Consumer Electronics Show 2013 (2 of 4): Digital Healthcare Goes from Geek to Chic

HAPIforkDigital healthcare has finally gone mainstream, as evidenced by the speaker presentations and products that created a buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas. Long known as a tech geek paradise, CES showcases the latest and greatest in cutting-edge consumer electronics.

A keynote presentation, given by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, focused on the benefit that the use of IT in healthcare can bring to people worldwide. “…[W]hat makes this a transformational moment is the barriers to innovation in the industry are coming down,” he said.

Illustrating that point, the competition in the health tech products field is being ignited by a convergence of more-affordable sensor technology and heightened consumer demand driven by increasing healthcare costs. Additionally, the wearable device market is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2014, with a rapid growth in sensors, components, and system integration, according to a report published last fall by Juniper Research.

Healthcare was embedded into CES with the second annual Digital Health Summit, featuring such high-profile speakers as Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Reed Tuckson, and Dr. Otis Brawley. With such nationally recognized thought leaders participating in CES, the message of technology in healthcare was elevated even further. Similarly, the super session was headlined by Arianna Huffington and Deepak Chopra, who discussed devices that let us monitor everything from our stress levels to genetic sequences.

But the real stars of CES were the many health-related products that were launched. Among the products was an array of wristbands, belts, and other sensor-enabled wearable devices to monitor one’s lifestyle and fitness level. In the FitnessTech zone, more than 220 companies were on display, a 25% increase over last year. Below are the top five health-related products of the show.

Buzzworthy products

What better way to get people interested in taking care of their health than leveraging the ubiquitous smartphone that most people can’t seem to live without? Using smartphones and tablets, apps can now process personal healthcare data in real time, providing feedback and instant gratification that will spur users to stay on the right track.

The Fitbit Flex is a wristband that tracks activity and sleep patterns and syncs with a smartphone app to show you how active your lifestyle is. It syncs with an Android (Samsung Galaxy S III or Note II) device or iPhone via Bluetooth and uploads the data to an app as well as to an online profile. The band can measure how many steps you’ve taken, calories burned, and quality and amount of sleep. Four LED lights on the band show you how far along you are toward meeting that day’s goals. It will also gently buzz to wake you in the morning.

The biometric device Spree measures your temperature, tracks your movement, and monitors your heart rate. The device then streams that information to an iOS or Android app you can use to help you enhance your body’s performance. This information, along with data on distance traveled, speed, time, and calories burned, is then transformed into graphs to track progress.

Taking it one step further, GeoPalz incorporated gamification into getting fit, appealing to the younger generation. The ibitz PowerKey for kids connects to any Bluetooth-ready smartphone and uses a pedometer to track activity. This physical activity is then converted into “keys,” which unlock rewards, such as games, apps, shows, and custom prizes. There’s also an in-app GeoBotz character, which needs healthy food, exercise, and plenty of water to stay fit, mirroring the child’s health.

In addition to smartphone-leveraged devices, stand-alone electronic health-related gadgets also burst onto the scene.

Some of the biggest buzz in digital healthcare out of CES surrounded the HAPIfork, an electronic fork that helps you monitor and track your eating habits. It also alerts you with the help of indicator lights when you are eating too fast.  The data that it collects is uploaded via USB to an online dashboard to track your progress. The HAPIfork also comes with the HAPILABS app plus a coaching program to help improve your eating behavior.

In a much larger form factor, HealthSpot launched a cutting-edge telehealth system that provides high-quality medical diagnostic technology to patients anytime, anywhere. HealthSpot Station is a walk-in kiosk that will be located in everyday locations like pharmacies and grocery stores for patient diagnosis and medical treatment. Not only was this product launched at CES—showcasing the future of telemedicine—the healthcare kiosk was hand-picked by CEA (the organizing association for CES) for a premium location between two of the main exhibit halls. That location maximized foot traffic by the kiosk and increased the chatter surrounding digital in healthcare.

Looking to the future

With the decreasing costs of sensors and increasing interest in convenient ways to stay healthy, the digital healthcare market is sure to skyrocket in the future. Super-cool apps and wearable devices will continue to become daily staples in our lives. Could stillsuits be far behind?

CES 2013 Series:

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