Health Technologies Expand Presence at 2013 Consumer Electronics Show


The following is a guest post by Cristian Liu, a healthcare strategist with in-depth experience in international services, technology and government sectors. Cristian is passionate about the intersection of technology, entrepreneurship and social innovation.

This past week I had the chance to attend the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas. My previous events have been software/web technology focused so it’s great to see something different for a change. The Consumer Electronic Show is the premier showcase of upcoming consumer hardware technology. It includes things from televisions to cell phones, headphones/speakers to gaming accessories. This year is the largest CES ever with 27,000 net square feet of exhibitor space – the health & fitness areas were no exception to this. I was encouraged to see that there were a couple of summits related to health care, notably the Digital Health Summit, Silvers Summit, and Fitness Tech.

Unfortunately I arrived at the show late (morning of the third day), so I spent most of my time visiting the different exhibits that were available and touring the innovations in Eureka Park, where most of the cutting edge startups were located. This meant that I was not able to attend the speaker events for the conference tracks, but my Twitter feed kept me updated during the few days I was traveling in for the event. During my tour of the exhibition floor, one thing stood out for me. It wasn’t a particular piece of technology, but rather it was that almost everybody there was displaying something that was related to self-measurement (see also: the quantified self movement). In fact, the vast majority of these devices are similar to advanced pedometers with additional features built on top such as a heart rate monitor or a built-in algorithm to determine caloric burn.

The abundance of these devices signals that companies are moving towards the concept of quantified self and betting on that market. What isn’t clear to me is whether or not the general public is ready to take on this technology yet, and, also, where the companies are headed with these products. Pedometers and measurement tools have existed for years now. This year’s CES showcased a lot of incremental development in this area: miniaturization and a drive towards making these devices to have more mass market appeal. However, there wasn’t anything that stopped me in my tracks or that I find disruptively innovative.

Assuming that personal monitoring devices are able to capture the mass market (and this is a big assumption), where does it go from here? A future to aspire to is one where consumers that aren’t necessarily tech savvy(and) can leverage information from a multitude of these devices on one platform to draw insights about their own health. For this, a strong software backend is needed, which is something that was distinctly lacking from CES, though given CES’s focus on hardware, it’s not really that much of a surprise. As I mentioned previously, this CES had a strong focus on incremental innovation related to personal monitoring devices. I’m hoping that 2014 CES will have some disruptive innovations that will really turn healthcare on its head, but to do that, companies will have to take steps beyond hardware devices. It will take the intersection of dynamic software startups and innovative hardware devices to make this a reality. I look forward to the advent of this intervention, whenever it may be.

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