool design, fast speed, and the ability to park itself without your help. Production begins in 2018 for this awesome car that boasts facial recognition, battery range of up to 378 miles, and three electric motors good for 1050 HP.
Honda showed its NeuV, a two-seater meant to act as a ride-sharing vehicle that includes emotion-sensing features, and Honda showcased a self-balancing, self-driving motorcycle.
Car company Hyundai also showcased a medical mechanical human exo-skeleton called a H-MEX, that is designed to provide someone with complete to partial assistance for walking and motion.
Why it’s relevant: Self-driving cars will allow patients to get to the doctor’s office or anywhere else they need to go. Additionally, the life-saving estimates for driverless cars has been compared to modern vaccines that save close to 42,000 lives, according to CDC. Meanwhile, as Hyundai showed, the engineering that has enabled incredible things in car manufacturing could bring miraculous innovation to healthcare.
TEN – TV
After years of focus on the curved TV, we saw a shift in focus this year. CES 2017 was all about how thin TVs could get.
LG showed off TVs at the show that were so thin and light, they have to be placed on walls with magnets. The LG Signature W was so thin, people said it looked like a poster and was dubbed a “Wallpaper TV.”
While only available at an event and not on the floor, I also heard a lot about LG Display’s transparent TV that that looks like a window when it’s off.
Additionally, after UHD (Ultra-high definition) TVs went mainstream in 2016, HDR (high dynamic range) was the big thing this year. There were 4K HDR displays everywhere, with brands touting picture quality.
Why it’s relevant: Entertainment! Traditional TV has been losing viewers, which impacts advertisers – but could this bring them back? And also, as picture clarity continues to improve, so could viewing of medical shows or surgeries.