The Medical Futurist | January 10, 2019
Smart belt for weight loss, spider-like walking car, terrifying Robo-Sharks, IoT cat toilet, the real version of the monolith from Space Odyssey: the world’s most famous tech circus brings the superlatives of innovation to Las Vegas every year. Here, we sorted out the most exciting, the less useful or the outright dumbest health technology from CES 2019.
The year of the solar cow
What do power banks and cows have in common? The 2019 CES Innovation Award, actually. It’s a brilliant project of a South Korean solar energy company, Yolk, having partnered with a Kenyan educational institution, to keep children at school. What does solar energy have to do with education? A lot, actually. In developing regions, parents often send children to work at an early age instead of letting them go to school. That’s what the “Solar Cow Project” aims to change. Pupils can plug in their milk bottle-shaped portable batteries into the charging station, the “cow” when they arrive at school and bring home the recharged power banks. Electricity could be scarce in these regions of Africa, so parents who let their children to school save money and time: the cow is free to “milk”, and it could spare a 4-6-hour long walk to the nearest charging station. Although it’s not a digital health project, we couldn’t get by its cleverness without a mention.
But solar cows are only the beginning. If you enter the Las Vegas shrine of technological revolution, you will find a quantum computer looking like the monolith from Space Odyssey; a smart litterbox for cats to poop in, a huge spider-like walking car on wheels, the TV that rolls up when you watch “The Bachelor” and disappears when it’s over; a capsule beer machine and uncountable concept pieces, crazy ideas and weird combinations.
Innovators and tech fanatics flock to Las Vegas every January to kick-off the year with the smartest cars, the fastest hard drives, the thinnest TVs and the most bizarre gadgets in unexpected market niches. In the jungle of 4,500 exhibitors, 6,000 journalists and 180,000 participants, there was plenty of space for the useful, the exciting, the quirky and even the dumb in health tech.
Superb healthcare innovations at CES 2019
1) Omron Heartguide blood pressure smartwatch
The Japanese tech company, Omron, already introduced its forward-looking medical innovation, the Omron Heartguide smartwatch at last year’s tech show in Vegas. It claimed that it will be able to take medical-grade measurements and night readings, to test for hypertension and to measure the risk of stroke while sleeping. As it comes from the largest manufacturer of blood pressure machines, we have no doubt that it works.
During 2018, the smartwatch went through clinical testing, and by the end of the year, the FDA gave it the green light. Thus, Omron started to market the blood pressure watch in early January. As it could actually mean the end of outdated blood pressure cuffs and traditional measurement, the smartwatch could be a game-changer.
2) Oticon’s A.I. personal assistant hearing aids
Another returning favorite for The Medical Futurist team is Oticon, a giant hearing solutions manufacturer. Last year, it introduced the rechargeable Opn hearing aid and the Dynamo for severe hearing loss, this year, it presented its Kaizn smart algorithm-powered hearing aids.
Just as Netflix remembers where you stopped your favorite show, A.I. built into Kaizn learns from a hearing aid wearer’s listening preferences, habits, and environments to predict their choices in a particular sound scenario and automatically adjust their hearing aid settings for an optimized listening experience.
3) IBM Watson and Medtronic introduced a low glucose warning system
The tech colossus partnered with diabetes management giant, Medtronic, and developed an artificial intelligence-powered tool to help people with diabetes better predict the likelihood when they will experience a low glucose event within an upcoming 1-4 hour window. The feature, called IQcast, is part of the Sugar.IQ personal diabetes app.
IBM also presented its “fingernail sensor” prototype, which measures how a fingernail bends and moves continuously throughout the day to indicate grip strength, a key biomarker for health.
4) DFree’s wearable against incontinence
Urinary incontinence affects millions of people worldwide. According to a study, in women, moderate and severe bother have a prevalence ranging from about 3% to 17%, while about 3% to 11% in men. The company called Triple W offers the benefits of ultrasound technology and connected devices as a solution to them.
Dfree (which stands for diaper-free) uses ultrasound technology to monitor how full the bladder is and notifies the user on their smartphone or tablet when it’s time to go to the bathroom. Seniors and people with disability who need to manage a loss of bladder control now have an alternative to disposable diapers or pads.
5) Withings’ BPM Core
Withings, the French company that celebrates two years of pushing and cajoling regarding its ownership finally being over – in 2016, the Finnish tech giant, Nokia acquired Withings, however, after two years, Eric Carreel, its Co-founder and President, repurchased it – also introduced a trio of new wearable devices at CES 2019.
One of them is the sophisticated BPM Core blood pressure monitor capable of tracking ECG or functioning as a digital stethoscope. It is able to monitor high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and valvular heart disease, which definitely make it a game changer.
6) Heartbit’s ECG tracker
The Hungarian company, Heartbit introduced its wearable ECG device the first time in Las Vegas. With the gadget, it becomes easier to develop an effective workout routine that ensures heart health.
The company says its device has a 3 lead 5-sensor ECG monitor, making it the most advanced activity tracker on the market. The sensors are integrated into training T-shirts via a flexible chest strap, and it uses smart algorithms to provide warning signals on arrhythmia, ischemia and other hidden heart diseases.
Weird or questionable health technology at CES 2018
1) Screens, screens, and screens everywhere
How would you feel about screens and a cartoon character following you everywhere in your home? The company, Addison Care, would like to place monitors all over the house at strategic points so the inhabitants in need of medical care could be continuously monitored. The virtual nurse called Addison would remind the patient to take their medication and assess their medical state. We imagine her jumping from monitor to monitor just as the portraits moved around in Hogwarts. Still, we are not sure we would want a virtual nurse looking at us from „strategic points”.
2) Do you mind a speaking toilet?
The toilet is the place of privacy, reading, and thinking. The only place in the house, where no one can disturb you (well, except if you are the parent of a toddler following you everywhere). So, what would you say if your toilet started to talk to you?
An American company developed the Kohler Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet – and we are not sure you want it. Of course, if you have a spare 8,000 dollars, we wouldn’t want to tell you what to do with it. For that sum, you receive water efficiency checks, smart lighting, personalized cleansing functions – and Alexa. The appliance comes with high-quality speakers built right into it, and those speakers come equipped with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. You were never so close to having company on the loo.
3) Why would you wear a vest instead of a smartwatch?
Chronolife, a health tech company based in France, developed a smart vest to anticipate potential medical problems. With the clothing item, they aim first of all at those who are diagnosed with chronic or congestive heart failure (CHF). The vest claims to measure six key physiological stats in real time and combined with machine learning, it hopes to predict the likelihood of an oncoming heart attack.
The concept is interesting, although the same vest should be worn daily – without even being able to change its colors. Also, the question arises, why on Earth would you wear a vest if you can have the same measurement with a smartwatch? For example, the new Apple Watch with the ECG measurement feature could also detect similar medical problems, and it would not give the uncomfortable feeling of wearing the same item every single day.
4) Remote smart pleasure anyone?
You haven’t realized what you have missed from your life – up until now. The OhMiBod Remote Appfor your Apple Watch. The company claims to use your heartbeat to drive the vibrations of OhMiBod connected personal massagers, and the app allows partners to connect to and control one another’s pleasure products from anywhere in the world.
Although we know the future of sexuality is full of robot brothels, teledildonics or VR porn, we didn’t want to think about controlling other people’s dildos from afar just as yet.
5) A toothbrush that looks like half of your mouth
The most terrifying toothbrush we have ever seen. The Y-Brush looks like a small catapult and cleans your mouth in 10 seconds – instead of the traditional 2-minute brush. The monster is produced by the French company, FasTeesH.
To use it, you add toothpaste, position the Y-Brush in your mouth and turn the motor on. As the brushes vibrate, you make a chewing motion for 5 seconds after which you remove it, flip the Y-Brush and repeat. While we pay homage to efficiency, we would not be that eager to try it.