CES and the Digital Health Revolution

Far and away my favorite part of the Consumer Electronics Show is digital health and fitness. And lucky for me the floor space devoted to this category increased by 3x that of last year. Digital Health has been a part of CES for many years, but this year was different. There seemed to be a larger, more palpable movement in play that was driving all this attention…something that meant more than the newest collection of gadgetry to satisfy the average fitness nerd. The buzz around digital health was heard and felt in places that you wouldn’t expect. Even Bill Clinton’s speech at the Samsung keynote event mentioned technology’s vital role in improving our healthcare system.

But the highlight of the conference was the inspiring and thought-provoking Super Session panel called “The Digital Health Revolution: Body, Mind and Soul”, moderated by Arianna Huffington and including an impressive line-up of professionals in health technology.

The Digital Health Revolution panel at CES 2013

The panel was all in agreement that the healthcare system is broken…

– 75% of healthcare spending is spent on preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease

– Patients outnumber healthcare professionals 10 to 1

With the system in crisis, the panel stressed that the key to success is to empower individuals to take control of their own personal health…managing diet, exercise and stress to prevent illness. This also means more efficient and informed interactions with healthcare professionals. Indeed, the tech industry is innovating in a way that makes this level of efficiency, control and the ability to heal ourselves entirely possible.

Wearable devices that measure the body’s bio-metrics while you do certain activities have been around for a few years. In the fitness realm, the Fitbit Flex, BodyMedia and GeoPalz iBitz (pedometer for kids) in many cases use sensor technology to provide real-time, accurate data including steps taken, calories burned and even sleep patterns. But what makes them more appealing this year over last is the improvement in look, comfort, and most importantly, making all that data accessible and usable via mobile synching with a smartphone app. Any time I want to see how calories burned and sleep habits affect my weight loss, I can. And I can even see what how my friends’ weight loss is going, too.

Fitbit Flex


GeoPalz ibitz

But of course, no matter how much working out and healthy eating you do, it doesn’t go very far if you don’t have a handle on stress. This aspect of health was not forgotten on the Health Revolution panel and on the showroom floor. Sleep and stress management tools took up almost as much space as the fitness devices, from training your brain with cool tools like the MUSE brain-sensing headband to a more warm and fuzzy solution with cute, cuddly, therapeutic robots, like the Paro seal robot. It responds to touch and gesture, just like a docile puppy would. I wanted to take that seal home with me!

MUSE brain-sensing headband

Paro Therapeutic Seal Robot

Beyond wearable devices is something that almost threw me off my chair. One of the panelists from Proteus Digital Health talked about a product they have developed that is essentially a digital pill. Imagine that every prescription pill you take has a microchip on it that measures how that medication affects your body. Can you imagine? This technology is real and right around the corner and it will transform the way individuals work with the medical community and how we manage our health.

At the close of the Health Revolution panel, Leaving CES made me hopeful that our collective health may actually turn around if we reframe the issue into something that makes people excited about getting healthy or fit…in the same way that they are excited about their smartphone and what it can do to entertain and make them more productive and in control of so many aspects of their lives. With the technology that is here at CES and right around the corner, we can.

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