There are enormous number of products on display at CES, ranging from the wacky to the fun to the useful to the essential. And some are potentially life saving.
So, in between looking at big screen TVs, cool concept cars, robots, home appliances and all the other products on display, I spent my time at the health and fitness-and-wearables area at the Sands Convention Center and spoke with some of the speakers at the 10th annual Digital Health Summit, sponsored by Living in Digital Times. Â At a post-summit dinner, Pamela Spence, the global health sciences and wellness industry leader at the consulting firm Ey, described the health technology world as the coming together of âbehavioral science, medical science and data science.â Sheâs right, but at least for some players, Iâd add a bit of sorcery, wishful thinking and, of course, hype.
Apple didnât have a presence at the show but I saw a lot of people wearing the Apple Watch, including the latest version with fall detection and electrocardiogram and AFib monitoring. Withings, which has long been a CES staple with its line of scales, blood pressure monitors and smart watches, showed off the Move ECG, an analog smartwatch, which âgives you the opportunity to take an ECG anytime and anywhere,â along with letting you know if you have an AFib episode.â Unlike the Apple Watch, which needs to be charged nearly every night, the Withings Move has a 12-month battery life and is slated to cost $130, a third of the starting price for an Apple Watch.
Omron, the company that makes blood pressure monitors sold in drug stores, has been at CES for at least two years, showing off prototypes of is blood pressure watch. But now itâs real. The FDA approved Heartguard, which costs $499, looks like a typical smartwatch with the ability to track movement, monitor sleep patterns and deliver notifications. But when you lift it up, you see a blood pressure cup that can inflate around your wrist to measure your blood pressure. An Omron employee admitted that itâs not for everyone but for people who have been diagnosed with hypertension who need to monitor their blood pressure on a regular basis.
Omron was also showing off its own version of the Kardia Mobile ECG monitor that I recently reviewed. Like Kardia Mobileâs own monitor, itâs marketed to people who have been diagnosed with a higher risk of heart problems, which is a different approach from Appleâs approach to put this technology on the wrists of everyone, including people with no symptoms or known risks.
I keep wondering if weâll ever see a watch that can monitor blood glucose, but we are a step closer thanks to the Abbott FreeStyle Libre, which is a wearable device that continuously monitors blood sugar without the need for finger sticks. You wear it on your arm and scan the device with an iPhone or their proprietary monitor for an instant reading. It does require a flexible filament inserted just under the skin, but there is no need to draw blood.
Welt was on the show floor with its âwellness belt,â which looks like a stylish belt for keeping up your pants but also includes a âfall detectorâ that analyzes the way you walk to âassess your risk of fall based on your gait pattern.â Falling is a major risk of hip fracture and other serious issues for seniors. It also measures changes in your waist size and detects how long youâve been sitting. Their brochure claims âwaist reduction of 0.8 inches in 12 weeks,â but Iâm pretty sure that requires diet and/or exercise. If all it required were wearing the belt, Iâd order one as soon as I get back from Vegas.
Iâm wearing an old-fashion leather belt, but Iâm also wearing Touchpoints on each wrist. Theyâre about the same size and shape as an Apple Watch with a stylish steel band. But there is no display, only a switch on a light on each one. The $160 gadget is advertised to reduce stress, a useful tool at a chaotic show like CES. In technical terms, the devices provide âbilateral alternating stimulation in tactile (BLAST) form technology,â and the company cites a research article from the Journal of Biotechnology and Biomedical Science that it âhas been shown to modulate the electrical activity of brain networks that mediate the stress response, resulting in a stress-reducing effect in individuals with high reported levels of anxiety.â
I have one on each wrist (along with my Fitbit on one wrist and Apple Watch 4 on the other) but you can also hold them in your hand or even put them on bra straps or other parts of your body as long as the two units are symmetrical. I canât vouch for the research but I can say that when theyâre powered on and paired, you feel an alternating vibration on both sides. I turned mine on and off in 15-minute increments as I was walking around CES and when I went to bed last night. I canât prove they work but I canât prove they donât work. What I can report is that I did fall asleep pretty fast last night, which often isnât the case when Iâm attending shows like CES.
I also met with an executive of DFree, which has a non-invasive bladder scanner for dealing with incontinence. The DFree Scanner uses ultrasound toÂ detect changes in bladder size and predict urination timing and âsends alerts to your smart devices when it is time to go to the toilet.â
Finally, there was one product that I didnât try for obvious reasons. Itâs not a health and fitness product but a fitting product for bras. Somainnofit from Soma is a âsmart braâ with a bluetooth connection to a smartphone and anÂ app women use to âget your personalized and precise measurements in seconds.â Customers can then purchase the correct size bra from Soma. Itâs not designed to measure for other brands.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.Â You can listen to interviews with executives from most of these companies at LarrysWorld.com/CESHealth.