This year, CES — the Consumer Electronics Show — featured more than 800 speakers from all corners of the tech space. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation was there, and so was the GM of General Motors, Spotify’s global head of hip hop, the president of the Women’s National Basketball Association and — among many, many others — the chief brand officer of WWE. That’s right: a representative from World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., spoke at CES. But, hey, the annual conference is held in Las Vegas, so why not?

Conference tracks ran the gamut and included sessions on vehicle technology, artificial and virtual reality, fitness and wearable tech, retail, and – what attendees from Intouch were most interested in – digital health. Following are highlights from the four-day event.

Connected Socks, Connected Systems

The promise of always listening and communicating everything seems to be coming to fruition with new sensors and protocols. Even our socks are listening. Siren’s Diabetic Socks, for example, help people who have diabetes avoid amputation by identifying foot injuries early.

Companies like BewellConnect showcased a line of connected products including MyPeriTens, a device that connects to a phone app and treats weak pelvic floor dysfunction in women who have given birth. iHealth Labs, which showcased a blood pressure monitor, a body composition scale, glucometers and a pulse oximeter, aims to be consumer-friendly and help users easily take control of their health. Notably, these systems are getting more extensive and inclusive of the healthcare professional (HCP).  We may eventually see a day where our watch notifies us about the need to use a different diagnostic tool, which can then be deliver data directly to the HCP electronic health record (EHR).

VR and AR Continue to Advance

Once again, CES featured incremental gains in technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), and as expected, everything was powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

  • Taclim’s new VR footwear, for example, uses haptic feedback – the sense of touch that allows you to feel changes in a virtual environment – to simulate walking on different surfaces, which can make VR experiences feel more real.
  • In AR, we’re seeing more of a democratization of technology — devices and experiences have dropped in price. Now, nearly anyone can have a custom AR experience.
  • One interesting demonstration showed the overlap of AR and VR, whereby the crowd could see what the person in the VR environment was experiencing.

  • There was a large push for devices to read your mind. Whether it was to control a device or to optimize your focus, it seems our brainwaves aren’t private anymore.
  • The closest thing to the darling of CES was Vuzix’s AR glassesThis is the future of AR.  The glasses did a good job of making it seem practical to be wearing a computer on my face.

Innovation for Well-Being

Technology is being used to enable a change in how we treat and care for ourselves. For example, personalized tech now exists to aid in assessing environmental conditions and risks to skin health so you can take preventive measures as you plan your day (e.g., how much sunscreen to wear, what the air quality is like, etc.).

Medical and healthcare applications are focusing on improving our lives AND bringing medical testing and analysis closer to the patient through devices that measure against currently approved FDA biomarkers for rapid on-site disease risk-assessment. For example, nucleotide biomarker detection with blood micro-sampling.

Amazon and Google Vie for the Top Spot

Last year, it was obvious that Amazon worked hard to ensure that they were integrated with as many partners as they could be. And though Amazon didn’t have a sponsorship presence, the ‘works with Alexa’ sticker was everywhere. This year, Google was omnipresent. Everywhere we turned, whether it be the monorail, the parking lot, or in booths, we saw ‘hey Google’ advertising. It’s clear that they are trying to buy a seat at the table, and it might just work.

Our cars are going to more be in touch with us, whether it’s because they are reading our vitals, or integrating with our phones/AI-powered assistants. For example, car brand Kia is now pairing with Google Assistant to start or stop the engine, control temperature, stream music, lock and unlock the car, and more.

Tech Innovations in Healthcare

Digital therapeutics (DTx) – think of using an app instead of, or inconjunction, with taking a pill — is currently in its infancy and must still prove its efficacy. But there’s a healthy respect for where we are in our infancy and an acknowledgment of the long road ahead. The good news: in small ways, with small wins (and small data), we’re making progress:

  • As of November 2017, Medicare has debundled codes, allowing for payers to reimburse for remote monitoring (e.g., telehealth).
  • We, as an industry, need to find legitimate economic models to support innovation, and it’s likely to be easier in a B2B manner, rather than B2C.
  • With respect to the current state of digital prescriptions (DRx), one speaker said, ”The train has left the station. The opportunity we have has allowed access to these technologies, and while it’s still a very broad category, there is need to deliver robust evidence now that validates the efficacy of DRx.”
  • DRx can be delivered as a standalone solution for proactive patients who are interested. The opportunity is now to use digital therapeutics in conjunction with traditional therapies to change the culture of how we view technology in healthcare.

A discussion on value-based healthcare explored the role of technology and what payers are willing to pay and cover. Key challenges highlighted during the session:

  • Accuracy of the data is paramount. There are a lot of devices out there, but most are not clinical grade, and therefore the data may not be reliable. Data is useful for the patient, obviously, but the usefulness for the patient depends on the accuracy of the data. It is important to form the right partnerships with device vendors and data aggregation platforms to ensure the reliability of the data.
  • There are too many aggregation platforms – doctors’ offices, hospitals, imaging centers — that are not currently connected to one another. Further, there are clinical grade wearable devices that gather data but are not always synching with other data stores because they’re not connected or the data formats are not compatible.
  • For an IoT (Internet of Things) device to work well and be adopted, it has to be easy to use, require minimal user interaction and collect accurate data.

Just for Fun

  • Holograms on propellers have gotten serious, and for conferences, they can really draw attention.
  • A nice turn was that everything that integrated an AI based assistant, usually gave you a choice (Google Assistant or Alexa). Not many of them were limited to just a single option.
  • The Intel swarm algorithm — LED drones paired with the Bellagio water fountain show — was impressive to see in real life. Whilst this is only for fun at the moment, these algorithms will be what powers the future. Imagine controlling nanobots with this technology to repair the human body!