The largest technology tradeshow in the world, CES has quickly turned into a hotbed for showcasing emerging trends in digital health, wearables, and virtual reality technology throughout the world.
Just in case you weren’t able to attend this year’s event, let’s take a look at some of the key high-level trends we saw at CES, including some specific insights into the consumer, health, and medical wearable sectors.
From smart TVs with flexible screens to the latest in autonomous vehicles, here are a few of the high-level trends we saw at CES in 2019.
From appliances to cars and the latest electronics, one of the biggest themes of the show was voice assistants and was present in a multitude of devices and form factors. Of course, two of the biggest players in this market are Google and Amazon, and their presence at the show was visible in nearly every type of device.
One of the questions that popped up concerning voice assistants was how these devices will get tied together. For instance, if you have a smart television, refrigerator, and an oven that can all be controlled by a voice assistant, how do these devices know which one you are speaking to? From that perspective, there is still a lot of coordination and integration that needs to happen before it can be considered a valuable and reliable product for consumer use.
Voice-activated smart TVs with the ability to control things like volume and channel functions seem to be just around the corner. From this perspective, TV manufacturers are currently at an interesting spot. Just a few years ago, 3D TVs were the big thing at CES. But when the content didn’t back up this technology, these devices have slowly but surely disappeared. The next generation in TV technology was the curved TVs, and was touted as being the next big thing in this market even at last year’s event.
With those fizzling out as well, now we’re seeing different technology as it relates to the screens themselves. One product that drew attention from this year’s event was from LG, and was similar to a projection type screen that can be rolled up into a container when not in use but was much higher quality in terms of clarity than other projector models and on par with the latest smart TVs. While it remains to be seen if this technology will catch on, there does seem to be some traction with space-saving, flexible screens with a high-degree of accuracy and visual clarity.
Autonomous driving and autonomous vehicles continue to be the trendsetters in the automotive sector. In fact, at the show, there were autonomous Uber and Lyft vehicles available for attendees, which served as a great way to test these products amid heavy traffic and plenty of chaos on the Las Vegas streets. Like other sectors, voice assistants were again present in many of the automotive features. Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistant were two of the main players in these early designs.
One area that seems to really be taking off is the idea of a smart home. Every imaginable product from your dishwasher to your microwave to your toilet is being connected to voice assistants. As we stated before, getting all-of-these appliances and electronics to work together and be controlled by a single interface or system seamlessly is the current challenge that needs to be dealt with before it can provide a consistent user experience.
A keystone of CES for many years, robots are still attracting plenty of attention among attendees. What’s interesting is that five to ten years ago robots were a technology looking for a solution. Now, we’re starting to see more and more practical applications of robotic technology in devices like wheelchairs that can help people stand up for additional functionality and abilities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. This ability to help the individual in day-to-day life and overcome challenges shows just how big the potential is in the robotics market.
Consumer, Health, and Medical Wearables
The latest in wearable consumer technology and its push into the health and medical sectors continue to show rapid growth and lots of promise for the future. Below are a few of the key insights that we took away from this year’s event.
Digital Health & Medical
A major theme again this year was the convergence of consumer wearables and health and medical related devices. At the forefront of CES was the growing trend of how wearable devices can affect the way individuals approach their healthcare and wellness in general. From posture to sleep analysis to Quell’s drug-free pain relief solutions, there are a lot of complex challenges wearables are ready to take on in the very near future.
The two-day Digital Health Summit at the show represented much of this, where everything from sleep technology to aging to mental health and artificial intelligence solutions was discussed. Much of the consumer growth in this sector is being fueled by the idea that the individual can take more control over their own health than ever before. Whether it’s a wearable device or a connected blood pressure cuff or glucose monitor, tons of information are being uploaded by users into databases to provide a way to view and interpret individual health and longevity.
Smart homes and voice-activated devices are included in the health and wellness sector as well, particularly as it relates to individuals who require daily assistance because of disabilities and seniors aging in place that might have otherwise been forced to live in an assisted-living facility. This has the potential to help people live longer and healthier in an environment of their choosing while also reducing the overall cost of health care.
Cuff-less blood pressure cuffs are one device that has a lot of opportunity and potential, with designs ranging from a headphone earbud design to a washable t-shirt to Omron’s smartwatch. The accuracy of the data of these devices currently remains to be seen, but the technology is interesting nonetheless.
Surprisingly, there were much fewer new wearable product announcements at this year’s event. Garmin did announce their first LTE-enabled smartwatch and Withings announced a smartwatch similar to Apple’s design that is capable of ECG readings. Matrix also has a PowerWatch that claims to never need charging and Soul Electronics has designed a run free pro wireless earbud, but overall the number of new devices was not as large as previous years. This could be representative of a lot of behind-the-scenes work that is happening at-the-moment for next-generation product development and capabilities.
Hearables and Augmented Hearing
The current hearable sector is a microcosm of the convergence of consumer wearables, consumer electronics, and health and medical devices. What we’ve started to see is a lot of the earbud and headphone manufacturer’s developing hearable augmentation and adding new features to products that overlap into other sectors.
Likewise, hearing health and hearing aid companies are adding features that would typically be classified in the fitness wearable category. One of the new devices featured at CES was the Starkey Livio AI, which has added an accelerometer and Valencell’s heart rate monitoring technology along with all the advanced hearing augmentation, fall detection, and alert capabilities that the company is known for. Another exciting demonstration at the event was Valencell and Sonion’s first ever in-canal hearing aid receiver that has an embedded biometric sensor.
While new technology in the VR/AR sectors may be small, they are also meaningful steps forward show just what might be capable in the near future. They hype associated with VR has come down a bit, but this has allowed for more practical uses to be developed. Using VR in health and medical is one area where we’re seeing growth, as applications that relate to pain management, physician training, and patient treatment protocols.
In AR, there seems to be some movement towards the enterprise and industrial areas and is being used as a visual overlay for things like repair workers in the field or identifying situations for industrial safety situations where input from an AR device could be helpful to take action.
What seems to be the likely next step in VR is integrating biometric sensors into VR units. As it stands currently, a third device might be needed in addition to the headset and headphones, but as things move forwards the sensors will likely be integrated into the headsets themselves.
One of the big announcements from Valencell at CES was the new sensor modules available for earbuds and ear-based devices that go beyond basic biometric sensors and hearing aid receivers in canal. For wearables, there are a range of different sensor modules that can not only provide highly accurate biometric data but also provide many different kinds of data. For example, a multi-wavelength sensor module that can be used for things like measuring blood oxygenation in different devices.
Valencell also showcased a wide range of different user experiences in a variety of devices. This helped to address some of the sentiments in the marketplace that wearables are just smartwatches and fitness bands, and we were able to show how many different types of devices biometric sensor technology can be utilized in moving forward.